Jerry Brotton 2013. A History Of The World In Twelve Maps. London: Penguin, 514 pp.

A vast detailed book, too much so (for me) to read cover to cover. Rather a reference book and sufficiently well indexed and referenced to function as such. Also generously illustrated with reproductions of a large number of early maps.

As with many subjects, the early chapters on origins and early developments seem the most interesting. In this instance the rather abstract Babylonian cuneiform tablet maps, a too-short discussion of various possible maps in prehistory, Ptolemy (whose Geography may not have contained a single map!) and the story of Al-Idrisi, map-maker and researcher to Robert II, King of Sicily, in the 12th Century. Several other books recently read cover this ground (eg Violet Moller’s much lighter The Map of Knowledge) - the treatment here is more detailed but less easily read and digested. I only read these first two chapters thoroughly but might return to some others another time. They treat Gerard Mercator and other earlier folk and topics: the religiously oriented Mappamundi, Diego Ribeiro. Most of all I’ll borrow this again to read chapter 4, “Empire” on China and the Kangnido World Map circa. 1389-1402.

The last couple of chapters in the Peters Projection and on Google Earth didn’t seem inviting, and the Conclusion didn’t offer much either. A four line summary of each chapter would have been a very helpful addition, writing my own would have been daunting due to the density of information presented, tending to obscure any narrative. Therein the single significant flaw in this monumental work.