The Wonders of Railway Maps, From Algeria to Zimbabwe

By Maria Popova

A new book explores the imagery—and historical and social impact—of train travel through more than 500 graphics

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I love maps, especially subway and train-related maps. So I'm all over Mark Ovenden's Railway Maps of the World--the fantastic follow-up to his excellent 2007 Transit Maps of the World and 2009 Paris Underground. The lavish, large-format book culls the world's most interesting railway maps, posters, and related ephemera, from the historical to the modern.

From early map-printing techniques to beautiful vintage travel advertising ephemera to the latest digital real-time maps for mobile devices, Ovenden scours rare archives and architectural dreams alike, from the Liverpool and Manchester Railway of 1830 to China's proposed 2020 high-speed train networks, to explore the evolution of cartography and the social role of train travel. Besides the lust-worthy design candy, the book also offers fascinating historical context and tells the story of how railroads became the vehicle for cultural change, bridging nations, driving economic growth, changing our diets by putting previously unavailable foods on the table, and even giving us standardized time zones.

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With over 500 images and maps representing more than 120 countries from Algeria to Zimbabwe, Railway Maps of the World is a beautiful treasure chest of fascination for map lovers, design aficionados, and history geeks alike, a rare record of a civilization in perpetual motion.


This post also appears on Brain Pickings.
Images: Viking Adult

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/05/the-wonders-of-railway-maps-from-algeria-to-zimbabwe/238575/