Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Now here's a map obsession...

I may have a thing for maps but nothing like the woman behind the iconic A-Z London Maps. Iconic is a word is abused and overused by journalists but in this case I feel justified using it.

Phyllis Pearsall was pretty amazing. An artist, she decided in 1935 that the Ordnance Survey map she was using to find her way around London was totally inadequate so she'd make one herself. Working long, long days she catalogued the city's 23,000 streets - on foot, mind you - and then devised the alphabetical index to go with her guide.

The woman was unstoppable. When no one would publish her new atlas she started her own company, the Geographers' Map Company which she ran until she died.

I've read this book twice (once would have done but I quite often read books again. There are Agatha Christie mysteries I've read half a dozen times and still can't remember 'who done it.' What will I be like when I'm eighty?!)

The story of Phyllis Pearsall's work is amazing enough but her childhood and family shenanigans also makes for an incredible life. Of course the author has taken a liberal dose of creative licence but that makes for a much better read - I'm not one for a stack of dry facts as bedtime reading. If you prefer the bare facts, her own book might be good too.

Thank you Miss Pearsall for providing me with the bible for all those lovely jaunts on foot, bus and tube across London.

Thank you too for all those times we got lost together - my dog-eared A-Z sliding off the passenger seat and gout of reach as I drove around a corner distracted and lost in a new London suburb. Good times indeed - who needs a GPS?


  1. I am so glad to find someone else who can read a book more than once...and with the same ability to forget what happened the first time! I like the sound of this book and of Phyllis!

  2. I love my A-Z! I actually think we might have two or three copies. I'm not sure how I found your blog (I've been wandering around a bit today), but I've enjoyed reading it!



Thanks for taking the time to write, Ann x


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