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Los Angeles in Maps

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Glen Creason

An illustrated cartographic history of the City of Angels from the colonial era to the present. Los Angeles inhabits a place of the mind as much as it does a physical geographic space. A land of palm trees and movie stars, sunshine and glamour, the city … see full wiki

Author: Glen Creason
Publisher: Rizzoli
1 review about Los Angeles in Maps

I only wish the maps could fold out!

  • Oct 23, 2010
Rating:
+3
This large format book is no coffee table artifact. A lively text by the Los Angeles Public Library's map archivist, Glen Creason, along with an introduction by fellow native D. J. Waldie, with contributions by Dydia DeLyser, Joe Linton, William J. Warren, and Morgan P. Yates, attests to the diligence with which this compendium, one in a handsome series by Rizzoli, documents how cartography sold the world a vision of sunny L.A. Artistic maps, lavishly and perhaps misleadingly illustrated, spurred millions to dream about--and often move to--the sprawling City of the Angels.

The earliest charts show a few settlements scattered in blank spaces, a Spanish rancho, or a few hills the total of what can be filled in such terrain. The true natives, soon erased, rarely gain representation; Jo Mora's exuberant 1940s maps celebrated the Indian-Mexican-Early Californian romance that sold more lots in dusty chaparral than perhaps even tickets to movies and festivals that also mythologized such scenes.

Water lines, transportation, and utilities imprint their own overlays, as the remote ranchos turn into subdivisions named after the natural features and early outposts they obliterated. Pragmatism rather than beauty, Creason comments, impelled the patterns of the city, as highways and then freeways followed the rivers, rails, and pioneer trails to track the 20th century's explosive growth.

Colorful charts often enliven what might have been in other cities a drearier duty of detail. Somehow, even a reservoir or a housing tract looks cheerier with an exotic street name or meandering lane around canyons and parks.

Such depictions speckle the margins of more than one map. "Literary Los Angeles" and another map of the Library's branches prove that not only Hollywood lured and sustained audiences. "Roads to Romance," maps to the stars' homes, Arnold Schoenberg's modernist impact, Auto Club tourist guides--all appear.

The population expansion, as movies exported L.A. as a global legend, accounts for recent maps of the dully titled L.A. Basin. Until the rise of the GPS navigator, as Creason observes, many Angelenos carried a Thomas Brothers Guide in their automobile. Half-memorizing its numbered pages, this grid became the local version of the A-Z London map.

I presume the large-format book form will afford the naked eye easier ways to investigate the intricate elements of these maps. I spot-checked many maps by testing them on my own neighborhood, just northeast of downtown, but the resolution failed to enlarge them into a more readable clarification. However, the reduction of large charts and foldout sheets to a book that fits on the coffee table, let alone a shelf, may mean that some maps are meant more as impressions to be enjoyed--rather than scoured like my tattered Thomas Brothers Guide on the passenger seat.

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October 27, 2010
Great review! This sounds incredibly interesting as a pictorial story of LA's history which has always fascinated me. One of my good friends, a transplant from Iowa, treasures his Thomas Guide and it is quite tattered.
October 27, 2010
even though our iPhones and GPS have made the Thomas Guide obsolete, I still hold on to our tattered copies for memory sake ; ) Something about those days of flipping pages to get around town makes me nostalgic.
October 29, 2010
Thomas Bros Guides-- I grew up with them and memorized the old grid pages. I still use my 1990 one, however thrashed. Faster than a GPS!
 
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