8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The way we see it,
This review is from: A History of the World in Twelve Maps (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an absolutely fascinating book. It costs £30 in the shops, and if I'd had to buy it, rather than getting it free via Vine, I might have thought twice, but I'd have been wrong - it's worth every penny. The price is down to the intricate, high-quality illustrations, essential in a book about how people have chosen to illustrate the world.
From the start, he stresses how maps have agendas; very few are just diagrams of where A lies in relation to B, and even then, the mere choice of A and B implies a measure of importance attached to them, as opposed to C and D. The Hereford mappamundi is, in terms of geography, laughably inaccurate even for its time, because the mapmaker was far more interested in the next world; it was for him an expression of the supremacy of Christianity (and possibly also of his dead and slightly disgraced patron, a fascinating side-issue). Map agendas can include empire, discovery, politics and several others - though the Greeks like Ptolemy, for all their Graeco-centric world view, did come at it from a scientific viewpoint which is truly impressive over the centuries.
The author is an academic and the book is serious and closely argued, but it is not written in any sort of impenetrable jargon; it is readable and always very informative. One of its best aspects is its awareness of the intellectual world beyond Europe: both Arabic and Far Eastern mapmakers figure heavily. If I wanted to carp, I would point out that the centre of an egg is the "yolk" not the "yoke" and that both author and proof-reader should have spotted this repeated typo! But I spotted no others and this is a seriously impressive volume.