A glance at the front cover and you know you're in for a riot. Adam Dant's new book of maps is fronted by a chart of scuffles, protests and turbulence that have characterised and shaped London.
Readers of Spitalfields Life (and we hope that's every Londoner) will already be familiar with Dant's ingenious illustrations. Now, for the first time, they're brought together in one tome.
Maps of London & Beyond is a beautiful beast of a book. By turns it is informative, inspirational, angry, elegant, surreal, historical and futuristic — a medley of maps that show our city from every angle.
Here's one example we might file under surreal. Dant reimagines Shoreditch — that land of converted warehouses and overpriced coffee — as though it were New York.
The artist also draws on an old standby — the tube map — for inspiration. This is his take on the underground network where the Circle line truly is a circle, all neatly presented like a cross-section through a tunnel:
Not everything in the book is strictly a map. Dant is a skilled artist as well as draughtsman. He includes a number of Hogarthian illustrations showing famous locations in London. Here's a detail-rich impression of Soho Square, full of actors, rickshaws, rats, nudists, dog-walkers and ever other species of character that inhabits this square:
The book does lean a little heavily towards Shoreditch and east London, the artist's home turf, but there is plenty more to get one's teeth into. As the title suggests, Dant also turns his gaze to such far-flung places as Paris, Rome and Tunbridge Wells — but this is most assuredly a book about London first and foremost.
Dant's work follows on the heels of other notable map books. It all started in 2014 when James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti published the splendid Information Capital — 100 maps of the city generated from data. Then, in 2017 we dubbed Curiocity — a trivia book anchored with maps — 'perhaps the best book about London ever compiled'. Later that year we published our own award-winning book of hand-drawn London maps.
Dant's publication takes the genre to new levels of imagination, while also teaching us a thing or two about the city's history and culture. With luck, his opening map of riots will need updating, as the public clamours to get hold of this unbeatable book of maps.
Maps of London & Beyond by Adam Dant is published by Batsford in conjunction with Spitalfields Life. We'd strongly urge you to buy it from an independent bookstore or direct from Spitalfields Life, but here's the Amazon link should that be your thing.
If you're reading this before mid-July 2018, you can also catch Adam Dant’s Maps of London & Beyond exhibition (presented by TAG Fine Arts) at The Map House, London, Thursday 28 June until Saturday 4 July