On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks

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Cartography enthusiasts rejoice: the bestselling author of Just My Type reveals the fascinating relationship between man and map.
Simon Garfield’s Just My Type illuminated the world of fonts and made everyone take a stand on Comic Sans and care about kerning. Now Garfield takes on a subject even dearer to our fanatical human ...

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On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks (PagePerfect NOOK Book)

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Cartography enthusiasts rejoice: the bestselling author of Just My Type reveals the fascinating relationship between man and map.
Simon Garfield’s Just My Type illuminated the world of fonts and made everyone take a stand on Comic Sans and care about kerning. Now Garfield takes on a subject even dearer to our fanatical human hearts: maps.
Imagine a world without maps. How would we travel? Could we own land? What would men and women argue about in cars? Scientists have even suggested that mapping—not language—is what elevated our prehistoric ancestors from ape-dom. Follow the history of maps from the early explorers’ maps and the awe-inspiring medieval Mappa Mundi to Google Maps and the satellite renderings on our smartphones, Garfield explores the unique way that maps relate and realign our history—and reflect the best and worst of what makes us human.
Featuring a foreword by Dava Sobel and packed with fascinating tales of cartographic intrigue, outsize personalities, and amusing “pocket maps” on an array of subjects from how to fold a map to the strangest maps on the Internet, On the Map is a rich historical tapestry infused with Garfield’s signature narrative flair. Map-obsessives and everyone who loved Just My Type will be lining up to join Garfield on his audacious journey through time and around the globe.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Innumerable modes of seeing the world unfold in this exuberant history of maps. Garfield (Just My Type) loosely follows the development of cartography, taking in the precociously scientific geography of the ancient Greeks; medieval England’s Hereford Mappa Mundi, drenched in Christian allegory and teeming with mythical beasts; the Age of Exploration’s heroic maps of newly discovered, sketchily drawn, and wrongly designated landmasses (America got its name from a cartographer’s erroneous belief that Amerigo Vespucci discovered it); the 19th-century map that established cholera as a water-borne disease; modern GPS systems, and video game fantasy maps. Along the way he pursues diverting cartographical anecdotes and oddities, including the centuries-long consensus that California was an island, the lingering conceit that women can’t read maps, and the appearance and disappearance of canals on maps of Mars. Garfield’s coverage of this terrain, lavishly illustrated with reproductions of famous maps, is broad but paper-thin—more a meandering guided tour than a systematic survey. Still, his droll humor and infectious curiosity will keep readers engrossed as he uncovers surprising ways in which maps chart our imaginations as much as they do the ground underfoot. Photos, illus., maps. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Garfield's best-selling Just My Type (2011) was about typefaces. Now he's done the same for maps. The result is not deep history but it is pleasurable history nonetheless: readers will enjoy this romp through 16,000 years of mapmaking, beginning with a hunter's map found in a cave in northern Spain and proceeding all the way to today's GPS, Google Maps, video games, and Me Mapping. Aimed at educated lay readers who want both to nourish their mind and divert it, the book dispenses a good deal of information in the process: the problems the earth's curvature has posed in its representation, how maps reflect national and cultural biases, how maps have been used to solve problems like the spread of cholera in 1854 London, the technical progress made in mapping. "Maps are only human, after all," quips Garfield. VERDICT Readers of popular history will enjoy this entertaining and informative book. This is popular history but not "history light."[See Prepub Alert, 7/22/12.]—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
Library Journal
Having triumphed with Just My Type, an illuminating guide to type fonts that made many best sellers and best books lists, Garfield returns to show how maps both reflect and shape human history. Over 100 maps and illustrations and thoroughly Americanized by Britisher Garfield, with new sections.
Kirkus Reviews
A vivid foray into the romance of maps. This is a roughly chronological survey of choice moments in cartography, with Garfield (Just My Type: A Book About Fonts, 2011, etc.) keeping his focus trained on maps that present not just the lay of the land, but that transport and move us--maps that have something to say about who we are at some particular historical point in time. Although he starts with Eratosthenes, Strabo and Ptolemy, the author digs into the mysterious allure of maps after the strange interruption in mapmaking that followed Ptolemy for more than 1,000 years. Longer chapters provide lively histories of great maps, cartographic phantoms like the Mountains of Kong in Africa or the detective work of Dr. Snow's London cholera map. Garfield is equally at ease with treasure maps, where the loot is guarded by dangerous reefs, angry birds and an army of land crabs, or when ruminating on the great blank spots in 19th-century maps of Africa, suggestive of empty territory for the imperial taking. The author punctuates these chapters with colorful cartographic squibs on, for example, Churchill's map room or how Kit Williams' jeweled hare was found (not by a close reading of Williams' book Masquerade). Always present is a concern for how maps touch us: "We may detect the emotional state of the amateur cartographer through the graphite and the nib of hand-drawn markings, and because we know we are witnessing history as it happens." Garfield also looks at maps in the movie Casablanca, which brought us to northwest Africa, how the game Monopoly made us familiar with Atlantic City and how GPS has such a hold on our everyday lives. A fine, fun presentation of the brand of cartography that continues to whet our imaginations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592407798
  • Publisher: Gotham
  • Publication date: 12/27/2012
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 951,602
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 8.42 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Simon Garfield is the author of fourteen acclaimed books of nonfiction including Just My Type. He lives in London and St. Ives, Cornwall.

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Table of Contents

For the Love of Maps: Foreword Dava Sobel 11

Introduction: The Map That Wrote Itself 15

1 What Great Minds Knew 21

How the ancient Greeks-Eratosthenes and Ptolemy-first worked out the size and shape of the world and our place upon it.

2 The Men Who Sold the World 42

The day Britain's greatest cartographic treasure-the medieval Mappa Mundi-went to the auction houses to fix a leaky roof.

It's 1250, Do You Know Where You Are? 58

3 The World Takes Shape 63

The world centers on Jerusalem-and the Poles appear.

Here Be Dragons 72

4 Venice, China and a Trip to the Moon 75

How the Italians became the world's greatest mapmakers, and then the Germans, and then the Dutch. And how a Venetian friar discovered the secrets of the East and ended up on the moon.

5 The Mystery of Vinland 87

Did Norse sailors really reach and map America before Columbus?

Or is the world's most curious map fakery's finest hour?

6 Welcome to Amerigo 103

In which Ptolemy reappears in Europe and America gets named after the wrong man.

California as an Island 121

7 What's the Good of Mercator? 125

How the world looked in 1569-and today, even if the UN still favors the Postel Azimuthal Equidistant.

Keeping It Quiet: Drake's Silver Voyage 135

8 The World in a Book 140

In which the Atlas becomes a craze in seventeenth-century Holland, is adopted by The Times, and then turns to agitprop.

Lions, Eagles and Gerrymanders 160

9 Mapping a Cittee (without forder troble) 167

London gets the map bug, too, pioneers street mapping, and John Ogilby charts the course of every major road in Britannia.

10 Six Increasingly Coordinated Tales of the Ordnance Survey 181

Britain, spurred by Jacobite revolt, makes the Ordnance Survey, extending to India. But what is the symbol for a picnic site?

A Nineteenth-Century Murder Map 200

11 The Legendary Mountains of Kong 204

How an impassable mountain range spread and spread, until a French army officer found it wasn't there.

The Low-down Lying Case of Benjamin Morrell 220

12 The Opening of America and the Gridding of Manhattan 223

How Lewis and Clark filled out the American canvas, and how New York plotted its future.

13 Cholera and the Map that Stopped It 235

How mapping played its part in identifying the cause of the disease.

Across Australia with Burke and Wills 246

14 "X" Marks the Spot: Treasure Island 252

Treasure maps in literature and life.

J.M. Barrie Fails to Fold a Pocket Map 267

15 The Worst Journey in the World to the Last Place to Be Mapped 269

How explorers found the South Pole without a map, and named the region after their families, friends and enemies.

Charles Booth Thinks You're Vicious 288

16 Maps in All Our Hands: A Brief History of the Guidebook 293

The majestic foldout engravings of Murray and Baedeker give way to another cartographic dark age.

The Biggest Map of All: Beck's London Tube 307

17 Casablanca, Harry Potter and Where Jennifer Aniston Lives 313

In which the Muppets perfect travel by map and we stalk the stars.

A Hare-raising Masquerade 324

18 How to Make a Very Big Globe 327

From scratch ... when you used to run a bowling alley.

Churchill's Map Room 347

19 The Biggest Map Dealer, the Biggest Map Thief 352

How tempting are maps-and just what kind of dealers and thieves do they attract?

Women Can't Read Maps. Oh, Really? 366

20 Driving into Lakes: How GPS Put the World in a Box 372

How we learned to watch the dullest in-flight movie ever-and, with GPS, the Dutch once again took over the world's mapping.

The Canals of Mars 385

21 Pass Go and Proceed Directly to Skyrim 394

Maps as games, from jigsaw puzzles to Risk, and why computer games may be the future of cartography.

22 Mapping the Brain 410

What taxi drivers have to offer the world of the neuroscientist.

Epilogue: The Instant, Always-On, Me-Mapping of Everywhere 424

How the Internet changed everything.

Acknowledgments 444

Bibliography 446

Picture Credits 449

Index 450

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 30, 2013

    I rushed out an bought this at a BN store and stopped reading af

    I rushed out an bought this at a BN store and stopped reading after the first 100 or so pages. The text was interesting, informative and amusing, but the maps to which he referred were illegible. This was extremely disappointing.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2013


    This was a gift to a friend and he was very pleased to receive it.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 26, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This should have been an interesting book. I've been a map freak

    This should have been an interesting book. I've been a map freak since the fifties. Perhaps reading about maps isn't the same as reading a map? Mr Garfield had plenty of good stories about maps, but they didn't ring my chimes. This was the fifth book out of six that I read while on vacation, was that one too many?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2014

    For mapheads

    I enjoyed most of the chapters and the book over all. A good read for map lovers as well as history fans.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

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