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66 Reviews
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213 of 217 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent history - my book of the year so far
I love maps and the OS map above all. This book describes how the Ordnance Survey came to be and its turbulent early history.As the author says '...the national mapping agency has established a secure place in the affections of the modern British public'. An institution indeed.

Hewitt explains how the Ordnance Survey grew from the Highland uprisings as the...
Published on 17 Oct 2010 by Big Jim

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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Long, detailed, occasionally slow and a little misleading.
Let's make no bones about. This is an interesting book about a well loved institution. It seems to be a well researched book about a well loved institution. It will probably be bought by people like me who really enjoy looking at maps - almost any map, anywhere, and they will find,. as I did, many interesting things within in its many pages.

But let's also...
Published on 6 Dec 2011 by Stewart M


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5.0 out of 5 stars Map of a Nation, 21 Aug 2011
As a retired cartographer, I found this book very informative and definitely filled in many blanks in my knowledge of the Ordnace Survey organisation.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book, 19 Aug 2011
This review is from: Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey (Paperback)
This book isn't my normal reading matter, but it caught my eye and also my imagination. I'm glad I picked it up. Well written with an engaging style - I thoroughly enjoyed it! There's lots of names to keep up with, but I guess that's unavoidable with a book of this type.

In short: Highly recommended!
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43 of 58 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but doesn't add much, 26 Oct 2010
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This is a nice book - nicely produced certainly. But it doesn't add much to what is already available on the history of the Ordnance Survey. And the folksy descriptive flourishes at the beginning of chapters, and in fact throughout the book - "It was a good day to receive the letter that was awaiting him on the breakfast table" "the sun shone out as brightly as Banks's mood" - detract from the text rather than make it more interesting.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, very informative, 25 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey (Paperback)
Heavyweight reading but very informative with a great deal of information around the subject. Never cease to be impressed with the difficulties that these guys overcame in this era of such scientific evolution.
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33 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A PhD re-hashed, 21 Dec 2010
I was looking forward to reading this book and I very pleased that I paid Amazon's price rather than the £25 RRP. It is not a 'biography', but a history of the OS up to 1870ish. As a writer of similar books, I would expect my publisher to baulk at 436 pages of which 312 are actual text and the rest sources, notes and index. The book is clearly largely culled from an academic piece of work with the 'soft touches' of detail about places and people who are only tangential to the book put in for the general reader. You can see the joins very easily. The occasional 'I' tends to show that the author doesn't actually know who she is writing for, is it the academic reader or is she trying to add a personal touch as a 'public friendly' gesture? Pared down to the essential detail this book could have been half the length and much more immediate and compulsive. Even better, she might have strayed outside the comfort zone of her doctrinal thesis and brought the book up to the present. Biographies usually do that. The final chapter suggests that her focus was so limited that she actually ran out of words and had to repeat a lot of the content of the previous chapters. Mike Parker's 'Map Addict' and Simon Winchester's 'The Map That Changed the World' both work because they knew who their audiences were. This book tries to repeat their successes but largely fails.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Only Half the Story, 1 Mar 2013
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S. Kendon "Samuel Whiskers" (Bristol UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey (Paperback)
This is an interesting if sometimes rather trite history, but misleadingly titled in that it finishes in the mid nineteenth century. True the Ordnance Survey has done little of note since then, but a description of the times since would have been interesting. The last century saw the publication of several series of the iconic One Inch series whose sheets became a byword for clarity and accuracy. Since the quasi-privatisation by Michael Hesseltine, the beautiful Inch and two and a half inch series have been replaced by gaudy metric equivalents in a mystifying combination of one and two sided, landscape/portrait formats with covers showing not scenes from the map (too obvious that, and soon discontinued) but some sort of sporting activity as if this were the only purpose of the map. With clumsy oversized symbols, usually much larger than the things they mark, and often some distance away to avoid obliterating information and declining accuracy*, even in the online so called Promap which uses a private monopoly to ensure sales of its overpriced poorly updated information. That is the real story of the Ordnance Survey and it still awaits a chronicler; I fear Ms Hewitt is not the one.
Two stars only I'm afraid for a job only half finished.

* If you doubt me, try crossing the Strathcaillach footbridge, still faithfully marked on the Cape Wrath Explorer (sheet 446) some thirty years after it vanished.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointing, 9 Jan 2012
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Peter Lee (Manchester ,United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey (Paperback)
I've always loved maps, and find geography absolutely fascinating, so this book was something of a must-have for me. I've many fond memories of finding triangulation pillars on remote outcrops while on holiday, and spotting small triangulation marks on walls around towns, and I was looking forward to reading this account of how the Ordnance Survey came into being, and how they created those wonderful maps.

The book focuses on the beginnings of the Ordnance Survey, starting in the 1700s and ending in the late 1800s when the first map of the nation was produced. I found it quite a dry read - clearly an academic thesis sold as a book - and was surprised that so much of the text seemed to be devoted to the people who did the work (including describing their hairstyles and expressions) rather than the work itself, but there were occasional mentions of devices being made but then not fully explained, for example the bizarrely named "zenith sector" - surely a name of a prog-rock band somewhere. I would have liked to have seen more of an explanation of *how* they made the maps, such as what exactly triangulation entailed (I have some understanding of the process but would have liked to read more on how they approached it), and how more recent technology has changed the methods used - the book mentions that it is completely different now in these days of GPS and satellite imaging but doesn't expand on this. As others have said, this is a book about the foundation of the Ordnance Survey, the people who worked for them, and the creation of the first map. If this was the biography of a celebrity it would be the story of their life from birth to leaving school, but with no mention of their adulthood.

A huge section of the book is taken up with references and a list of additional reading, but personally I'd have liked those pages to have been occupied by more detail on how things have changed since the 1800s. Interesting in parts, but sadly now quite as good as I'd hoped it would be.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 6 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey (Paperback)
an excellent book. What a fascinating subject
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16 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wondrous gift for map fans, 7 Nov 2010
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I bought this wonderful book for a friend who's a map aficianado - so I can't properly review it myself. All I can say is that her face lit up when she unwrapped it. I am sure I'll be able to say more hen I can get her nose out of it.

On the minus side my immediate impression was that the text was formidably densely packed. But that's me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Origin of the Ordnance Survey, 1 Sep 2014
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Excellent history of mapping.
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Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey
Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey by Rachel Hewitt (Paperback - 7 July 2011)
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