Time Travel Explorer Blog

Magnificent Maps at the British Library

by Peter Watts 20. August 2010 10:45

Londoners who love maps – and if you’re reading this there is a fair chance you are both or either – are in luck at the moment, because the British Library is hosting one of its regular in-depth exhibitions about maps. This one is called Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art and is drawn from the Library’s unmatchable – well, almost, the US Library of Congress has more – collection of 4.25 million atlases, maps, globes and books about cartography, dating from the fifteenth century to the present day. Peter Barber, the lucky man who guards this magnificent archive, can be heard in discussion with David Starkey here.


It was another recent British Library maps exhibition, London: A Life In Maps, that first introduced many Londoners to the world of Greenwood, Stanford, Horwood and Rocque, those pioneering London cartographers whose work you can explore in the Time Travel Explorer application.


The current exhibition looks at how maps are used to demonstrate political power and wealth and asks for them to be viewed as art alongside paintings and sculptures. The highlight for most people is The Island, the extraordinary recent work of Stephen Walters. This is a very personal view of London, in which Walters begins with a standard map of London and then draws his own landmarks over it, whether it is parks that are good for ‘al fresco bonking’ or cheekily reimagined versions of familiar place names. Its idiosyncratic nature means it isn’t any good for actual navigation, but you could do a lot worse than give it a thorough browse here.