Energetic, eccentric and eclectic comes to mind when describing Curiocity: In pursuit of London, the recently published Penguin Random House book by Henry Eliot and Matt Lloyd-Rose.
Born out of a frankly eccentric map magazine published a few years ago, the authors decided to expand their wealth of knowledge into a book so large it might as well be described as a tome.
[I] was recommended this book by Matt Brown when he contributed to the London Grill the editor-at-large at Londonist, part written, according to the preface in Buenos Aires, along with contributions from anybody who has a professional interest in London’s minutiae, the book is broken down into 26 chapters, each beginning with a letter of the alphabet. With the added bonus of clues to the location of six hidden ceramic tiles to be found dotted about London, much like the seven noses of Soho prosaically termed as an interactive ‘extra’.
This is truly a book for London anoraks, of which I’m a fully paid up member, as such my first instinct when opening a book is to look for information about the production. Here Curiocity doesn’t disappoint, giving a full page describing the typefaces used and the reasons for that decision (Johnston and Caslon since you ask.
The second chapter deals with blocks, from buildings to the stepping block used by a diminutive Wellington to mount his horse outside the Athenaeum Club, head straight for Chapter E for Eros if London’s erotic life is your thing, or Chapter X for xenophilia (no I’d never heard of that one either, apparently it’s the love of foreign people and objects); giving you everything you need to know about London’s diverse population.
I headed off to Chapter P pearls (of wisdom of cabbies, get it?) to find how they would stand up to the scrutiny of a London cabbie, but had to refer to K for yes! Knowledge. Everything was correct with the useful information that you can see inside a Cabbie’s Green Shelters during Open House Weekend.
It’s very hard to pin down Curiocity: Is it a homage to Phyllis Pearson’s A-Z; an elaborate artwork; or a stylish coffee table book?
Building London presents the city as a perpetual building site and draws on the perspective of Pieter Breugel’s Tower of Babel and the style of 1950s Eagle comics
The maps are beautifully drawn – you could put them on your wall, if you had a mind to tear them out – not the no-nonsense orange & lemons used by cabbies when undertaking The Knowledge; as a coffee table book, if left out nonchalantly to impress visitors it fails as there is no dust jacket with a red hessian cover with its title in large Johnston Sans characters.
As a source of information and an entertaining read Curiocity has, at present, no equal, dip in and out at leisure. Only its size prevents me from taking it as my holiday read.
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