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A History of the World in Twelve Maps Hardcover – 6 Sep 2012


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (6 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846140994
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846140990
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.9 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 161,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Review

[A] fascinating and panoramic new history of the cartographer's art... Brotton's idea of tracing within maps the patterns of human thought is a wonderful one. (Tom Holland Guardian)

As this mesmerising and beautifully illustrated book demonstrates, maps have, since ancient times, carried vast symbolic weight ... rich and endlessly absorbing history (Sinclair McKay Daily Telegraph)

an elegant, powerfully argued variation on the theme of knowledge as power and ignorance as powerlessness (David Horspool Guardian)

Rich and adventurous (John Carey Sunday Times)

An achievement of evocation....a fascinating and thought-provoking book (Anthony Sattin Literary Review)

Brotton is acutely sensitive to the social, political and religious contexts which unravel why maps were made, for whom and with what axes to grind (Robert Mayhew History Today)

A highly rewarding study (Simon Garfield Mail on Sunday)

Engrossing reading (Carl Wilkinson Financial Times)

The intellectual background to these images is conveyed with beguiling erudition ... There is nothing more subversive than a map (Andrew Linklater Spectator)

It is a wonderful history, which will delight anyone with an interest in history and geography (David Wooton TLS)

About the Author

Jerry Brotton is Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary University of London, and a leading expert in the history of maps and Renaissance cartography. His most recent book, The Sale of the Late King's Goods: Charles I and his Art Collection (2006), was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize as well as the Hessell-Tiltman History Prize. In 2010, he was the presenter of the BBC4 series 'Maps: Power, Plunder and Possession'.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John P on 25 Mar. 2013
Format: Hardcover
As a collector of old maps and a maker of new ones (for orienteering) I felt this book was going to be right up my street. And indeed I found most of it fascinating and informative - I even read every word, instead of just dipping in.
However as I finished it, I had a sense of disappointment that the author had not quite done himself justice. My reasons are threefold: 1. the book was poorly edited, with large sections of repetition. A more concise style would have made many points shorter and clearer. 2. there were technical errors which both the author and editor should have picked up. If these occured in the sections I knew about, then did they also occur in the majority of the book which was new to me? 3. The colour illustrations are (for printing cost reasons) put into 2 blocks in the book. The reader is for ever looking forward or back to find the map being discussed - and then some are too small to be clear. There are also too few illustrations of projections (one of the main themes of the book) at appropriate moments.
But the book is well worth the read even so. The material on Asian maps will be new to most people familiar only with European exploration; the field work of the Cassini family is fascinating; and it is good to see something both positive and negative on Mackinder (who Geographers of a certain age prefer to forget). Whether Google Maps deserve quite so much uncritical attention, when maps based on photos are intrinsically inaccurate, is debatable, but that chapter brings the book up to the present and also round in quite a neat circle to where it begins.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Richard M. Seel VINE VOICE on 27 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is the sort of book which everyone can enjoy. The reader might be put off when, at the start of the book, they are faced with the List of Figures and List of Illustrations but once they have read the preface, they will be quickly caught up by Brotton's enthusiasm.

Brotton is undoubtedly a scholarly man but he is able to communicate his knowledge in a way in which those who know little of the subject matter will soon be wanting to learn more.

Each of the maps explores a different period in time starting with Ptolemy in cAD150 through to the Google Earth of today. Included is Hereford's Mappa Mundi c1300 which can be seen in the Cathedral today. The twelve maps show different aspects of the world as seen at that time - a lesson of history beautifully illustrated in words by the `greats' at that time.

Brotton explains why maps are important, how they show what was happening at the time they were made and how they related to the people living at that time. When finishing with Google maps, he scrutinises the way in which we like to explore where we live now and how this relates to our idea of ourselves.

Brotton has the gift of clear thinking and good communication. This is not the sort of book the ordinary reader will "devour in one go" but the kind of book which will be dipped into time and time again. There is so much to read and learn that space is needed between each of the maps so that one can think about and explore that time for oneself. I have to admit that is one I am going to do, one map at a time, and then discover the next map when I am ready.

Review by Shirleyanne Seel.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stromata VINE VOICE on 9 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It was only following the publication of the 'Peters Projection Map' in the 1970s, which claimed to be a good, fair, and non-racist view of the world, that it occurred to me that maps, atlases and the like could be concocted for reasons other than wish to make a true and accurate representation of the route from a to b.

In his wonderfully interesting book 'A History of the World in Twelve Maps', Jerry Brotton gives us example after example of maps that have come in to being for a specific purpose, be it science, commerce, religion etc. As with other well-written 'single-subject' histories (such as, for example, 'Salt: A History of the World, by Mark Kurlansky) the breadth of the interest is vast and yet I would say this is not a difficult read.

The text is complemented with a generous fifty-six colour plates, numerous black and white illustrations within the body of the work and a superb and informative 'Notes' section. Indeed it is a beautifully produced publication by Allen Lane.

An excellent book and highly recommended.
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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Petra Bryce VINE VOICE on 29 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I don't like to write negative reviews of a product, especially books, but I was really struggling to find any redeeming features in A History of the World in Twelve Maps. The book starts with a very wordy introduction that incorporates philosophy, the Classics, theology and different creation myths, etymology and history, as well as a glaring editorial error that should have been spotted way before its publication. In it, the author also offers a few thought-provoking comments, such as "A world view gives rise to a world map; but the world map in turn defines its culture's view of the world. It is an exceptional act of symbiotic alchemy" and "In the act of locating themselves on it, the viewer is at the same moment imaginatively rising above (and outside) it in a transcendent moment of contemplation, beyond time and space, seeing everything from nowhere", but sadly these get swamped by the sheer amount of information Jerry Brotton is trying to get across. The second quote in particular evokes the desire to become immersed in the details of a map, but unfortunately for the reader the publisher has decided to skimp on the reproductions so that the maps getting the Brotton treatment are all grouped together in two sections in the book and are often pitifully reduced to near illegibility. The earliest surviving map from ancient Babylon barely gets a mention and the first chapter, devoted to Ptolemy's Geography, though setting the blueprint for all modern maps by establishing the principles of latitude and longitude and defining geography as a discipline, actually isn't a map at all but a scientific treatise.Read more ›
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