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Simon Garfield’s On the Map is an irreverent look at the history of maps, and the way they have shaped how we make sense of the world. We spoke with Simon for a previous post, who explained that, “On the Map is an attempt to celebrate the idea of the map as a story – the story of us really, as we discover and make sense of our world.”
On the Map is almost presented as a series of short stories, with each one telling the tale of a different map and exploring the cultural context in which it was created, from the Hereford Mappa Mundi, to the Skyrim video game map.
Exploring how these maps reflect their makers’ beliefs with an approach that is accessible, amusing, and educational, Garfield’s book has proved to be a hit with both map heads and wider audiences alike.
Jerry Brotton’s book has a fairly self-explanatory focus – taking a look at 12 maps that have influenced or shaped the world. We spoke with Jerry in the past, who said, “The book spoke to both the academic audience and beyond, and seemed to illustrate a hunger and interest from a broader audience to try and understand the history of maps, how they’ve evolved over time, and the emergence of online and digital mapping.”
Taking a look at how these maps were shaped by different societies and the fears and beliefs of the time, and taking in Ptolemy’s geography as well as current digital maps, A History of the World in Twelve Maps is a detailed, educational and entertaining book.
Jerry successfully illustrates how maps serve as more than simply way finders, and instead tell rich, detailed stories about the world we live in.
One for the more hardcore of map aficionados, our resident map historian C J Schuler’s Mapping the World is a hefty volume of historic maps, timelines and text, all detailing the story of how the world was charted, beginning in the 15th century.
Interesting if unwieldy, Mapping the World is also at the pricier end of the list with new editions from Amazon setting you back close to £100. Still, it’s a deeply impressive piece of work, and if you’re truly passionate about maps, it may well be worth splashing out to have this weighty tome resting on your coffee table. More of CJ’s work, spanning multiple mapping topics is also available.
Another choice for more lavish spenders, the Britannia Depicta is a road atlas of England and Wales for travelers in the age of the stage coach. First published in 1720, the Depicta offers a fascinating insight into navigation at the time - we actually described the work as the HERE Auto of the 1700s.
The atlas was unique at the time as it offered passengers to follow their route, with the maps depicted from their own point of view, providing illustrated landmarks for passenger’s to chart where they were going – something difficult to do when you can only view your surroundings through a window.
A fascinating piece of history, yes, but one that will set you back around £900 for a copy of the second edition. Perhaps best to just stick with HERE Maps, eh?
This book mapping the bomb damage sustained by London during the second world war is a glimpse at the horrifying impact of conflict. The maps, created after the war as a visual record of the damage, have since featured in exhibitions across London.
After years of only being accessible via appointment to the London Metropolitan Archive, these maps are now available in this large, beautifully presented book, offering an introduction and photographs that accompany the maps, which highlight, in detail, the extent of the damage.
Offering both striking images and detailed background, the book highlights the role that maps can play in the rebuilding of society.
Yanko Tsvetkov’s collections of ‘prejudice maps’ are a hilarious, tongue-in-cheek look at the way we stereotype people across the world.
Intended as satire, we spoke with Yanko who told us that, sadly, some people miss the point: “I get people saying ‘I can’t believe how real your maps are’. I’ve even received requests to portray particular stereotypes. But I have to be philosophical: whatever you say, some people will misunderstand you. Ninety-nine per-cent get the point.”
The maps, which include the way Sweden views Europe (Italy, for example, is named ‘Funny Gestures’), are an amusing, experimental approach to facing our prejudices. Highly recommended for those with a sense of humour, and aren’t easily offended.
An ideal addition for book and map nerds alike, Andrew DeGraff’s Plotted: A Literary Atlas offers richly detailed maps of some of the most famous literary stories in history, including The Odyssey and (my favourite) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Designed to help readers better understand the world of their favourite literary heroes, DeGraff’s maps are beautiful accompaniments to both fiction and non-fiction works alike, employing real geography as well as DeGraff’s own imagination to create these compelling, beautiful maps.
Do you have a favourite book about maps? Let us know in the comments below.