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on 25 October 2012
I have just received and dipped into the book to sample the text, and am looking forward to reading a lot more, so I err towards 5* for the writing. What really jars, when the book should hold hopes of tactile pleasure, is the awful paper, on which the book is printed. Cheap, nasty, horrible, it looks and feels and smells of newsprint and undoubtedly is the reason for the poor reproductions. The Thames and Hudson 'World of Art' series are comparable, about 2/3 the price, pro rata, printed on fine glossy paper, impressive reproduction of photos and drawings, and have proper stitched binding/spines as well. Why did Profile books chose to ignore quality ?
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 October 2012
I don't think the author will mind if I say this book is not strictly for cartography academics, but for the more general reader with an interest in maps, mapping, exploration and the like. In this regard it succeeds admirably, using a breezy style to whisk you through a potted history of the subject which is easy to read and understand. I have to confess that there was a fair bit in here that was already familiar to me and would also be familiar to anyone with an interest in maps already. For example there isn't much in the chapter on the Ordnance Survey that isn't in Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey but nevertheless it is still worth reading within the context of this book. having said that I wasn't aware of the The Mountains of Kong - `a Chain of Great Mountains' - which appeared on James Rennell's map in 1798 and didn't actually exist, so there is something for everyone here.
Split into short and sharp chapters this is a book that lends itself equally to a solid read through, or as a book to pick through as and when you get the chance. Lavishly illustrated, as the saying goes, I would caution anyone thinking of getting this on Kindle that these illustrations and maps don't reproduce well on the Kindle itself but are fine if using a tablet or the Kindle App on a laptop
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on 21 October 2012
Let me just give you an example of what is so disappointing. In his section on the Hereford Mappa Mundi there is an illustration p 47 of part of the map - dull greyscale printing, difficult to see the detail - with the caption 'These days you'd be tested for chemical substances; the Nile delta bisects a magical world of unicorns, castles and a peculiar mandrake man.' Chemical substances? Mogadon maybe! It could be so exciting; the quality and size of the reproduction renders it dull and uninspiring; and sadly that's the case throughout the book. Garfield writes well but he is so badly let down by the illustrations. And I would have thought that people who like maps would have higher expectations than anything here.
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on 13 December 2012
This beautiful book is something to treasure, and which will delight fans of Geography, fine art and those who wish to explore the world and study different continents and countries. This book explores our loves for maps and for looking at the world, and which many readers including myself will find not only fascinating and enchanting but something that is to treasure for all-time! I personally connected to this book as my own Grandmother (who was an artist) drew the maps during World War two for Sir Winston Churchill, so as they could locate where to bomb Germany and so this brought to me a real sense of nostalgia and significance that touched my heart. I also love drawing by hand my own maps which I have done for art and for Geography studies, as someone who finds the world we live in absolutely fascinating and who like Sir David Attenborough wishes to explore and delve deeper beneath the surface - as there is so much too see and so much to know! This book may have connected with me on a personal and intimate level, but I also loved it for a great piece of narrative and something highly enjoyable to read. What Simon Garfield has to say is truly fascinating, extraordinary and which gives the reader such an insight as you will have never experienced before...

It is true that maps fascinate us, and that they not only chart our understanding of the world and log our progress but also above all they tell our stories. From the early sketches of Philosophers and explorers, to Google Maps and beyond, Simon Garfield examines how maps relate to our history (i.e. for example during wars or going further back in time when explorers visited uninhabited Islands or distant, remote places of the world!).
His compelling narratives range from the quest to creating the perfect `globe' and to the challenges of mapping Africa and Antarctica, , from spellbinding treasure maps to the naming of America, from Ordnance Survey to the mapping of Monopoly and Skyrim, and from rare map dealers to cartographic frauds. (I must admit getting excited about the Pirate treasure maps!!). En route, there are 'pocket map' tales on dragons and undergrounds, a nineteenth century murder map, the research conducted on the different ways that men and women approach a map, and an explanation of the curious long-term cartographic role played by animals. On The Map is a witty and irrepressible examination of where we've been, how we got there and where we're going.

This book is so exciting and which covers every kind of map you can possibly think of, used in both real life, Middle-Earth, Pirates and great World Wars to explorers from time gone by; this really is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging guide I have ever encountered. Delightful and mesmerizing, one can sense the author's enthusiasm and passion for his subject through the pages and which captures your attention instantly so that you are drawn into the book, which I can only compare to say when David Attenborough is talking about an exotic animal televised and you are instantly pulled into what he is saying for his fervor is infectious! Completely enthralling to all, whether you are looking at an Ordinance Survey or a map of London, one is simply enchanted by this beautiful book that twinkles with the delight of discovery.

If you are traveling or journeying abroad then this book is a must-have companion, as it takes one on a fascinating voyage of discovery, which ultimately heightens ones exciting experiences when we travel to somewhere. This is a brilliant book and one that I highly recommend to any budding expeditionary!
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on 6 November 2012
In writing a book with the ambitious remit of summarising the history of cartography from Eratosthenes to Google maps, Garfield has clearly undertaken a prodigious amount of research and has successfully captured the allure of maps and the insight they provide into the societies and times that created them.

The particular strength of this work is in the author's evocation of the human story behind maps, be it the early voyages of Da Gama , Columbus, Marco Polo or Vespucci or the tragic but darkly comical tale of Burke and Wills's exploration of Australia. Especially compelling in this respect is the recount of Snow's mapping of a Victorian cholera outbreak in which cartography is used to confirm beyond doubt, for the first time, that cholera was a water born pathogen rather miasmic.

The book also vividly depicts the lives as well as the works of the creators of the A-Z atlas and the London Underground map. The inventor of the former, Phyllis Pearsall is depicted as a driven woman desperately seeking to restore the reputation of her bankrupt father. The creator of the latter, Harry Beck, is shown to be a forward thinker with a sense of humour, parodying his own work in a manner which has become common place subsequent to his death and established a link between cartography and pop art.

This well researched book appeals to both the geographer and the layperson, covering such diverse subjects as: the comparative mapping abilities of men and women, the role of maps in Empire building and imperial control, politics and the prosecution of the Second World War .The impact of new technologies is imaginatively discussed, with the advent of GPS increasingly leading to an egocentric form of mapping. Whilst Jerusalem featured at the centre of many medieval maps, today Google, Apple and Bing maps all feature 'me' (the tablet/ smartphone) owner at the centre -just another example of how maps have come to reflect the aspirations and beliefs of society -how apposite that the modern western consumer should have the world literally revolve around them!
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VINE VOICEon 10 January 2013
I've always loved looking at maps so this book was bound to appeal to me really. After being disappointed by "Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey" last year (too much on the people who made the maps, and not enough on the maps for me) I was hoping that this would be a more interesting read, and thankfully it was.

It's a small hardback, a book for reading rather than gazing at, and the tone is light throughout - it never gets bogged down in heavy details and is always enjoyable and interesting, so is more of a popular history of maps than a reference book. Written in a roughly chronological order, starting with the earliest maps with all of their guesswork and invented features through to the latest web-based maps provided by Google and the like, each chapter focuses on a particular development in mapping, such as the Mercator projection, the birth of the Ordnance Survey, and only two characters felt superfluous and unnecessary to me - both at the end of the book, one about computer games that use maps ("Grand Theft Auto" and "Skyrim" are used as examples) and one about mapping the human brain, neither of which really seemed to fit into the narrative of the book. It's a fairly thick book - roughly 450 pages - but its breezy tone makes it a quick, easy read.

Some people have criticized the paper used in the book and the illustrations. Personally I felt the paper was fine, the same as that used in almost every other book I've read, as after all this is a book to read rather than leave on a coffee table to be flicked through and admired. As for the illustrations, there are several of these punctuating the text but they are all in black and white and often fairly small, so don't expect glossy, full colour plates in vivid detail. I found them perfectly acceptable, enough to give you a feel for the relevant subject, but I can understand why some may have felt disappointed - a handful of colour pictures in the middle of the book wouldn't have gone amiss.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and as long as you're not expecting a definitive reference book which is full of lavish illustrations you'll probably like it too.
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on 30 December 2013
Bring back the local book shop then I could have browsed and not bought it.
Not what I expected from the comments about the book.
Too much text and not enough classy maps.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 January 2013
I'm a map addict, history and geography jock, and a fan of Simon Garfield's writing. Put those all together and you've got a five star review of Garfield's latest book, "On the Map". British author Garfield has a wide-ranging oeuvre of titles. He's written about everything from WW2 wartime Britain to the music industry to the joys of stamp collecting (while also discussing personal matters) to a book on fonts, and, finally, to this book on maps.

The verb "to map" can be used in many different ways. Of course, the most popular way is "to map" geographical places, but you can also "map" diseases, family histories, economic development, and much, much more. Garfield writes about all these in his new book, but primarily focuses on mapping geographical places. He traces the development of maps from prehistoric ages, paying close attention to the various expeditions devoted to mapping what was then thought to be unknown. Expeditions like Lewis and Clark in the US northwest, the various expeditions to the polar regions, and the expeditions to find the China from Europe by going west. Garfield points out that by 1492, most geographers knew the world was round; the exact size and what lay where was still the missing component.

Simon Garfield is a lively writer, and he addresses both history and geography in his book. He writes about all the places that appeared on early, post-Columbus maps that simply didn't exist. A range of mountains in west Africa and several non-existent islands in the Pacific were the result of mangled streams of information. And the state of California was shown as an island in many early maps of the area. One of the most interesting things is to take a look at early maps of any area and see how detailed the shorelines were but how blank or underdeveloped the internal areas of countries and continents were. The book also has a really cool front and back piece; a map of the world with a super-imposed map of the type of the London tube system.

Garfield's book is full of little-known facts and explanations of well-known facts that would be of interest to most any map-addicts. It's a super read.
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on 13 November 2012
Simon Garfield's "Just My Type" Just My Type: A Book About Fonts was one of my favourite reads of recent times. This one is also good but is possibly a little less consistent than "Just My Type". Maybe it's just a personal thing but some of the middle chapters dealing with British Empire builders (Stanley etc) became a little pedestrian at times.
But, that's the negatives out of the way. The general tenor of the book is entertaining, knowledgeable and often humorous. Of particular interest is the final chapter on mapping the brain. This subject, an interesting variation on the book's standard theme of terrestrial mapping is rich in potential and must surely be under consideration by the author and his publishers as the subject of a complete new work. In essence, this tailpiece is a study of how brain mapping is pushing the boundaries of our understanding how we think and feel. With humorous backward glances at the old pseudo-science of phrenology, Simon Garfield describes how we are exploring the hidden corners of our brains in much the same way as we once explored the unknown corners of planet Earth, by travelling there and by mapping what we find.
There are also excellent chapters on the ancient maps and mapmakers, the creators of the A-Zs and on the mapping of our neighbours in the Solar System although I would have liked to have read more on the stories of the national mappers such as the Ordnance Survey, Michelin and so on.
There is so much more to be said on the whole fascinating subject of mapping and this book can only be a taster, one for the "interested, knowledgeable reader" rather than the professional cartographer. But that is what it is meant to be of course. The bonus would be the inspiration it may give for the "interested reader" to go on to become a professional cartographer. It is certainly capable of doing that.
Buy if you enjoy general knowledge presented in a readable format, and especially if you simply like maps.
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on 12 February 2014
Simon Garfield gives us an interesting and entertaining (but brief) explanation and history of maps; how, why and what they are, with several of the world's most significant maps as well as some unexpected and amusing gems all used to help illustrate his themes.

Alas, these examples are only shown in black and white, and are small and poorly printed. I've always been intrigued by maps and was very disappointed at the lack of detail available from the illustrations; why give us such a well written over-view of such an absorbing subject when the maps themselves are close to being illegible? Perhaps to force us into travelling the world to search out the originals?

I am fortunate to have been able to see some of the originals at first hand, just a sheet of glass away in some instances. For example the Hereford Mappa Mundi at the cathedral; while he devotes a whole chapter to describing it and how it was almost sold for a pittance, the illustrations supporting his text are barely recognisable.

More to the point, at the end of the book he shows us the many ways that are emerging of researching maps, and also grasping novel and modern mapping systems without needing paper, as well as an extensive Bibliography and a comprehensive Index.

My copy of the book is a first edition, first print hardback I was given as a very welcome Christmas present. It is most useful for drawing our attention to the gems we have missed, giving us history and trivia and fascinating facts, a starting point to searching out more detail, and with any luck actually being able to see the maps themselves. But the inadequate illustrations are what lose it a star.
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