Map Stories: The Art of Discovery
By Francisca Mattéoli
2016, Octopus Publishing, 978-1-78157-377-8, $29.99 hb.
Reviewed by Graham Chandler on June 29, 2017
This atlas-sized volume takes seven global travel themes, presents 52 ancient map reproductions accompanied by 23 stories and “invites the reader on a journey from map to map, to let their imagination run free,” as the author puts it. Her theme works: Readers should particularly enjoy the tales on Petra, the Nile, Aqaba, Madagascar and the Orient Express. In the section on Aqaba, she focuses on T. E. Lawrence’s work to mobilize the Arabs against the Turks during World War I, concluding that capturing the old port town on the Sinai Peninsula in 1917 meant “this part of the world map had just been redrawn.” Though not intended as a scholarly work, the stories are well-chosen and fascinate despite the some florid prose. The narratives are only loosely connected with the maps, most of which date back centuries, but the maps themselves are superb. This book would be very much at home on a coffee table.