On The Map
- Profile Books Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 04 October 2012
- History: Specific Events & Topics
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From the early days of recorded time, people have made maps, or at least descriptions of where important places are relative to the writers' location. This book starts with maps of the Ancient Greeks, and progresses towards the present, then leaps off the earth to maps of Mars, and into ourselves and maps of the brain. Alongside this chronological presentation are digressions on various map-related topics. "Here be dragons" was a fascinating little side trip - turns out that those words do not actually appear on any maps found so far, though there are phrases that are close. But first and foremost, this book is composed of stories about the maps - who created them, who used them, why they exist. There are the stories of places on maps but nowhere on Earth, like the Mountains of Kong. There are stories of the creation of the London Tube Map, a murder mystery, and Antarctica. For anyone interested at all in maps and the stories they tell, this is a delightful book. It is arranged in short chapters, easily read in fits and starts. And fun.
"On the Map" is a wonderful, rambling tour through the world of maps, focusing on major events in mapmaking history as well as the various social and cultural functions maps have played over time. Like any good journey, the book is filled with lots of side-trips covering topics such as the development of travel guidebooks, the role of the modern GPS, and maps of hidden treasures. Each major chapter is followed by a "mini-chapter" covering bits of map-making trivia. The book is also well-illustrated - if the author talks about a map, there's probably an image of it nearby - this isn't a picture-book, but there are enough images that you don't run screaming with frustration to Google every other page to actually see the map under discussion. The writing style is breezy and well-informed, with bits of humor scattered throughout. For anyone already interested in maps, this is a must-read (although an expert or specialist will find much of the material stuff they already know). For the curious reader who is not already a map-head - they too will enjoy the book due to the accessible style of the writing. Highly recommended.
This is a marvellous book. Basically a history of map-making it also includes a fascinating perspective on both the classical and renaissance ages. Garfield clearly loves maps himself and the clarity of his prose helps to impart that zest to his reader.He starts by recounting the Greeks' theories of geography, astonomy and cosmosgraphy, and rapidly convinces us of the sheer genius that they brought to their field. For example, in the third century BC Erastosthenes of Alexandria, renowned mathematician, geographer, philosopher, athlete, poet, musician and general polymath about town, compared his observations of the elevation of the solstice sun at noon in his home town with what he found in Swenet (modern-day Aswan), and was not merely able to confirm that the Earth is a sphere, but to calculate the size of it. His calculations suggested that the circumference of the Earth is 25,000 miles. As we now know, the circumference is actually 24,901 miles, so his calculations were impressive to say the least.From Erastosthemes Garfield takes us through Ptolemy (whose concentric sphere model of cosmology would remain dominant throughout the civilised world for fifteen hundred year before being debunked by Copernicus) to the Renaissance manificence of Mercator and Moll.He recounts the history of the Ordnance Survey (though I would recommend that readers with a p[articular interest in this might prefer Rachel Hewitt's marvellous "Map of a Nation"), and dwells with affection on the spate of satirical maps that became popular in the nineteenth century, showing John Bull or menacing Russian octopuses (octopi?) looming over the rest of Europe. I particularly enjoyed his chapter on the development of the London A-Z. In his later chapters he explains the methodology (and some of the pitfalls) of the modern obsession with sat-nav technology, though he is confident that, regardless of their convenience, they will never supplant the traditional map. In between most of the chapters Garfield offers smaller sections addressing a particularly quirky aspect of map history.I found the later chapters slightly less engrossing than those covering the early centuries but all in all this was a fascinating, lucid and immensely enjoyable book.
It probably doesn't surprise you that, in addition to being a book geek and a techno geek, I'm a map geek. Are you a map geek, too?If you are, then this book is for you. Every story out there with a map subtext is here. Treasure maps. Maps from Lewis & Clark. Map thieves. The story of GPS.Read it. Even if you are just a little bit map geek-y. It makes for fascinating reading.
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