On The Map

Back to maps.  I have just finished reading this wonderfully entertaining book called “On The Map” by Simon Garfield.  In 450 or so pages it covers a gloriously broad history of cartography running all the way from Ptolemy to Google Maps and beyond.

This is not a scholarly volume like Jerry Brotton’s wonderfully deep “A History of the World in Twelve Maps” that I read earlier this year.  But I suspect that I learned even more from Garfield’s chatty account.  And Garfield certainly covers a wider field — from all the important maps covered by Brotton and plenty more besides, to treasure maps, maps of celebrity homes, games with maps, a history of guidebooks, the making of globes, and people who steal and deal in maps.

According to his interview on the Colbert Report, this is the author’s favourite map:


To quote Garfield, maps have a power

“to fascinate, excite and provoke, to affect the course of history, to serve as the silent conduit to the compelling stories of where we’ve been and where we’re going.”

The whole thing is wonderfully illustrated with a couple of hundred images that are well-chosen and assist the flow.  However, I am bound to note that the index is severely flawed.

I really didn’t want this book to end and I encourage everyone to give it a read.

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