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Geographers’ A to Z Clear and Up-to-Date Atlas to London and Suburbs

  • Kind of Object:
    Street atlas
  • Name:
    Geographers’ A to Z Clear and Up-to-Date Atlas to London and Suburbs

    Word Count: 12

  • Alternative Names:
    London A to Z Street Atlas
  • Creator (Person):
    Phyllis Pearsall
  • Year Start:
    1936
  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    Napier House, 24–27 High Holborn, Holborn (now Camden), London WC1.

  • City:
    London (GB)
  • Introduction:

    Geographers’ A to Z is a street atlas first produced in 1936 and presumably provided emigrants with an important tool to help orient them in their city of exile.

    Word Count: 28

  • Content:

    Geographers’ A to Z Clear and Up-to-Date Atlas to London and Suburbs is a street atlas first produced in 1936 and still widely distributed today. The origins of the atlas go back to Sandor Grosz (Alexander Gross), a Jewish emigrant from Hungary, who founded the “Geographers’ map publishing company” in London and published a street atlas of London in 1913. His daughter Phyllis Pearsall, in turn, published the first A to Z Street Atlas in 1936, at a time when a particularly large number of emigrants were arriving in the city. Pearsall took an innovative approach and, for the first edition of the atlas, walked the city streets making a note of house numbers, a detail that set her atlas apart from other city maps. Her publication also scaled up the streets in densely built-up areas, making them clearer.
    Crucial to the success of the A to Z Street Atlas was Pearsall’s collaboration with the bookshop chain WH Smith, which had shops in many London railway stations and began distributing the atlases soon after their launch in 1936 (Pearsall 1990, 49f.; Hartley 2002, 253–257).
    It is safe to assume that this popular street atlas was also purchased by emigrants to help orient them in their new city. Unlike folding maps or large-format atlases, the A to Z Street Atlas was pocket-sized and so easily carried about, ideal for anyone travelling on foot or by public transport, though perhaps a little less convenient, due to the small format, for anyone travelling by car (Cosgrove 2003, 33).
    Over the decades, the A to Z Street Atlas became an essential accoutrement to London living. Cosgrove writes that the atlas was “an identifying mark for the resident of the city” (ibid., 32), meaning that it was (and still is) mainly used by locals rather than tourists, who may prefer guidebooks. Thus, for the emigrant, the acquisition of an A to Z Street Atlas was a mark of their belonging to the city rather than of  being a stranger, as well as an essential tool for finding their way around. Later editions of the atlas also included a map of the London Underground network, making it even easier for the traveller to reach their destination.

    Word Count: 361

  • Signature Image:
    Phyllis Pearsall. Geographers’ A to Z Clear and Up-to-Date Atlas to London and Suburbs. Geographers’ Map Co Ltd., 1936, cover (Photo: Private Archive).
  • Media:
    Phyllis Pearsall. Geographers’ A to Z Clear and Up-to-Date Atlas to London and Suburbs. Geographers’ Map Co Ltd., 1936, pp. 62/63: double page with map (Photo: Private Archive).
    Phyllis Pearsall. Geographers’ A to Z Clear and Up-to-Date Atlas to London and Suburbs. Geographers’ Map Co Ltd., 1936, p. 129: Index of Streets (Photo: Private Archive).
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Cosgrove, Denis. “Karto-City. Kartografie und Stadtraum.” Mapping a City, edited by Nina Möntmann et al., exh cat. Kunstverein in Hamburg, Hamburg, Hatje Cantz, 2003, pp. 32–47.

    Hartley, Sarah. Mrs P’s Journey: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Created the A–Z Map. Simon & Schuster, 2002.

    Pearsall, Phyllis. A to Z. Atlas of London and Suburbs. Geographers’ Map Co Ltd., 1936–.

    Pearsall, Phyllis. A to Z Maps: The Personal Story – From Bedsitter to Household Name. Geographers’ A–Z Map Co Ltd, 1990.

    Word Count: 80

  • Author:
    Burcu Dogramaci
  • Metropolis:
    London
  • Entry in process:
    no
  • Burcu Dogramaci. "Geographers’ A to Z Clear and Up-to-Date Atlas to London and Suburbs." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/1470/object/5140-11251949, last modified: 09-05-2021.