London in Maps

I must admit that I’m complete sucker for maps. When in another city, the first thing I want to get hold of is a map. So I finally got around to going to the British Library’s London in Maps exhibition this weekend.
It’s an exhibition detailing the evolution of London maps from the earliest examples, which were largely detailed paintings taken from the perspective of a high hill over London, through the more detailed surveys which show just how much London’s grown over the years. For so long London really wasn’t much more than the “square mile” and places like the West End only became developed relatively late in the day.
Then of course there are those outlying parts of London which are now suburbia, but were once separated by farmland from the metropolis itself.
The exhibition isn’t on for much longer, ending on March 4, but should you decide to visit, I’d recommend not going on a Saturday afternoon as I did. The big problem with a map exhibition is that the maps tend to require quite close inspection. That means that unlike an art exhibition where everyone can see the paintings as they collectively stand back and admire the works, you’re instead trying to squeeze close up to see details. And when the maps are places you live and work in – i.e. London – everyone wants to examine them in yet more detail. That makes it a hard exhibition to really enjoy in much company.
Having said all that, it was fascinating and still well worth a visit if you get a chance before next week.

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