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

Overview - 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.  Read more...

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More About On the Map by Simon Garfield
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.

  • ISBN-13: 9781592407798
  • ISBN-10: 159240779X
  • Publisher: Penguin Group USA
  • Publish Date: December 2012
  • Page Count: 464

Related Categories

Books > Social Science > Human Geography
Books > Technology > Cartography

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2012-11-12
  • Reviewer: Staff

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.)

BookPage Reviews

Plotting our place in the world

“Maps hold a clue to what makes us human,” Simon Garfield writes in the introduction to his lively, loose-limbed exploration of our seemingly tireless quest to visually represent the lay of the land. Garfield’s interest in the human side of mapmaking—the personalities, anecdotes, curiosities—is what makes On the Map such an enjoyable read.

Garfield’s 22 chapters follow a rough chronology, beginning with the Great Library of Alexandria, where Eratosthenes of Cyrene in the third century B.C. came remarkably close to calculating the true circumference of the earth, and ending with contemporary medicine’s attempt to map the human brain. In between, he regales readers with tales of mapmakers and map thieves, treasure maps, the origins of the atlas and the development of the beautiful schematic map of the London tube. Who was Mercator and why do we think his distortion-filled map is so important? How did the Americas come to be named after Amerigo Vespucci, a former bank clerk who sailed for South America nearly a decade after Columbus reached the Caribbean? Why did a nonexistent mountain range remain on maps of Africa for almost a century? The answers can be found in On the Map.

An Englishman, Garfield’s topic selections skew toward the British, but On the Map also includes chapters on the grid map of Manhattan and the mapping efforts of the Lewis and Clark expedition (with an interesting aside on Native Americans’ evanescent sand maps). So On the Map is capacious rather than comprehensive. It is also vastly entertaining.

BAM Customer Reviews