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on 5 February 2013
I wish I'd paid attention to the reviews before I bought this as it has turned out to be a bit of disappointment. Informative and nicely written but accompanied by picture after picture of bits of track, tunnels, escalators, people sat on benches etc etc. All very pretty and arty in back and white but none are captioned and in any case seem to bear absolutely no relevance to what is in the text. And why 1970s pictures? Photos/illustrations of the construction of, or maybe, newly finished stations would have been interesting. How they appear today in the 21st century would be useful. Colour photos to show the vibrancy of some of the decorative tiling etc would have been lovely. But all these pictures really did was remind what horrendous dress sense your average Londoner had back then. And yes, that included me and my family! Only one picture of a station exterior (and you have to guess which one it is from several mentioned on the adjoining page!) and not one shot of the famous art deco skyscraper that is 55 Holborn. There is also no index: as an exiled Londoner the first thing I did was to turn to the back to look up my local station but I had to go through the whole book to found it wasnt in there! I guesss it depends what you want from the book, but if it is a serious look at the beautiful design and architecture that make up the tube then this isn't it.
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on 18 July 2012
What an absurdity - a lavishly-illustrated book about architectural design, not one of the illustrations in which is captioned.

If you can live with this - and the fact that it was published by the History Press, rather than a specialist publisher, suggests the reason - this is an attractive book, albeit one that has been clearly produced to a tight budget. (A larger format, for example, would have been welcome.) The text, while knowledgeable, is consistently - and sometimes gushingly - enthusiastic, rather than offering a balanced and critical appraisal of the developing styles and completed projects it covers. As well as there being no captions, there are no endnotes, only a Select Bibliography - and not a particularly select one at that. (Amid its jumble of contents - again, unannotated - are the DNB and the 16 volume Oxford History of England, neither of which is terribly helpful as a next stop on the subject, it's fair to say.)

Long's book shows the potential for a well-illustrated and thoughtfully-written coffee table book on the subject, but - while by no means uninteresting - this feels a bit of a rush job and is not it.
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on 21 November 2012
I like this book. The level of information is just right and there's a plethora of pictures to enjoy. There is only one major problem with this book: not one of the pictures is captioned, so it's practically impossible to determine where and when many of them were taken. As someone who's interested in Underground architecture, I really wanted that information, so the lack of it is a big let down.
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on 19 July 2012
For no fathomable reason we have here two completely different books stitched together to make one.

Most of the left-hand pages form a nice informative well-written essay on the architecture and design of the underground network during the period associated with Pick & Holden. Beck and Johnston and others who created the remarkable corporate identity of the London Underground of that time also get a mention.

It would have been great to have a good selection of photos and illustrations to go with this - what better to show the impact that this golden age of design had on the Underground.

However, Baron Frankenstein's assistant appears to have returned to his master with something entirely unsuitable, and whilst the good Baron has done his best to stitch them together, the outcome is once again deeply flawed.

Most of the right-hand pages consist of arty photos (ie not straight documentary-style photos) of the Underground. Whilst some are pleasant, it rapidly became repetitive. One or two arty views up a stair or escalator tunnel is nice enough - but ten is pushing it, and when the boredom is relieved by another nine views down stairs and escalators it becomes very dreary. Perhaps it was hoped that the eleven views along passageways would improve matters (they don't).

But worse still is the bizarre dichotomy between text and photos. Whilst the text is almost entirely concerned with Pick's time, most of the photo's are either of infrastructure from before this period, or post-war. For no obvious reason there is a picture of a main line railway terminus in amongst them too.

The result is a mess - the photos need to be in an art book (or possibly a skip as I don't share some of the reviewers' views on the quality of the pictures) and the text should have been accompanied with something more suitable.
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on 22 February 2012
A truly amazing record of Londons Underground in the 1970's, Jane's photographs are unique and memorable reminder of my days in London during the period combined with words by David Long this book is a must for anyone who travelled by tube during the 70's. Underground: Architecture, Design & History
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on 29 April 2013
A rather strange book: as another reviewer has suggested, it's really two books in one. The (black and white) photos of Jane Magarigal are very good if somewhat samey - people don't get much of a look in here, so it doesn't represent the Tube as we know it, and, absurdly, have no captions: did someone forget to include them?

The text, on the other hand, ignores the photos altogether and gives a short description of the history of the Tube and its design, but it's rather let down by the fact that the photographs don't match with it at all. There's a chapter on Frank Pick's use of posters, but not one picture of any of them (the only posters that do appear are rather dreary ones that happen to be on the walls that are occasionally photographed. And Long waxes lyrically about John Hassall's famous poster "No need to ask a p'liceman" but doesn't show it - this is where the lack of colour in the book really tells. And the chapter "Mapping the network: The genius of Mr Beck" manages to occupy 20 pages without showing us the map - or any map - at all!

This book might have been worth having if the text had told us something about the photographs - where they were taken, for example - but as it is there's nothing. A very odd, and fundamentally disappointing book.
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on 17 December 2011
When I bought this book I was expecting something of the size and style of Terry Farrell's excellent "Shaping London", ie full of colour photos, drawings, sketches and plans relating to the architecture (past and present) of the Underground, acoompanied by some sparkling and relevant text.

The reality is a series of black and white photographs, all apparently taken in the 1970s, most of which are of escalators and underground passages. None of these photos are captioned. The accompanying text is rather plodding and unexciting - in marked contrast to Mr Long's other work - and the impression given is that it was knocked out rather hurriedly to flesh out a book of photographs. The chapter on Mapping the Network contains not a single map!

There is space in the market for a really good book on the architecture of the London Underground, but this isn't it. I bought this book, sight unseen, on the strength of the title and promotional blurb alone; I feel that I've been deceived and have wasted my money.
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on 9 March 2012
A lovely book with gorgeous photographs of the London Underground. It traces the history and design of the world's oldest underground railway with a beautiful, evocative photographic narrative.

Highly recommended!
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on 17 December 2011
One of the most beautiful books about the London Underground I have ever seen (& trust me, I've seen a lot). The photography is so stunning that it really becomes the book's hero. The story of how Jane Magarigal came to take this photographs was really fascinating to me as it shows how just an outsider's love of the Tube, photography, hard work & patience can eventually pay off. She started taking the black & white pictures in in the 1970's. They actually look "historical" already.

She said "It is when stations are empty of people that the history of the place comes alive. For without the bustle of people one can feel the energy of by gone days - the Blitz raging overhead, the architects and designers' choices, the souls of plague victimes unearthed in the building of the London Underground, the millions of people who have travelled through this miraculous labyrinth; all of this is there".

Thanks to the publishers for for seeing the possibility of this book and not letting these pictures and David's story remain unseen.
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on 14 December 2011
The tube's such a prosaic, everyday thing, I've never really appreciated its aesthetics (not easy when you're squashed into someone's armpit anyway). This book is the evidence that it's actually beautiful - the photographs are a revelation, and the story of how all this brilliant design came about is surprisingly gripping and wonderfully told. It's transformed my daily commute - I actually understand and appreciate my surroundings now. Good one to read on the tube, too, and learn as you go. If you can get a seat, of course.
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