"Wilford tells the dramatic story of how, through the ages, technology - compasses, sextants, theodolites, cameras, airplanes, radar, sonar, computers, seismic probes, lasers, satellites - has transformed the way we see and measure our world. He details the innovations, from John Harrison's eighteenth-century marine chronometer, which enabled navigators to calculate longitude at sea, to the Pentagon's Global Positioning System (GPS), now used as widely by civilians as by the military to pinpoint the bearer's exact location on the globe."--BOOK JACKET.
I read the second edition (2001) and it too is already quite dated. Therefore personal GPS systems are covered as the 'latest thing', whilst digital cameras are Google Maps are of course missing. Could the author have foreseen that in 2011 anyone with access to a computer can be involved in mapping the world, for example by geo-tagging images?
One gripe I have is that the printing process has not done justice to the illustrations and images. One wishes for high resolution images, perhaps printed on gloss stock. What are presented are very poor reproductions. Perhaps a coffee-table book just containing old maps would be a good companion book.
This book is well written. It is well structured with it's chapters, allowing the author to cover the field by subject matter, and still maintain a sensible chronological order.
Wilford uses a straight-forward narrative, packed with detail rather than repetition and faux-suspense (as so unfortunately prevalent in the recent History Channel mode).
As mapmaking became more highly technological, which is described in the latter part of the book, adventure is less prominently part of the story. If technical text makes your heart sing, why, be sure to read the entire book. If you’d honestly just rather watch cricket, then stick to the earlier chapters for the more personal drama of mapmaking.
I read the revised edition, dated 2001. Obviously, a lot has changed since then. This isn’t the right book if your focus is the more recent quite remarkable developments.