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4.3 out of 5 stars35
4.3 out of 5 stars
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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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on 24 December 2011
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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on 21 April 2010
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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on 17 June 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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on 14 December 2010
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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on 7 June 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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on 29 October 2011
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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on 22 October 2011
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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on 6 February 2012
This may not be the definitive story of our capital told in terms of maps but it is a creditable effort nonetheless.
Whilst it does not adhere to a strictly chronological format, the reader still feels a sense of living through the growing pains and evolution of a small town, then absorbing a collection of surrounding hamlets and villages to become one of the major cities of the world.
It is an ideal book for dipping into as most of the "chapters" consist of a single page of text accompanied by a map and/or illustrations - sometimes focussing on a single community, sometimes encompassing an era or a particular industry.
I echo the thoughts of another reviewer who complains that there are too many maps which are, in effect, not fit for purpose as the content is too miniscule to be of any practical use, which a shame as so much detail is lost. In the same vein, there are two many which fall into the crease between the two pages - sometimes with just an inch appearing on the facing page.
Better, surely, to make the map bigger and split the plates leaving a clear gap, but at least showing the whole content.
That said, this book was a most enjoyable read, full of both detail and atmosphere and springing a few surprises along the way. I have a feeling I shall read it again some time - and will enjoy it all over again.
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on 6 February 2016
I bought this as it combined two of my favourite things - maps and London - but on reading it it is far more than that and is a great concise history of the capital which is then illustrated by some fascinating maps. Although much of what it told me wasn't new it covered all the key moments and themes in London's history and the accompanying maps help explain them well and make them come to life, although at times its movement from a clear chronology to examining a particular theme over a longer time period was occasionally confusing. Whilst the majority of the book was pretty authoritative I felt the last sections on the twentieth century were let down by a narrative that, unlike the rest of the book, became steadily became more and more opinionated, especially when it came to subjects such as road building and modern architecture.
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