Glasgow: Mapping the City

By John N. Moore

Rating: 4 stars

Doing exactly what it says on the tin, this book has a carefully curated range of maps of Glasgow, selected to show interesting developments in the city, from the tapping of the Molendinar Burn, through the heyday of shipping on the Clyde to the Glasgow Garden Festival. The range of maps shows changes in the physical shape of the city, as it grows and expands, especially to the south and west; and changes to the social make up of the city too, charting policemen’s beats, the spread of disease and the locations of post offices. The range of maps is immense, covering the city’s history from myriad angles.

The text that goes along with the maps is clear and well-researched. Moore usually provides some information on the map makers as well as details of what is being shown and, where he can, providing wider social context.

This is an absolutely gorgeous book (albeit one that’s too big to comfortably hold easily) with high-resolution reproductions of the maps on good quality, glossy paper. Generally each map is accorded four pages: a full-page close up of some detail on the map, and then the text over the next three pages, with the full-size map and often other close ups as well. More than once, I wished that I had a magnifying glass so that I could zoom into the detail.

It seems that mapping of Glasgow started comparatively late. Despite a blurry manuscript dating from 1596, and several naval charts of the Clyde, the first plan map of the city in the book is dated as late as 1764. The bulk of the book is taken up with maps from the 19th century, as the city of Glasgow exploded in size during the industrial revolution, with comparatively few in the 20th, although the ones that were there were fascinating, especially the post WW1 plan for “homes for heroes”, the German map that could have been used in a land invasion of Britain and the radical post-war plan that would have completely reshaped the city, if it had ever been implemented.

For anyone interested in Glasgow’s history and development, this is a fascinating book to browse through. I’ve come to love Glasgow over the years that I’ve lived here, and this book is a wonderful way to experience its history in a very visual way.

Book details

ISBN: 9781780273198
Publisher: Birlinn

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