All mapped out

BBC News: From Aaron Hill to Zoffany St.

When Phyllis Pearsall, born 100 years ago on Monday, got lost on her way to a party in 1930s London, she set about designing her own street map of the capital. The result – the A-Z – has become a byword for city atlases across the UK. When Phyllis Pearsall set out for a party in Belgravia, London, on a rainy night in 1935, she took along the most recent Ordnance Survey map to help her. But the 16-year-old map failed to stop her getting lost. And by the time she arrived at the gathering, hours late, bedraggled and wet, she resolved to do something about it. The result one year later was the first edition of the A-Z Atlas and Guide to London and Suburbs. Pearsall fans and former colleagues celebrate her 100th anniversary today. She died in 1996, just short of her 90th birthday, and still working at the company that makes the definitive guide to London, other UK cities, counties, and areas in 359 titles.

There is a London A – Z on our bookshelf. I had no idea of its history. Whenever we go to London it’s in a backpack or handbag, last time it navigated us to the new location of Forbidden Planet. The Ordnance Survey maps are good, but for walking a city, you need an A to Z. I love the stationary you used to get that’s made from outdated Ordnance Survey maps.