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London: A Life in Maps [Illustrated] [Paperback]

Peter Whitfield
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
RRP: 15.95
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Book Description

17 Nov 2006
Like all the great historic cities of Europe, London appears to us solid and unchanging. We feel that we can still explore the London of Dickens, Dr. Johnson, Defoe, Wren and even Shakespeare. The very names St Paul's, Smithfield, Charing Cross, St James's, seem to link us with those past eras. But this solidity is an illusion, for throughout its long history London has been changing and evolving. It has been renewing or replacing the streets and buildings at its heart and has been spreading inexorably outwards. This process is vividly illustrated by maps of London that have been drawn and published over the past 500 years; and this book offers a magnificent panorama of London's history by focusing on its maps. The link between London and Westminster; the devastation of the Great Fire; the emergence of the West End as a place of fashion; the opening of the Royal Parks; the building of the docks; the coming of the railway age; the impact of World Wars - all these processes and many more are evident in these historic maps. Approximately 200 important maps from the mid-sixteenth century to the present day are illustrated and discussed. For all those who know London, but who wish to look behind the modern facade, "London, A Life in Maps" should prove irresistible, highlighting the challenge of predicting London's future development and character.

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London: A Life in Maps + London: The Illustrated History + London: A History in Maps (London Topographical Society Publication)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: British Library Publishing Division; First Edition edition (17 Nov 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712349197
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712349192
  • Product Dimensions: 28.5 x 21.4 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 66,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"["London"] provides the reader with a good understanding of the evolution of one of the world's major cities, and includes many of the seminal maps for those interested in its cartographic history. It is a good book for just browsing the maps and illustrations, and it's appropriate for anyone with an interest in London and/or maps. . . . A very good value." --Peter Porrazzo "Portolan "

About the Author

Peter Whitfield is a former director of Stanford's International Map Centre. His eight previous books (all published by the British Library) are The Image of the World; The Mapping of the Heavens; The Charting of the Oceans; New Found Lands; Landmarks in Western Science; Astrology; Sir Francis Drake and Cities of the World.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
82 of 83 people found the following review helpful
By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love maps and I love London: what a combination!

This book is a companion to the exhibition held at the British Library in 2006-07. The book is split into four sections - London before the Great Fire, the age of elegance, the Victorian metropolis, and the shock of the new - and each section has a page or sometimes two pages devoted to particular aspects of each theme. Thus we have various maps and plans of the Tower and Westminster Abbey mixed with representations of Civil War London in the first section; and visions of Wembley and the Festival of Britain in the final section.

The result is akin to a visual version of Peter Ackroyd's biography of the city. You can dip into this marvellous publication at various points and find treasures to delight the eye and to illuminate the mind, be the maps and plans devoted to the underground, Belgravia, Wren's plans for the post-Fire city or Tudor Smithfield. Each page is concise and self-contained, but, taken as a whole, the vision is panoramic.

As one would expect from a publication by the British Library, the quality of impressive. As well as reproductions of maps and plans, there are also engravings, paintings and photographs to enliven the page. Peter Whitfield's commentary is wise and engaging. He is not afraid to comment on the brutalist tendencies of the post-war era, and his text is the perfect accompaniment to the image presented.

No quibbles? Well, there are two: firstly, although detailed catalogue references are given to the illustrated maps, some maps are surprisingly without a date (for example the map of Epping Forest on page 164). My second quibble - I want these maps!
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pictures not maps 24 Dec 2011
By d.hunt
Very disappointing-there is a world of difference between maps and illustrations of maps-it is not possible to discern street names on any of the "maps",so their presence is a sort of pleasant curiosity.The text is excellent,but the representation of the book as one of a map guide is misleading.If you want to see Pepy's streets of the city-you won't find them in this.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just up my street! 21 April 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I collect books about London and this was one of the best additions to my collection. The quality of the reproductions, including the quality of the paper they're on, is excellent. A plus point is that Peter Whitfield has not just included old maps of the City and the West End but has also used, to name just a few examples, maps of Whitechapel and the East End (of particular interest to me as I was born there), south London's new bridges and roads of the 19th century, and Hoxton. The last section of the book is entitled 'The Shock of the New': the Underground and the transformation of Docklands are just two examples from this section.

In addition there is informative and interesting accompanying history, traditional and social.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting but slightly annoying. 17 Jun 2008
I also love London and love maps, and found this book interesting and informative. However it was possibly not very well edited as on at least three occasions I came across facts that had been given a few pages before. This repetition gave the feeling of the book having been written by several different authors and was almost a collection of short essays rather than a complete piece. Given the title it seemed odd that at least half the illustrations were pictures or photographs rather than maps or plans.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent text 14 Dec 2010
By Skylark
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I recommend this book. The text accompanying the maps is interesting and well written. The maps are good too, but the necessary reduction to book size make a few hard to read and I would like to have seen on some an outline overlay showing where the present major roads are.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short review 7 Jun 2011
Don't be misled by the title: this book is about much more than just maps! The illustrations, consisting of old prints, paintings and drawings are enriched by well-written, informative text subdivided into helpful sections spanning the period from medieval London to our own days. This is a book to dip into for years to come. Given the quality of the production, the price is surprisingly reasonable. I recommend it highly.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars London Mapped Out 29 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very comprehensive book of maps covering London and its growth as a city over the centuries. It is not as good as the Times London atlas recently published, but it is a good deal cheaper. If you only want one and you can afford it go for the Times atlas - it has a wealth of information not included here, however, this is still a very good book at the price.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars FASCINATING 22 Oct 2011
By margie
Very easy to read and learn about London through maps from the first basic and inaccurate drawings. Fascinating to see how names evolved in London and how the city expanded around the iconic buildings and landmarks we sometimes take for granted. As this is pictorial and written word I found it easier to understand distances and get a feel for the areas due to the maps. I am getting this book for my brother in law for christmas. A great present for someone who likes maps and/or London.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
1st class
Published 10 days ago by Donald J Bell
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of insights
These maps give endless insights into the social changes, and also the things that don't change, in London. You'll need a lens!
Published 2 months ago by Juliet Gore
2.0 out of 5 stars A little dissapointing
I was expecting a lot more maps than there actually are in this book although the discussion surrounding the subject matter is pretty good.
Published 4 months ago by Ellen Bolton
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
Bought as a Christmas present for my husband. He is delighted as he is particularly interested in London of the past. Even I have had a look through. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mrs. Alison Crouch
5.0 out of 5 stars Great maps
This was a present for someone who lives in London and likes maps. Now organising walks round all the interesting points mentioned in the book
Published 11 months ago by HJ
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of areas covered
I bought this book for my husband who loves maps and loves London, so what could go wrong.
The author goes around London, area by area, giving each one 2 or 3 pages and there... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Janie U
5.0 out of 5 stars A great find
This is a fantastic find for a life time Cockney. It is so well put together. The print is somewhat small for an old man but I keep a magnifying glass close by. Read more
Published 19 months ago by J. E. Pottinger
4.0 out of 5 stars London: A Life in Maps
London: A Life in MapsItem received promptly and was what I hoped it would be: both useful and interesting on the development of London as a city throughout the ages
Published 22 months ago by Rosemary Collict
4.0 out of 5 stars A Story Well Told
This may not be the definitive story of our capital told in terms of maps but it is a creditable effort nonetheless. Read more
Published on 6 Feb 2012 by Chris White
4.0 out of 5 stars This delighted my Dad
I bought this as a Christmas present for my Dad who is very difficult to buy for and he was delighted.
Published on 5 Jan 2012 by Mrs M.
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