Sunday, December 06, 2009

Item From the Past: Bensons MapGuide

Early in our stay in London in December '94, I lucked into a Bensons MapGuide London Street Map. Or maybe it wasn't strictly luck. I wasn't going to stay a month in London without a decent map, so I spent some time at a bookstore looking at the options. The Bensons MapGuide must have impressed me enough that I bought it, but it really impressed me as we used it to navigate the famously convoluted streets of the city. It's one of the best practical maps I've ever used.

I'm glad to report that the map is still in print, even in our time when GPS threatens to foster map illiteracy. The British map seller (mapmonger?) Stanfords says it well: "This map is simply streets ahead of all its competitors, as anyone who has explored central London on foot will testify: great overall clarity of presentation, excellent placing of names, exceptional presentation of small passages and shortcuts between buildings, etc...

"Excellent use of colours and symbols enables the publishers to indicate parks and green spaces; markets, prime shopping areas, and selected shops; pedestrian zones, elevated walkways, and access to streets and passages by steps; places of interest including tourist information centres, theatres, cinemas, and selected well-known pubs: transport network including streets with bus routes, Underground stations, overground railway lines with local and main line stations, and coach stations; for drivers, car parks and streets with restricted access or no entry, although one way streets are not marked; selected hotels, places of worship, post offices, police stations, viewpoints, etc., and last but certainly not least, public toilets!"

For some reason, I scanned the map's cover some years ago. That's good, because I can't find the thing now, not at least where I keep most of my other leftover maps (someday, I should gush at length about the greatness of Nelles Maps, many of which I used in Asia). I want to consult the Bensons MapGuide to see if I can pinpoint the location of this picture, taken in London that December.

Then again, it's probably Little Venice. London isn't generally known for its canals, not at least by casual North American and Japanese travelers, but they have a long history in the British capital and of course there are modern-day, web-site making enthusiasts. Even in December, the walk along the tow paths of Little Venice was a pleasant one.

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