The Island: London Mapped
By Stephen Walter
While sat-navs may have robbed most of those without a sense of adventure of the ancient art of map-reading (and I don’t count myself among their number…) there still remains a collective love of maps. There’s something fascinating about them – from the large-scale Ordnance Survey variety, with every little cottage and hillock marked out, to the well-thumbed city A-Zs, indispensible to tourists and locals alike.
This fantastic book though, is something else. Unless you happened to go to the Magnificent Maps exhibition at the London library five years ago, which featured The Island by cartographer Stephen Walter (Grayson Perry was the only other contemporary artist showcased), you wont have seen anything quite like it. And here it is now, in this book a reconfigured version of the work, which imagines London as an island – a highly quirky street atlas.
Just as old and ancient maps reflected what their makers (or sponsors) wanted you to see (churches perhaps), so Walter’s streets of London – a tangle of manic detail, delineated a borough or area at a time – give us a glimpse into his personal world, including sense of humour. The references will give future historians much to ponder over. A handy legend at the back gives the very many symbols he uses to point out certain aspects of a place (I particularly like the ‘alfresco bonking’ and ‘alfresco buggery’ stick people and, less rude, ‘kebabs dominant’ and ‘hoodie walkin pit bull’. All useful to know, obviously.