Thursday, April 29, 2010

MapBookFest II: Paris Underground

In which I look at a second of the books covered in Steven Heller's March 7 New York Times review of books about maps.

Paris Underground by Mark Ovenden

In recent years, there has been a tremendous, and arguably kind of strange, surge in interest in transit maps. Mark Ovenden's Paris Underground is subtitled The Maps, Stations, and Design of the Metro, but the stations and design are definitely supporting actors. The maps, past and present, are the real stars of the show.

It definitely falls into the Kitchen Sink school of coffee table books, with lots of images and a minimum of interpretive content.

Really, the imagery is so tightly packed that the book is revealed for what it really is: somebody's else's scrapbook of Paris mass transit miscellanea.

If you happen to share that person's fascination with Parisian subways, this book is going to knock your socks off.

Otherwise, it will be an interesting browse that leaves you a little numb from the sheer density of images. Fewer but bigger pictures would be a little less exhausting.

In several places, Paris Underground shows details from several generations of map treatments of the same area or the same subway line, lined up next to each other. These layouts are my favorite part of the book.

If you are a fan of Paris, maps, and subways, have I got a book for you! If you are a fan of two out of the three, you'll probably think Paris Underground is pretty cool. Otherwise, it might be fun to flip through at your friend's coffee table, but you probably aren't going to put it on yours.


Cartophiliac said...

I'm jealous. My library has not seen fit to buy this book... so I still haven't seen it yet.

Ben said...

I firmly fall into the 3rd category, therefore I look forward to flipping through it at your coffee table.

Jenners said...

Did I ever tell you that my wallet is a map of the New York Subway system?

Michael5000 said...

Ben: I'll make sure to check it out of the library next time you're going to be coming over!

Jenners: Why, no! Like, a USABLE map? Or a decorative map? Send a picture!