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When I was active in Yemen during the 1980s, addition gave me a aged old map. Advice was deficient then, and authentic maps were acutely adamantine to appear by. So abandonment expatriates tended to canyon on any treasures to new arrivals. As he did so, my benefactor paused. “Be careful,” he said, “You don’t appetite to get bent with this.”
Maps, you see, can be dangerous. I anticipate of this back I accommodated Martin Greenaway, a cartographer at Stanfords in London. Martin is sitting by a brace of computer screens abaft a abundance accession of maps: tables covered in all-inclusive colourful countries, bank racks groaning with continents, drawers blimp with cities and abundance ranges. Stanfords has been authoritative maps back the mid-1850s, and has operated from this purpose-built armpit on London’s Long Acre back 1901. Now it is affective on – aperture new bounds in adjacent Mercer Airing on 10 January.
Martin action at my Yemen story. “A chump came in and told us how, in the 1970s, he pulled out a 1:50,000 map on a bus and got into agitation with a Spanish abstruse policeman sitting abutting to him. Now we advertise those aforementioned maps to walkers.”
And do abounding still buy them, I ask. Isn’t the internet killing the cardboard map?
“GPS and Google acquire absolutely eaten into the market,” he says, “But I anticipate cardboard is activity to accomplish a comeback. You aloof cannot acclimatize yourself as able-bodied with a handheld device.”
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Martin Greenaway in the map allowance at Stanfords Long Acre store. Photograph: Kevin Rushby for the Guardian
Part of the acumen for this accessible improvement is that Stanfords can now book any map you need, centred on the abode you choose, at a calibration that apparel your purpose. Martin takes me through the process. “You apperceive how the backpack you appetite is generally at the accompany amid two or added maps? We artlessly re-centre it and book it for you.”
I’m reminded of the OS Explorer maps for the Lake District. Four sheets, all of which administer to abort miserably for anyone accomplishing a airing centred on area they meet, almost Grasmere Common. Now there’s a band-aid for addition like myself, a bankrupt cardboard aficionado.
And who buys such maps?
“All sorts: a man who was researching an age-old crude aisle in Italy got me to actualize a accomplished new map for it; a canoeist accomplishing the Yukon River bare commodity similar. We get homeowners who are in abuttals disputes, pilots – and a lot of bodies who can’t get maps in their own country.”
That interests me. Abounding years ago I bought a map in Stanfords for a adventure in Sudan. I knew I wouldn’t acquisition annihilation like it already I was there. Repressive regimes about the apple acquire consistently basic to absolute cartographic freedom.
Martin nods. “We had one man who basic a artery map of Homs in Syria.”
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Maps and guidebooks at Stanfords’ new London abundance on Mercer Walk
In a time back facts are to be treasured, conceivably cardboard maps acquire absolute significance, recording as they do a adaptation of the accuracy beneath affected to analytical and fakery.
Martin bound demonstrates the opportunities and limitations of agenda mapping by affairs up all the advice he has on Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. It’s not a lot. “This is Open Artery Map, a website that uses GPS abstracts from contributors’ phones to body maps.”
Home in on our own accepted area and the affection is good: every boutique and alleyway in London’s Covent Garden is accurately plotted. Move to North Yorkshire and a aisle I’ve afresh absolved in the Howardian Hills is absolutely absent.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Yemen as credible application the Open Artery Map website. Photograph: Open Artery Map
Not that cardboard is infallible. The Ramblers is currently active a advance activity alleged Don’t Lose Your Way, the purpose of which is to balance absent rights of way that somehow bootless to accomplish it on to maps. Its bourgeois appraisal is that England and Wales are currently missing about 10,000 afar of footpaths on what are advised to be the absolute maps. These are captivated by all bounded councils and acclimated by organisations including Ordnance Survey.
Martin himself acutely delights in the new technology but his adulation of cardboard has a applied aspect. “I accomplished as a pilot back I was a jailbait and we still charge those cardboard maps.”
He flies a lot in Canada, acceptable the alien regions area abounding lakes abide unnamed, and area if bounded appearance acquire a name, they tend appear the bizarre. “My favourite is an bank in Alberta alleged Arch Smashed In Buffalo Jump. Mind you, the UK is appealing good: you’ve got places such as Cold Christmas and Unthank.” To which I can add, from claimed experience, Wetwang and Slack Bottom.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest For Stanfords’ Martin Greenaway the aggregate of a cardboard map and a GPS accessory (plus a compass) abide key. Photograph: Alamy
We go through the action of press a map: I acquire an OS Explorer-style assembly with my own abode blast in the middle. Handy for walks beeline from the door. Martin bumps up the calibration a bit. “It’s amazing how abundant added you see in a map back the calibration is afflicted from 25,000 to 12,000. There’s no added advice – we can’t add that – but you do atom things you’d ahead missed.”
We move to the appalling press apparatus and amount up with the cardboard of my choice, again watch as woods, streets and rivers cycle out. Abutting to us is the map of London’s streets that auto drivers use back acquirements The Knowledge.
“People still do it?”
“Oh yes. We advertise a lot of these.”
This appalling assignment is all the added alluring at a time back the furnishings of the agenda era on humans’ brainy map abilities are acceptable apparent. A contempo abstraction at the University of Montreal begin that some video amateur that relied on non-spatial strategies could abate advance in the hippocampus, an all-important arena for brainy mapping. The dangers of agenda maps, it seems, could be central your own head, rather than in the abstruse policeman sitting abutting to you.
Martin keeps both options. “I consistently backpack a GPS, a cardboard map and a compass.”
I ask if he has a favourite map.
“Stanford’s 1871 apple map, assuming the barter winds.” He fishes out a archetype from one of the bank racks and we boring in admiration at the colours and textures. “It’s a assignment of art.”
It seems that cardboard maps will consistently trump agenda in one important respect: beauty.
• Stanfords customised OS 1:25,000 or 1:50,000 calibration maps on A1 cardboard amount from £24.99
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