Map of a Nation – Rachel Hewitt

07 Feb

51DkRn87e7LLast week lethargy set in, hence not many posts or appearances at your notable blogs, I blame it mostly on easy access to the accursed TV programme Ancient Aliens.  It offers no actual proof, merely speculations that are sometimes hilarious and always just plain wrong.

Having wasted upwards of many evenings watching this mess, I decided to read something to cleanse the pallet, Map of a Nation sadly and somewhat surprisingly only added to my lethargy.

I had been excited about this book for what seems like an age, there is something enticing about a the origin of a subject that you hadn’t previously paid much attention too.

To start with the title isn’t really accurate, it is more of a look at Cartography in general and a celebration of the Ordnance Survey map.  Not that this is a problem as the subject matter is very comprehensive anyway.

Adapted from a PhD thesis, the book is somewhat understandably heavy on facts which I always like, but the enjoyment I got from the book is tempered by the dryness of it.  I did find myself at certain points obsessively counting the pages I had to read because it made me feel better to know that I had actually made some more progress into its pages.

For a book so detailed, I didn’t really get a true sense of how maps were made, but i did feel more enlightened about the subject of cartography on the whole for having read the book.  The most fascinating part for this reader though, was the portraits of the people who made these maps and the efforts they went too.

Interestingly for the amount of detailed information, the book finishes before the advent of the 20th century which is disappointing as that era had the most prolific technical achievements of any century and seeing how things such as Global Positioning Satellites helped evolve maps and gave them greater accuracy would have added more appeal and made it more complete.

it should be a fascinating book and it is and yet, also is not, a lot of research has undoubtedly gone into it, there are lots of references in the back of the book, or last third of the book as it is.  It easy to read however but it just didn’t grab me.  Also the paperback which I have does not do justice to the beautiful maps, it is sometimes difficult to make out individual features but on the whole worth a dip into.


Posted by on 07/02/2013 in History


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23 responses to “Map of a Nation – Rachel Hewitt

  1. letizia

    07/02/2013 at 18:46

    What a shame the book didn’t live up to expectations. And what a shame that it didn’t discuss modern cartography. I spoke to a cartographer briefly a few years ago and remember being fascinated by the discussion and the field. (I also loved that she could answer “cartographer” to the question, “what do you do for a living?” For some reason, I hadn’t thought about cartographers still existing).


  2. Tom Gething

    07/02/2013 at 21:27

    I have always loved maps. Especially old, incorrect ones. I could stare at them for hours and marvel at how much was frequently right even though they had no satellite or aerial technology to ascertain them. Too bad the book wasn’t stimulating.


    • StetotheJ

      09/02/2013 at 12:45

      A less than stimulating book always makes me go and get a better one so I can enjoy what is a fascinating field. In that way there are no bad books, except Dan Brown ones.


  3. Claire 'Word by Word'

    08/02/2013 at 10:30

    Interesting subject, I am sure it is a challenge to turn a PhD thesis into a piece of creative non-fiction, but then better to share the information than for it to sit on a dusty shelf somewhere. And it leaves the door open for someone else to write the sequel!

    Love maps and the inner compass and don’t want to give any of that up for modern technology, we are losing our ability to read maps!


    • StetotheJ

      09/02/2013 at 12:47

      You’re tight there, everything is to easy these day when computers do it for us. I like to consult a ma, i sometimes just unfold them in shops look at them then make a really distracting rustling sound as I grapple them back down to there folded position.

      I’m not sure a sequel would interest me or not, time for a new map author for me.


      • Claire 'Word by Word'

        09/02/2013 at 18:09

        Ok, LOL and now I’ve just imagined Mr Bean doing the same, refolding a map he wishes to put back and not pay for, after getting lost trying to use his GPS 🙂


        • StetotheJ

          09/02/2013 at 18:18

          I can imagine him coughing to cover up the tearing sounds as he does it too, oh hang on he did that in the library already. I need some new material.


  4. LuAnn

    09/02/2013 at 16:02

    I think I will have to pass on this one. Thanks for another great review Ste J. I had an OMG moment when you talked about obsessively counting pages that remained. I also do that and have a difficult time not reading a book through to the bitter end, even if I don’t enjoy it. What does that say about me?


    • StetotheJ

      09/02/2013 at 16:23

      I would say don’t try Moby Dick. It is a struggle to keep reading on, in the hope that the book in question gets better but with time ticking inexorably along, it’d be a shame to not have time to read some quality stuff because of the bad stuff we wade through. we should crave quality and substance more.


      • LuAnn

        09/02/2013 at 16:29

        Agreed. I did have Moby Dick on the reading list, more for hubby than me, and will pass this along to him. Thanks Ste J and have a great weekend.


        • StetotheJ

          09/02/2013 at 16:36

          It’s extremely well written but way to ponderous. After the first 100 pages I expected the pace to pick up but it didn’t, it was like wading through treacle. apparently it remains slow even during the climax as well.


          • LuAnn

            09/02/2013 at 16:37

            Definitely off my list!


            • StetotheJ

              09/02/2013 at 16:40

              This pleases me, I forgot to say, have a great weekend yourself. I’m all over the place today!


  5. pennycoho

    03/03/2013 at 20:32

    Excellent review, given what you had to work with, and no I am in no way suggesting that it is not a valuable tomb (emphasis on the word tomb) even though there aren’t all that many pages … still…


    • StetotheJ

      04/03/2013 at 21:37

      Had me in a cold sweat did this book. It is lucky I like wavy lines, contours are great though and is an anagram of croutons also.


      • pennycoho

        04/03/2013 at 21:42

        Of course. I knew you would find a redeeming quality in there somewhere!



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