Map-Making chronicle finds its way to the silly side of a dry art
From ancient pieces featuring defecating beasts to how-to-get-there guides on smartphones, a new examination of what one might have assumed to be the crusty world of cartography entertains. However, the production quality doesn't match the author's infectious enthusiasm
Simon Garfield's past work includes a whole book about the colour mauve and last year's delightful Just My Type, an ebullient survey of facts about fonts and typography. Now he turns his attention to a somewhat mustier subject _ the history of cartography. He is most engaging on the most chequered parts of that history.
Garfield does not pretend to be a serious historian. (Neither did Ken Jennings, whose 2011 Maphead covered some of the same terrain.) His gift is for cherry-picking factoids, and his latest book, On the Map, is full of little conversation pieces. But this book is diminished by the way it has been produced, with an alluringly tinted antique map of Africa on its cover and nothing but smudgy grey illustrations inside.
Some of the map depictions are also reduced in scale, which makes their copious text virtually illegible. Too bad: The kinds of stories Garfield loves depend on evocative visual images that his book doesn't provide.
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