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

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

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by Simon Garfield
     
 

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Cartography enthusiasts rejoice: the bestselling author of the 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

Overview

Cartography enthusiasts rejoice: the bestselling author of the 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.

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
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.
From the Publisher
Praise for On the Map

“Simon Garfield is charming company. His passion for the graphic carries the reader along […] On the Map offers a world of revelation.”
–USA Today
 
“Mr. Garfield's book serves an immense need, connecting the latest geocacher with both the ancient art and modern science of the cartographer. Each may benefit from learning how the other approaches maps. Mr. Garfield uniquely provides that bridge.”
–Pittsburgh Post Gazette

“There is a great deal that is good and charming and fun about this book.”
–Simon Winchester, The Washington Post
 
“Garfield has a knack for creating high-spirited, erudite and user-friendly books on subjects that may seem crashingly dull to all but a few fanatics. […] On the Map is a treasure: exhilarating, witty, compulsively readable and just plain fun.”
–Seattle Times

“A collection of marvelous anecdotes that explore the role maps have played in shaping human culture since ancient times.”
–NPR.org
 
“Garfield’s new book details the evolution of cartography and why maps play such a vital role in our lives. […] his reverence for the form shines through vividly.”
–Penthouse
 
“Garfield’s interest in the human side of mapmaking— the personalities, anecdotes, curiosities—is what makes On the Map such an enjoyable read. […] vastly entertaining.”  
BookPage

"Garfield is a wonderful writer who deploys suspense to excellent effect, making each chapter read like a delightful short story or mini-mystery; his book speaks of vast, hidden depths."
Smithsonian Magazine

“A vivid foray into the romance of maps. [...] A fine, fun presentation of the brand of cartography that continues to whet our imaginations.”
–Kirkus

“Engaging …full of little conversation pieces”
–Janet Maslin, New York Times

"Enlightening and impossible to put down [. . .] The length and breadth of his scholarship are staggering, while the witty tone makes for the most convivial of literary guides."
Booklist

"Readers will enjoy this romp through 16,000 years of mapmaking."
Library Journal, starred review

"Delightful... If maps be the fuel of wanderlust, read on."
–From the foreword by Dava Sobel, author of Longitudes

“There couldn’t be anyone better to write about our love for maps than Simon Garfield, who is a master at unearthing strange facts and mixing them with a lively personal narrative...fascinating.”
–Giles Foden, Condé Nast Traveller (UK)

"Completely enthralling."
Daily Mail (UK)

"Garfield has a genius for being sparked to life by esoteric enthusiasm and charming readers with his delight."

 –Times (UK)

"Simon Garfield’s new book is a rollicking sweep through map history, packed with curiosities and written with verve . . . On the Map will inspire you to take a trip to somewhere new, buy an antique globe to chart the rise and fall of empires, or just dig out a tatty orange Ordnance Survey Explorer map and let its filigree of contour lines evoke a long-forgotten walk in the rain . . . a great book."

Independent on Sunday (UK)

“A pub quizzer’s dream . . . Rather than over-romanticise the experience of map-reading, Garfield allows his varied, expertly researched stories to speak for themselves, and in so doing helps us see that there are fewer things in life more useful, rewarding and beautiful than a map that does what it’s supposed to. Perhaps if Apple had read the book a few months ago, today’s iPhone users would have a much better idea of where they’re going.”
Daily Telegraph (UK)

Praise for Just My Type:

“This is a smart, funny, accessible book that does for typography what Lynne Truss’s best-selling Eats, Shoots & Leaves did for punctuation: made it noticeable for people who had no idea they were interested in such things.”
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times  

"An engaging look at the world of fonts. […] Just My Type urges us to put on the brakes and take in the scenery as far as typography goes. Whether you're a graphic designer or a layperson with no background in this area, reading what Garfield has to say will change the way you perceive the written word forever."
The Los Angeles Times  

“Reading Simon Garfield’s Just My Type can transform your daily life into an endless quest for knowledge of the typefaces in which signs, books, magazines, newspapers, etc. are set.”
The Washington Post

“Highly entertaining … Garfield takes readers on a rollicking tour of the world of typography, from book jackets to road signs, TV shows to computers.”
USA Today 

“A deliriously clever and entertaining book”
The Boston Globe

“Informative, delightful — and essential reading for word geeks everywhere.”
The Seattle Times 

“Lively […] intriguing […] a cheeky book about the human side and our reaction to fonts.”
Seattle Post Intelligencer 

“This is a book for typography lovers who just can't get enough of their favorite fonts. In this well-researched book, Garfield takes a look back at the history of typefaces and how they've influenced consumers throughout the years. Using specific examples, Garfield shows just how powerful different fonts can be.”
Philadelphia Intelligencer 

“For typomaniacs […] who can't rest until they've identified a font, Garfield's engaging history of letter design will be eye candy.”
—NPR.org 

"Irresistable."
—The Huffington Post 

“Garfield’s romping history (with multitype text) is zestfully informative.”
Booklist 

“Garfield dances across 560 years of typographic history, sprinkled with fascinating anecdotes and vignettes, to infect you with his own inability to walk past a sign without identifying the typeface and some curious factoid about it. Funny and fascinating, irreverent and playful yet endlessly illuminating, the book is an absolute treat for the type-nerd, design history geek, and general lover of intelligent writing with humor.”
The Atlantic 

“A thoroughly entertaining, well-informed tour of typefaces”
Kirkus 

A “lively romp through the history of fonts. Garfield’s evocative prose entices us to see letters instead of just reading them.”
Publishers Weekly 

“Whether you’re a hardcore typophile or a type-tyro, there’s something here for you: be it the eye-opening revelations of Eric Gill’s utter and complete perversity, or the creation of the typeface that helped Mr. Obama gain entrance to the White House.”
—Chip Kidd 

"Just My Type is an entertaining romp through the world of type design. Mr. Garfield explains the angst and the joy of typography; this is a great book for design geeks to press into the hands of the uninitiated in hopes of conversions, like missionaries with a religious tract."
—Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife 

“With wit, grace and intelligence, Simon Garfield tells the fascinating stories behind the letters that we encounter every day on our street corners, our bookstore shelves, and our computer screens. As someone who's worked with typography for over three decades, I kept finding lots of surprises.  So will anyone who cares about the culture of reading and writing and this most ubiquitous of design forms.”
—Michael Bierut, Partner, Pentagram Design, New York

"There is even a photograph of a quick brown fox literally jumping over a lazy dog. What a clever, clever book."
—Lynne Truss 

“Did I love this book? My daughter's middle name is Bodoni. Enough said.”
—Maira Kalman 

"Mapping out the historical intricacies of the ampersand and the short-lived interrobang, the serif and the sans serif, Simon Garfield reveals an invisible world behind the printed word. From Trajan's Column to the ubiquitous Helvetica to the latest typefaces, like Dirtyfax, the lives of the designers and the letters they've created have never been more clearly detailed with so much flair."
—Jessica Kerwin Jenkins, author of Encyclopedia of the Exquisite 

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781592407798
Publisher:
Gotham
Publication date:
12/27/2012
Pages:
464
Product dimensions:
6.04(w) x 8.42(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Mr. Garfield uses cartography as a springboard to similar explorations of how we have viewed not only the world around us, but ourselves." —New York Journal of Books

"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." —Publishers Weekly

"A fine, fun presentation of the brand of cartography that continues to whet our imaginations." —Kirkus Reviews

“Mr. Garfield's book serves an immense need, connecting the latest geocacher with both the ancient art and modern science of the cartographer. Each may benefit from learning how the other approaches maps. Mr. Garfield uniquely provides that bridge.”
Pittsburgh Post Gazette

“Deep research and descriptive intensity. [Garfield] regales us with tales of such wonders as Britain's medieval Mappa Mundi… On the Map offers a world of revelation.” –USA Today

“There is a great deal that is good and charming and fun about this book.” – Washington Post

“Delightfully meandering.” – NPR.org

“Garfield has a knack for creating high-spirited, erudite and user-friendly books on subjects that may seem crashingly dull to all but a few fanatics. . . . Garfield is a terrific guide. . . . “On the Map” is a treasure: exhilarating, witty, compulsively readable and just plain fun.” –The Seattle Times

“Engaging …full of little conversation pieces” –Janet Maslin, New York Times

“Garfield is a wonderful writer who deploys suspense to excellent effect, making each chapter read like a delightful short story or mini-mystery; what might appear a dusty subject sparkles under his clear-eyed and witty writing.” – Smithsonian Magazine

“engrossing, endlessly fascinating… enlightening and impossible to put down… The length and breadth of his scholarship are staggering, while the witty tone makes for the most convivial of literary guides...an irresistible invitation to see the world, and delivering on his promise of “the map as story, the map as life.” –Booklist Starred Review

“Vastly entertaining.” —Bookpage

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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On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
GrandpaGuy More than 1 year ago
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?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed most of the chapters and the book over all. A good read for map lovers as well as history fans.
MayaMA More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a gift to a friend and he was very pleased to receive it.