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On The Map: Why the world looks the way it does [Hardcover]

Simon Garfield
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
Price: 6.80 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

1 Oct 2012
Maps fascinate us. They chart our understanding of the world and they log our progress, but above all they tell our stories. From the early sketches of philosophers and explorers through to Google Maps and beyond, Simon Garfield examines how maps both relate and realign our history, with pocket maps of dragons, Mars, murders and more, with plenty of illustrations and prints to signpost the route. His compelling narratives range from the quest to create the perfect globe to the challenges of mapping Africa and Antarctica, from spellbinding treasure maps to the naming of America, from Ordnance Survey to the mapping of Monopoly and Skyrim, and from rare map dealers to cartographic frauds. En route, there are 'pocket map' tales on dragons and undergrounds, a nineteenth century murder map, the research conducted on the different ways that men and women approach a map, and an explanation of the curious long-term cartographic role played by animals.On The Map is a witty and irrepressible examination of where we've been, how we got there and where we're going."Delightful. If maps be the fuel of wanderlust, read on." From the foreword by Dava Sobel, author of Longitude.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; First Edition Fourth Printing edition (1 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846685095
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846685095
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 14.6 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Delightful. If maps be the fuel of wanderlust, read on' -- From the foreword by Dava Sobel, author of Longitude

'There couldn't be anyone better to write about our love for maps than Simon Garfield, who is a master at unearthing strange facts and mixing them with a lively personal narrative ... fascinating' -- Giles Foden, Conde Nast Traveller

'Completely enthralling' -- Daily Mail

'Garfield has a genius for being sparked to life by esoteric enthusiasm and charming readers with his delight' -- The Times

'Simon Garfield's new book is a rollicking sweep through map history, packed with curiosities and written with verve ... On The Map will inspire you to take a trip to somewhere new, buy an antique globe to chart the rise and fall of empires, or just dig out a tatty orange Ordnance Survey Explorer map and let its filigree of contour lines evoke a long-forgotten walk in the rain ... a great book.' Independent on Sunday

'This book is a joy and should be an absolute smash hit' Press Association

'Stunning ... As one of the UK's leading contemporary polymaths, Garfield's always a joy to read'Monocle

'Garfield's genial prose twinkles with the delight of discovery' --Wanderlust

'A pub quizzer's dream ... Rather than over-romanticise the experience of map-reading, Garfield allows his varied, expertly researched stories to speak for themselves, and in so doing helps us see that there are fewer things in life more useful, rewarding and beautiful than a map that does what it's supposed to. Perhaps if Apple had read the book a few months ago, today's iPhone users would have a much better idea of where they're going.' -- Daily Telegraph

'He takes us on a fascinating voyage ... and is a lively companion for the journey' Scotsman

'He hops around the world, ancient and modern, with glee, dispensing information, both learned and chatty. On the Map is informative and entertaining, and good fun ... fascinating.' --Irish Times

Book Description

From Mappa Mundi to Google Maps - the bestselling Just My Type author turns his gaze to maps.Packed with accompanying map illustrations and images.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
68 of 71 people found the following review helpful
I don't think the author will mind if I say this book is not strictly for cartography academics, but for the more general reader with an interest in maps, mapping, exploration and the like. In this regard it succeeds admirably, using a breezy style to whisk you through a potted history of the subject which is easy to read and understand. I have to confess that there was a fair bit in here that was already familiar to me and would also be familiar to anyone with an interest in maps already. For example there isn't much in the chapter on the Ordnance Survey that isn't in Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey but nevertheless it is still worth reading within the context of this book. having said that I wasn't aware of the The Mountains of Kong - `a Chain of Great Mountains' - which appeared on James Rennell's map in 1798 and didn't actually exist, so there is something for everyone here.
Split into short and sharp chapters this is a book that lends itself equally to a solid read through, or as a book to pick through as and when you get the chance. Lavishly illustrated, as the saying goes, I would caution anyone thinking of getting this on Kindle that these illustrations and maps don't reproduce well on the Kindle itself but are fine if using a tablet or the Kindle App on a laptop
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but badly illustrated 19 Sep 2013
The short chapters are engagingly written, tell a good story and are easy to read, but a book about maps cries out for images, and this book is let down by both the size and the quality of the pictures which are far too small and indistinct, often crammed into a corner of the page so that they become unreadable. As others have commented, the printing is further let down by the poor quality paper used. Not only are the maps too small and badly reproduced, there are not enough: whole pages describe important maps without any illustration to show what the author is trying to convey.

I have enjoyed reading this book so gave it three stars, but don't buy it if you need the maps to visualise the story.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Potted history of map making. 24 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Simon Garfield has written a few non-fiction works now and this latest effort which takes us on a historical tour of map making is mostly successful. The result is less a history of cartography and more a series of articles on different aspects of map making and publishing. The scope ranges from the London A to Z to the mapping of the planets; from the Mappable Mundi to maps of virtual worlds popular with computer gamers and from the early maps of the New World to the latest maps of the human brain. Many of these subjects would be worthy of books by themselves and as such, we can only get a taster in this volume. Nevertheless, there is some interesting stuff here and I certainly learned a few things that I did not know previously. One small quibble is that the many maps reproduced in this volume are presented in black and white and in miniature - probably unavoidable for a pocket-sized volume but it does detract from the work a little. As a collection of essays, some are more interesting than others and of course, we don't have a specific story to follow. I'd also argue that the title is a little misleading as I don't believe that the book explains "why the world looks the way it does". Still, three stars would be a bit churlish for such a well-researched effort so four stars was my verdict.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing 4 July 2013
By A keen reader VINE VOICE
There are two things which let this book down. Firstly, the writing. Although the writer has obviously spent a lot of time on research, he doesn't make the stories come alive. Most of the chapters are just a little bit boring. Secondly, the presentation. The lousy paper quality really puts me off, and there's no excuse for it. But the main problem with the presentation is the very poor quality of the reproductions. This is partly caused by the cheap paper and partly by reproducing colourful maps in black and white -- it takes away all the magic of the originals. Putting one colour map in the front doesn't make up for it.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very human portrait of maps 6 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In writing a book with the ambitious remit of summarising the history of cartography from Eratosthenes to Google maps, Garfield has clearly undertaken a prodigious amount of research and has successfully captured the allure of maps and the insight they provide into the societies and times that created them.

The particular strength of this work is in the author's evocation of the human story behind maps, be it the early voyages of Da Gama , Columbus, Marco Polo or Vespucci or the tragic but darkly comical tale of Burke and Wills's exploration of Australia. Especially compelling in this respect is the recount of Snow's mapping of a Victorian cholera outbreak in which cartography is used to confirm beyond doubt, for the first time, that cholera was a water born pathogen rather miasmic.

The book also vividly depicts the lives as well as the works of the creators of the A-Z atlas and the London Underground map. The inventor of the former, Phyllis Pearsall is depicted as a driven woman desperately seeking to restore the reputation of her bankrupt father. The creator of the latter, Harry Beck, is shown to be a forward thinker with a sense of humour, parodying his own work in a manner which has become common place subsequent to his death and established a link between cartography and pop art.

This well researched book appeals to both the geographer and the layperson, covering such diverse subjects as: the comparative mapping abilities of men and women, the role of maps in Empire building and imperial control, politics and the prosecution of the Second World War .The impact of new technologies is imaginatively discussed, with the advent of GPS increasingly leading to an egocentric form of mapping.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting history of cartography
A really good history of map making. Included some interesting diverse subject matter along with the expected material. Well worth reading.
Published 2 months ago by UPatch
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
Bought as a present and feedback was that it is a good book. seemed good value when I bought it
Published 2 months ago by M. D. Morton
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable. Eclectic
You can read chapters in isolation.

Was very "bad" for my map-collecting tendencies... thankfully. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sheepdog
2.0 out of 5 stars Neither entertaining nor informative
Having read a popular science book or history book, I like to feel that I have learnt something useful or have been amusingly diverted for a few hours. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ian C
4.0 out of 5 stars Made me think
An enjoyable read if you like facts and being made to think.
Not an adventure but a new way of looking at things called maps'
Published 5 months ago by John the Cornishman
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book about maps, shame about the maps
Simon Garfield gives us an interesting and entertaining (but brief) explanation and history of maps; how, why and what they are, with several of the world's most significant maps... Read more
Published 5 months ago by R. F. Stevens
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
As a keen amateur cartographer and having read Simon Garfield's previous work, "Just My Type", it wasn't a hard decision to buy this book. Read more
Published 5 months ago by philg88
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book.
Quite simply, this has to be one of the best books on the story of mapping through the centuries you can read. His writing style is easy and the pace is just right. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Peter Hamilton-scott
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting guide to the history of all types of maps
This is an interesting, albeit sometimes quirky and idiosyncratic guide to maps and their historical development - from the writer of 'Just my Type'. Read more
Published 5 months ago by alapper
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and interesting book let down by poor illustrations.
I bought this book as a Christmas present to myself.

In terms of the "story", On The Map far exceeded my expectations. Read more
Published 6 months ago by pticachelovek
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