On The Map by Simon Garfield

On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the way the World Looks by Simon Garfield
Publisher: Gotham
Publication Date: December 2012
Categories: Cartography, Nonfiction
Source: Gotham Books


Cartography enthusiasts rejoice: the bestselling author of the 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. 

My Thoughts:

If you would have told me that maps are romantic and fascinating I probably would have smiled at you politely and rolled my eyes behind your back. Maybe even to your face. It’s not that I’m that full of snark, it’s just that I wouldn’t have believed you. After reading On the Map I now know that maps are romantic and fascinating.

This book is just what I love: Nonfiction packed with strange and wonderful facts. Simon Garfield has written a humorous presentation of history told through maps. From cave markings, Lewis & Clark to the maps of the future…I was enthralled from start to finish.

On the Map contains dozens of gorgeous photographs. A sampling:

Mappa Mundi: A scandal in the making: 
Hereford Cathedral’s Dean, Peter Haynes (left), and Sotheby’s chairman Lord Gowrie 
announce the sale of the Mappa Mundi.


Neverland: The Colgate-Disney map of Neverland— tragically, “of limited use.”

I highly recommend On the Map. Highly.

21 thoughts on “On The Map by Simon Garfield

  1. OMG. Ok, this sounds awesome! I love love love maps – they cover the walls in my house. Ok, so not ALL of the walls. But many. And you mentioned a book on typography too? I'm sold. You always review the BEST books. I passed the Hetty Green (I think that was her last name) book along to my stock obsessed bf. He's really enjoying it!


  2. I bought this a little while ago for myself but my boyfriend found it on the shelf the other day and it was *so sweet* to see him squeaking excitedly about this neat book he 'just found'. Maybe he thinks the book fairies add things to the shelves in the night? Can't wait to get to it. 🙂


  3. This sounds fantastic! How interesting that it may have been maps, not language, that helped humans develop! Adding this to my list 🙂


  4. Jennifer, THIS is what I love about book blogging. Seriously! Normally you'd never read a book about maps, but you found out this one is amazing! And now, you've shared it with people, like me, who might actually pick up a book about maps when normally we could care less! 🙂


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