(MAP OF A NATION) BY HEWITT, RACHEL[ AUTHOR ]Paperback 07-2011
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Top Customer Reviews
Hewitt explains how the Ordnance Survey grew from the Highland uprisings as the Hanoverian forces tried to explore the wild territory in which the clansmen lived and indeed hid. Ironically it was a lowland Scot, William Roy of Lanarkshire, who led the team that criss-crossed the rugged terrain - so rugged that even today there is little point in using any online map service other than that supplied by the OS and only harveys have seen fit to challenge the OS in providing useful maps to take with you into the hills.
The Lowlands followed the Highlands, as did England, and with increased pressure from the French eventually it became necessary to know where we were, and where the fiendish French might come from. Enter William Mudge.
Crazy name but driven guy. It was Mudge who plotted the triangles across southern England, oversaw their publicationa as maps, with the first instalment, 'an Entirely New and Accurate Survey of the County of Kent with Part of the County of Essex'. produced in 1801. It took 69 years to produce all of the first series and that is where this story ends.
If there is one criticism of the work it is that there are no racy or scandalous stories to tell. No tales of financial skullduggery or loads of people being killed as they hang from a mountain top with their theodlyte. These were serious men so it is hardly the author's fault that there is little here for those looking for "drama".Read more ›
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
The action starts in Scotland in 1746, where difficulties pursuing the fleeing Jacobites motivate a military-inspired survey of the land. The all-consuming nature of the task, its scientific and practical challenges and the immense appeal of creating a national image in the form of a map raise ambitions to extend a more accurate form of mapping to England and Wales. Eventually the survey of England and Wales gets underway, proceeding from the south coast amidst fears of French invasion. After many diversions and side projects, including a particularly interesting and ambitious 20 year period in Ireland, the book finishes with the Ordnance Survey's completion of its first series in 1870.
Hewitt does an excellent job of exploring both the scientific advances that underpin the advance of the Survey and the personalities that dominate it. She also stresses the many interested parties who helped create it, including artists, poets and linguists as well as engineers, astronomers, mathematicians and the military. The style is highly accessible but authoritative: there are very few footnotes to distract from the main text, but the book includes a reassuringly long Notes and References section at the back.
Readers who like this might also enjoy Richard Holmes' 'The Age of Wonder'.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love trig points and maps so had to buy this book. Amazing story of how the uk was mapped starting from the very early days.Published 1 month ago by GU2
I love books and I love maps, so obviously I would love a book about maps and our mapping agenct the Ordnance Survey.
Thsi book is great.
Disappointed. I was expecting more of an overall history. This is a bit too specific for my liking.Published 2 months ago by Chris, Great Totham
A lovely addition to a map lover's library shelves and good just to dip into as well as an absorbing read. Bought by accident, but what a satisfying result. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Steve Law
Excellent well researched book very much on a par with similar earlier best sellers which had a scientific or technology theme. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Mr. A. T. Smart