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Transit Maps of the World Paperback – October 30, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Ovenden does what no other design history book has ever done. Transit Maps of the World is a must-have"
-The New York Times Book Review

-LA Times

"The perfect book"
-USA Today

"pure catnip"
-William Grimes, The New York Times

"This book is the stuff that dreams are made of"

"A fabulous collection. These maps are almost works of art, and can kindle a remembrance of a past trip or a dream of a future journey"
-Seattle Times

"Impossibly nerdy and thoroughly compelling"
-Kansas City Star

"This is the kind of book that would be incredibly fun to browse with kids as part of a world geography investigation--and also the sort of thing that makes great bedtime reading if you want to salt your dreams with the possibility of travel to distant cities. Sheer public transit/map porn!"

-Peter Greenberg, National Public Radio

"Even if you are not a "map person" this book makes it so easy to experience the unique perspective of rail-based transit. Artistically a treat with its interesting colors, shapes and design; it's a coffee table essential. Ovenden brings a unique perspective to maps and to travel in general. Transit Maps of the World is a must-read for the literary traveller"
-Literary Traveller.com

"A vibrant tip of the hat to the world's urban train systems"
-National Geographic Intelligent Traveller

"...look no further for the next must-have book"
-Very Short List

"The sort of book you couldn't imagine you needed until you got it and now you can't imagine how you could do without it . . . It's fantastic!"
-Robert Elms, BBC London

"Like a CondT Nast Traveler magazine for jetsetters with subterranean tendencies."

-The Guardian, London

"A beautifully illustrated study of the plans that help passengers navigate the world's metropolitan railway systems."
-The Times, London

"An object lesson in information design."

About the Author

Born in London in 1963, Mark Ovenden evinced an early fascination with trains and TV that has remained with him over the course of his life. Following college he pursued a number of positions in local government and on the radio promoting progressive attitudes towards gay issues before getting a full time job at BBC Radio 1 as a producer. In 1998 he joined MTV as a freelance Music Programmer, where he gave birth to another production company which went on to produce shows for Atlantic252. There Mark was later taken on as a presenter of a weekly record review show with Chris Coco and as their specialist programmes producer and later breakfast newsreader.

When Atlantic252 closed down Mark moved to Ministry Of Sound where he helped set up their DAB station, Ibiza unit and later, as Head of Radio there, ran a popular FM version of the station. Mark moved into consultancy after this working with Purple radio and the DRG.

In 2002 while still working in his spare time on his book project he moved to a fledgling TV channel as Channel Manager.

Mark Ovenden's Metro Maps of the World was published in November 2003 to great critical acclaim. It has since been re-written and updated for the American market and is now published by Penguin as Transit Maps of the World. Mark currently resides in Paris where he is researching his next book on a century of cartography of the Paris Metro Map. He is also working on several other book projects, a radio sit-com, and a TV travel show.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 2nd Edition edition (October 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143112651
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143112655
  • Product Dimensions: 10.9 x 0.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #607,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David W. Straight on November 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
If you're like me, and enjoy poring over maps, you'll find this book a treat. If all the book had were reproductions of current urban rail maps, it would be worth at least 4 stars. But there's much more. There is a short history of urban rail from its earliest days, and then you have maps and text for about 200 cities around the world. You get narratives on the history of each system, but the emphasis is on the evolution of the transit maps themselves. For some cities, up to about 20 maps are reproduced, and some of these date back to the 19th century. There's a wonderful sense of the conflict between having maps that are aesthetically pleasing and maps that are pleasing to someone trying to find their way around.

The book is divided into 6 zones (rather than chapters), with the distinction based primarily on the evolution of the maps:
zone 1: 8 cities, 4 pages per city. Example: Paris, 17 maps dating back to 1900.
zone 2: 15 cities, 2 pages per city. Example: Boston, 5 maps dating back to 1926.
zone 3: 28 cities, 1 page per city. Amsterdam, 4 maps.
zone 4: 16 cities, 2 cities per page, usually 1-2 maps per city.
zone 5: 18 cities, 1-3 cities per page, mostly 1 map per city.
zone 6: 140? cities, about 12 cities per page, often without maps, very short narratives.

The one problem you'll have is that many of the original maps were very large, and so when the transit map of Greater New York is faithfully reduced to two-thirds of a page in the book, you'll either need remarkable eyesight or a very strong magnifying glass to make out details. But the book is not intended as a catch-all way to actually find your way around, but rather as a paean to maps--you're intended to enjoy looking at the maps, not using them for transit purposes. A real delight!
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By Robin on November 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
A timely update to the first edition in 2003 with a new Zone: 6, listing all the latest and proposed subway systems around the globe. This extra Zone now includes hybrids like tram-trains, monorail or light rail and they all need maps. The other five Zones in the original have had their contents revised also.

I think the beauty of the book is in looking at the way various transit companies have approached the problem of communicating (sometimes complex) information in a simple way for passengers yet each map has its unique points. The book's authors rightly trace the origins of the modern designed transit map to London Transport's Harry Beck. His genius was to discard the geographic location of stations and have route lines as either vertical, horizontal or at forty-five degrees. It's amazing to see how many maps of the dozens in the book still follow this general principal.

However, creating a map that might look graphically stunning is not always enough. New York's MTA got Massimo Vignelli to design their map and it looks a visual treat but passengers weren't impressed and found it confusing so the MTA revised it. Vignelli's 1979 map and the latest 2007 MTA one are shown together on a spread in the book, two maps with the same information yet looking so different.

This update has a few more train and station photos to fill the space that was frequently left blank in the first edition and there is a nice touch with a spread near the back that includes some fantasy maps. If I have a fault with the book it is that in the new Zone 6 section many of the maps are so small that I don't think they were worth including.

I thinks it's worth pointing out that Transit Maps is not designed as a reference guide for travelers to cities around the world but as a celebration of the beauty that is inherent in these colorful diagrams.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As you can tell from the title, I was drawn to this book from two of my interests. This book is great! It gives samples of current and historical maps from transit systems all over the world, and it is a treat to look at. I have only two minor faults to find -- not enough to detract from the 5-star rating: 1. some of the maps are reproduced too small (I wish he had made the 1911 Brooklyn elevated map full page size, for example) or too dark (a Chicago transit map from the late 1940s is very hard to read) and 2. (very much my own personal taste) I wish he had included some historical maps from Philadelphia (he only has a current map of that city, one of my favorites).

One thing that does seem a bit strange: Although it is no surprise that the author, a native of London, writes in British English, it is rather odd that he seems to find it necessary to translate the *names* of American transit companies into British English, changing "transportation" to "transport" and "railroad" to "railway." Most people would, I think, leave the official names alone!

I hope the author reads this comment so he might be able to take it into account if he comes out with a revised edition -- I know this one has already been revised from the original.
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By G. David on November 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
If you are a fan of rail transit systems, cartography, or functional graphic design, then this book is for you. It contains very up to date images of all of the greatest transit maps in the world. It also provides quite a bit of historical insight for the larger systems. The only thing I thing that would improve this book is if it were in a larger format. Then you could actually appreciate the maps even more. Considering some of the maps illustated are diplayed 6 feet high on subway station walls, any extra size bigger they could print this book, the better.
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