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London: A Life in Maps Paperback – November 1, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Whitfield, the author of several books on maps, including Cities of the World, has produced a fascinating history of London organized around some 100 of the countless maps, panoramas, and plans created of the city over the last 500 years, going back to the earliest extant map. . . . Whitfield serves up an enjoyable mix of facts, both familiar and obscure, handsomely supported with contemporary illustrations in addition to the maps. . . . Anyone with an interest in the history of London or of maps generally will find much to enjoy. Recommended highly for public and academic libraries."
(Linda M. Kaufmann Library Journal 2007-10-15)

"[London] provides the reader with a good understanding of the evolution of one of the world's major cities, and includes many of the seminal maps for those interested in its cartographic history. It is a good book for just browsing the maps and illustrations, and it's appropriate for anyone with an interest in London and/or maps. . . . A very good value."
(Peter Porrazzo Portolan)

About the Author

Peter Whitfield is a former director of Stanford's International Map Centre. His previous books are The Image of the World; The Mapping of the Heavens; The Charting of the Oceans; New Found Lands; Landmarks in Western Science; Astrology; Sir Francis Drake; and Cities of the World.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: British Library Publishing; First Paperback Edition edition (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712349197
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712349192
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.6 x 11.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paul Coopersmith on October 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
Peter Whitfield's "London, A Life in Maps" is a must-read for anyone with an interest in, and/or love for, Britain's capital city. Having lived in London for three years in the 1970's, and returned many times since, I found the maps, drawings, photos, and text enthralling, shedding light on innumerable aspects of the city that previously were unknown to me. What an incredible amount of research Peter Whitfield has done, and how brilliantly he presents it. The book would make a superb gift for any Anglophile or student of English history.
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this is a handsome, entertaining and informative overview of the history of london from the late renaissance through modern times, animated by documentary representations of the city. the title is misleading, in that maps form only part of the visual narrative: we're also shown architectural engravings, landscape panoramas, historical paintings, literary illustrations, aerial photographs and other "views" of london. the text is usually arranged as one or two columns beside or facing the visual evidence, and is generally well written and anecdotal. this is an ideal book for young and old interested in english history, cartography, or urban development, and for anyone visiting london with enough time to really explore the city's museums and monuments. (my traveler tip: i encountered this book in the victoria & albert museum bookstore, and reserved it on amazon for delivery back home.)

i have several minor reservations about this edition. the quality of the reproductions and illustrations varies widely; the contrast or resolution of some maps or images is so low that they are effectively illegible (doré engravings, p.156; spurrier & phipps plan, p. 121; london railway, p.132; paddington parish, p.134; etc.), and some are jpeg files with compression artifacts (charing cross, p.136) or badly rescreened halftone images that produce moire patterns (wren's plan, p.118). (yes, the editorial difficulties in compiling images from so many sources were considerable ... but all the same.) the sewn binding is, for a trade paperback, superbly robust, but this makes it very difficult to open the book flat to examine the (many) maps printed across facing pages. i also regretted the lack of an archaeological or reconstruction map of roman and medieval london (the narrative starts in 1550), a synoptic map showing the gradually expanding urban limits, and a double page map of existing buildings, keyed by color to the period in which they were built.
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Format: Paperback
Now and then, I come across a book which I quickly discover must be opened with care, and not when any other responsibilities are pressing, because it will prove almost impossible to put down. Whitfield's marvelous cartographic treatment of the history since the 16th century of one of the western world's premiere cities is just such a book. Along with chronology, maps are one of the key adjuncts in the study of history, visualizing and placing in context the relationships between events of the past. Whitfield is a well-known expert in the history of exploration and of maps, and he provides here a guided tour of London's development since the mid-16th century, when the first maps of the city began to appear. They were really "views," with elevations of buildings, and designed with a low point-of-view, not the schematic plan from directly overhead of the modern urban street map, but they get the point across: London, while already one of the largest cities in Europe, was tiny by today's standards. The Strand was almost a country lane connecting the City of the London with Westminster, upriver. Spitalfield was still the open land before St. Mary's Hospital, just outside Bishopsgate -- which was still a gate in the city walls. And because of the Great Fire and the complete loss of the old wooden city, these early maps are our best source for what medieval London really looked like. In fact, the Fire itself gave impetus to the development of urban cartography, as an aid in rebuilding the city.Read more ›
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I have been studying London history as a hobby, and was so excited when I found this book. The one thing that has been missing from many of the research books I've purchased is maps of the city and neighborhoods. The problem with this book is that some (not all) of the maps are printed so small that they are impossible to read. The book is filled with great information, so I recommend buying it if you are an enthusiast. But if you intend to look closely at the maps, then order a magnifying glass along with this book.
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"London: A Life in Maps" is absolutely the best tour through the history of London a student, a reader, or a historian could take.

I have always loved a novel that opens with a map. Here's a book that illustrates the changing city through the centuries and the decades.

Imagining the time of the Romans, of Shakespeare, of Queen Victoria is now easier with this handy resource.

I am writing a novel about 1760-1790 in London. This book shows many of the roads as they were in those times as well as the changes the architects imagined after the Great Fire.

First rate research.
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