CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 13 . . . . December 1, 2017
The earliest surviving map dates back to 600 BCE. This book consists of 80 maps from the British Library which houses one of the world's largest map collections. Part geography lesson, part history lesson, Around the World in 80 Maps begins and ends in London and contains examples of a variety of maps drawn between the 13th century and the mid-1900s, their types ranging from topography maps and plans of forts to the London subway system and town street maps. Some of them show the world as a flat circle, others are labelled in Latin (the language of the Church), while still others show countries that do not even exist anymore or whose names or borders have changed. There is even a very amusing example, created by artist William Harvey in 1869, of countries depicted in animal and human form. Portugal is shown as a bear dressed in men's clothing and Spain is shown as a lady with a fancy gown and veil.
Surrounding each map are small text circles with information about the important dates in history, animals, people, foods, and landmarks, an example of which is that just outside Calcutta is the world's largest banyan tree with a crown of more than 485 meters across. There is also a quick facts text box indicating the country's area, population and capital city, and throughout the book are "I spy" type activities which invite readers to find specific objects or people on the map.
The book's main strength is the variety of rare maps which are both interesting and educational. However, the maps, faded through time, have very tiny details and a small lettering which require great concentration on the part of the reader. Around the World in 80 Maps is definitely not a book to be read at one sitting because the maps will lose their appeal and become monotonous and the small details will become frustrating. Perhaps it would have been better to abandon the "Around the World in 80 Days" idea and print fewer maps, but each on a larger scale, perhaps even on a double-page spread, without sacrificing the book's educational value.
Around the World in 80 Maps is a good book, worthy of purchase and more than a cursory glance, but one that will have a limited audience.
Recommended with Reservations.
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.