Once a design classic, the map has been ugly, and getting uglier, for a while. The rot started to set in with the baffling decision to show the fare zones using a series of irregular grey polygons that make it look like the familiar shape of the Tube network had been painted against the backdrop of the sort of artwork you’d find lining the corridors of a Gatwick Airport hotel sometime in the late 1980s.
But the bigger problem is that Transport for London have thrown more and more services onto the map without any apparent consideration for what it might need to change in order to accommodate them. Most of the map is still given over to the northern half of London, even though a growing share of the services it shows (the Overground, Tramlink, now Thameslink) are south of the river.
Kenneth Field explores (and dismantles) the mythology around John Snow, the discovery that cholera was spread by water, the role of the famous cholera map and whether it revolutionized disease mapping. Depending on what you know about the subject—if, for example, you got what you know from an episode of Map Men—what you know is more myth than history: the map came after the Broad Street outbreak, it was not by any means the first example of disease mapping, and John Snow wasn’t the map’s cartographer. Field:
The mythology surrounding his work, the 1854 epidemic, and specifically the role of the map are a fine story, but much of it is retold according to the version many seem happy to believe rather than what really happened. But the real story is just as interesting. There are plenty of excellent longer form discussions of the story in which you may be interested. In particular, Kari McLeod’s excellent article that goes into detail about the various myths, and an article by Tom Koch and Kenneth Denike also goes into detail about the true order of events.
Charles Booth’s London Poverty Maps (Thames & Hudson, October) is a look back at Booth’s idiosyncratic and judgey block-by-block survey of poverty and the social classes of late 19th-century London (his maps described the “lowest class” as “vicious, semi-criminal,” for example). The final maps, hand-coloured, are famous in map terms: there was an exhibition back in 2011. The book adds preparatory maps, “selected reproductions of pages from the original notebooks, containing anecdotes related by Londoners of every trade, class, creed and nationality together with observations by Booth’s interviewers that reveal much about their social class and moral views.” Plus essays and infographics to put the whole thing in a modern context. Mapping London has a review.
A project of Cambridge’s Violence Research Centre, the London Medieval Murder Map is an interactive map that plots 142 murders from the first half of the 14th century onto one of two maps of London: a 1572 map from Braun and Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum or a map of London circa 1270 published by the Historic Towns Trust in 1989. The interactive map is powered by Google Maps, but the Braun and Hogenberg is not georectified, so the pushpins shift as you toggle between the base maps. [Ars Technica]
British map and travel bookstore Stanfords is moving its London store from its venerable Long Acre location, where they’ve been since 1901 (!), to a new building on Mercer Walk, all of 200 metres away. They cite a need for more back-office space for their online business. The new store is officially scheduled to open in January, but the ground floor will be open as a gift boutique later this month. [TimeOut London/MAPS-L]
Maps of bus, tram and trolley networks are, I think, more likely to use geographical maps of the city’s road network as their base layer than subway and rail maps. That’s not always the case—nor has it always been the case. Take this 1947 map of London’s trolleybus and tram routes, executed by Fred J. H. Elston. Cameron Booth finds that it has “more in common with modern best practices for transit diagrams than with something that’s now 70 years old.” On the other hand, Ollie O’Brien, writing at Mapping London, thinks that this map proves that “the simplicity of the tube map doesn’t translate very well to London’s complex road network. So perhaps this is why the idea almost didn’t survive for above-ground networks, and London’s more modern bus maps (now discontinued) have always used the actual geographical network.” Christopher Wyatt, sharing the map on Twitter, notes a big, Westminster-shaped hole in the trolley network that matches London’s speed limit map: “It does seem as though there is a historical pattern of aversion to transportation equity from Westminster.”
The UK Mapping Festival takes place from 2 to 7 September in London: see their sponsored post on Londonist. The festival is a mix of exhibitions, talks, workshops and other events. Exhibition passes are free, but certain events are not. The conference part of the festival takes place over three days and costs up to £95 per day to attend, but as the program is a mix of geospatial, historical, cartographic and general-interest material, you might not need to go every day.
Adam Dant’s Maps of London and Beyond (Batsford, 7 June) is a collection of the artist’s “beautiful, witty and subversive” maps. From the publisher: “Traversed by a plethora of colourful characters including William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Mary Wollstonecraft and Barbara Windsor, Adam Dant’s maps extend from the shipwrecks on the bed of the Thames to the stars in the sky over Soho. Along the way, he captures all the rich traditions in the capital, from brawls and buried treasure to gin and gentlemen’s clubs.”
Dant’s maps have been appearing on the Spitalfields Life blog for several years: start with this post and follow the links. They’re also the subject of at least two exhibitions in London right now: one at The Map House, which runs until the 14th; and one at Town House, which runs until the 22nd.