qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Loops and Diagonals

Book Review: Mr Beck's Underground Map, by Ken Garland
I picked this up a month or so back during my visit to the London Transport Museum. The greatest attraction of the book is the pictures, but it also tells the story of Harry Beck, the man who dreamed up the immortal London Tube Map. From his first ideas in 1931, the book chronicles the various amendments made to the map from the 1930s onwards. Beck's last published map was made in 1959; one of the final chapters deals with the uneasy termination of the relationship between Beck and London Transport. Beck assigned copyright to London Transport in 1938, but had a Gentleman's Agreement with them that he would be commissioned to make all revisions. Like many inventors, or even parents, Beck was unable to let go of his creation; in its turn, London Transport did not help matters by producing a rather awful map in 1961, swiftly replaced with one much more in tune with Beck's design principles. There are some trainspotterly insights into some details of the diagram, such as the positioning of Richmond relative to the River Thames, and the abortive plans for the Fleet Line. Also interesting is an 1994 version of the map for internal use which omits Barbican and whose key doesn't match the DLR (both corrected in the plan for 2016 [PDF] (from addedentry). The piece de resistance, however, is the explanation of the shifting location of Mornington Crescent, another example of why the words devilish fiendish were made for each other.
Tags: books
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