35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Long, detailed, occasionally slow and a little misleading.,
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This review is from: Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey (Paperback)
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 be clear about what this book is about: its about the origin of the Ordnance Survey and the production of the First Series of One Inch to the Mile maps (plus a few other things if the truth be told). It's not, as its title claims, of biography of the Ordnance Survey. It is a story that stops in the 1870's.
You will find few references to the Landranger Series of maps, or the Pathfinder series, or the 1:25000 Tourist Maps of the Lakes or the Dales. You won't find the beautiful One Inch to the Mile Map of The Lake District. In fact, you probably won't find any of the maps that people use today at all.
You will find a detailed and at times rather slow moving account of the early days of the OS, but that is all you will find. Oh, you will find a few mistakes as well - grid references do not identify a "point" in the landscape, they identify an area, which is why we say "I will meet you at the bridge at XXXXXX". Pillar in the Lakes is called "The Pillar", which is a strange mistake given that there is an extensive account of how the original map makers made sure they got the names of places correct.
This is a book with serious intentions - about 20% of the pages are taken up with references, but it is a history of the first 100 years of the OS, not an account of its whole history.
If you know this before you read the book, and you still want to read the book, you will find it excellent. But if, like me, you wanted just a hint of modernity, you may find it all just a little too academic and a little too distant.
Proceed with caution
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Dec 2011 11:13:24 GMT
Last edited by the author on 25 Dec 2011 11:14:03 GMT
Fair comment. "Biography" rather than "birth" seems a not altogether appropriate part of the title. That said, I suspect for those with less of an interest in contemporary maps and more of an interest in the origin of this great institution, the more limited focus of this biography will be exactly what the reader will be looking for. Your review is a very helpful warning not to expect more than that from this book, so thank you.
Posted on 7 Mar 2014 10:55:05 GMT
John Fitzgerald says:
Errors? A six figure grid reference identifies a point NOT an area. At least I consider churches, Post Offices and the like points and certainly not areas. The only exceptions might be long bridges where you might give the reference of an end or the middle.
In reply to an earlier post on 7 Mar 2014 20:31:17 GMT
Stewart M says:
I think you may be mistaken John - the actual data pint referred to by a grid reference is the bottom left hand corner of a square, the length of the sides of which are controlled by the number of digits in the reference - thus a 6 digit reference refers to square with side of 100 m in length. Thats why you sat the church at XXXXXX because the addition of the object in the square makes it clear what you are talking about - but a square itself is not a point.
Cheers - SM
Posted on 7 Feb 2015 12:36:54 GMT
I think this really is a very helpful review - I've looked at the book in the bookshop and like this reviewer realised that this book really is only about the pre-1870's - and it is a bit slow moving. I would have liked something about the modern OS as well.
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