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26 May 12

Bookmarks: London Underground Maps

We have a real gem for this week’s Bookmarks post - London Underground Maps - Art, Design & Cartography by Claire Dobbin.

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It’s hardly possible to imagine London without its underground system - and equally impossible to imagine this underground system without the classic map which guides its millions of users.

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This book takes you on its own journey - from 19th century origins to the 21st century future.

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Chapter 1 covers the early history and mapping of the London Underground. The first line was opened in 1863 - it was actually steam trains that ran along these early tracks which came as a surprise to us - electric trains being introduced much later, in 1890. Another quick snippet of trivia is that the now ubiquitous term ‘tube’ for the whole of the underground system comes from an early nickname for the Central London Railway which was known as the Two Penny Tube.

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The early maps aren’t to be overlooked. There’s some stunning work by artists such as MacDonald ‘Max’ Gill and it also has to be remembered that Harry Beck didn’t start with a blank canvas before producing his famous 1930s design. He took ideas & influences from this earlier mapping such as line diagrams and distinct colours for individual lines.

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However, there’s no denying the importance and brilliance of the map originally devised by Beck in 1931 and first published 1933 (there’s a story there too, as it was rejected on its first submission). Chapter 2 charts the map’s development - its geometric design and the abandonment of geographical accuracy.

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The various versions of Beck’s map are very interesting - its continuous evolution being essential as new stations were built or design tweeks put into practice.

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In addition to reproducing the maps, the book also has some great examples of promotional posters and historical photos showing stations, travellers and artwork in situ.

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Chapter 3 explores the continuing legacy of Beck’s design and its influence over other transport maps. Also its branding, souvenir value and wider influence over the art world in general.

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We’ve thoroughly enjoyed this book and can highly recommend it.

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It adds so much background to the subject without ever being dry or unapproachable.

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…and if you’re one of those people who has to hop on & off the tube regularly, this book will really help you see the places with fresh eyes.

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The book’s launch ties in with the Mind the Map exhibition that opened last week at the London Transport Museum - the author, Louise Dobbin is Senior Curator there. The exhibition, with accompanying events programme, runs until 28 October 2012.

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As well as Lund Humphries, the book is available from our UK & US Amazon stores.

[Many thanks to Lund Humphries for the review copy]

27 April 11

L is for… London

top of vintage biscuit tin with illustration of Marble Arch, London

There’ll be many eyes focusing on London this week with the Royal Wedding happening on Friday…

front cover of vintage Miroslav Sasek book, This is London depicting a marching guard in a bearskin
page from vintage Miroslav Sasek book, This is London depicting the Houses of Parliament
page from vintage Miroslav Sasek book, This is London depicting a ship going under Tower Bridge
page from vintage Miroslav Sasek book, This is London depicting a W H Smith booksellers shop
page from vintage Miroslav Sasek book, This is London depicting a packed tube train carriage on the Underground
page from vintage Miroslav Sasek book, This is London depicting a barrow boy pulling a cart in the Covent Garden fruit and veg market
page from vintage Miroslav Sasek book, This is London depicting an elephant at London Zoo carrying children on its back

…so “L”  has to be for London!
detail of the top of vintage biscuit tin with London illustrations of such as a Pearly king and queen, beefeaters, street hawker etc
We’ve gathered images of H is for Home shop stock items - past & present, that celebrate the capital…
detail of the sides of vintage biscuit tin with cartoon-like illustrations of tourists at London sites such as Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square
…famous landmarks, archetypal characters and classic scenes.
vintage tea towel featuring a London scene with a crowd of double decker buses at night around Christmastime, probably Oxford Street
They’ve appeared on all kinds of products…
vintage Chance Glass pin dish featuring a London double-decker bus designed by Kenneth Townsend
…lots of tins, pottery and book illustrations…
vintage Kenneth Townsend tile featuring a London beefeater
…and tea towels, posters and postcards.
vintage Kenneth Townsend tile featuring a pair of Chelsea Pensioners

We’d be tempted to have quite a collection if we were London dwellers!

vintage Kenneth Townsend tile featuring a London gentleman with bowler hat, briefcase and umbrella

We can’t resist a few pieces, even though we live out int’ sticks up t’North.

vintage 1959 London Transport postcard.

We often see London-tastic  products in the glossy interior magazines and websites - and we usually forget to bookmark them!

vintage 1960s Trans World Service menu cover depicting two horse guards in helmet and bearskin

However, you’ll always find some good stuff at places like the London Transport Museum or V & A Museum web shops…
vintage Carltonware moneybox in the shape of a London bobby
…and take a look at the "We ♥ London" Etsy Treasury that we’ve put together.

 pen and ink sketch of a London bobby writing out a ticket
pen and ink sketch of an old gent sitting on a park bench reading the news having a sneaky glance at a bikini-clad young woman walking past
pen and ink sketch of a shady character in sunglasses sitting on a bar stool holding an espresso cup
pen and ink sketch of an ancient bus conductress wearing a scarf lighting a fag
pen and ink sketch of an old man carrying a box on his head at Covent Garden fruit market
pen and ink sketch of a greengrocer hawking his wares
pen and ink sketch of a row of old women under hairdryers at the hairdresser's
pen and ink sketch of a newspaper seller at his stand on a rainy day
pen and ink sketch of a young boy with arms outstretched with pigeons  all around and on him
pen and ink sketch of a black railwayman calling out on a train platform
pen and ink sketch of two men in front of a row of whiskey barrels enjoying a wee dram

P.S. - Another special London event started last week - commemorating the original 1951 Festival of Britain.
triptych of images of an original 1951 Festival of Britain exhibition brochure
We loaned a few items to Kiera Buckley-Jones from BBC Homes & Antiques Magazine. She has recreated rooms from the period. Read her blog series charting its development here. We’re hoping to take a little trip down south to see it before it finishes in September.

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Themed by Hunson. Originally by Josh