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Five wonderful London maps from 'Curiocity'

Written by
kyra hanson

City living can feel like a long ol' slog – whether it's the news of a much-loved venue closing, the eye-watering property prices or the lack of air con on the tube. But the capital is also a place of intrigue and fascination, and if there was ever a book designed to make you fall in love with London again, this is it. 

Published by Particular, a branch of Penguin Random House, 'Curiocity' is a hefty, illustrated alternative A-Z with a Routemaster-red fabric cover. Its 26 chapters are filled with snippets of trivia and interesting anecdotes from London's history headed by titles like 'Pearls', 'Mint', 'Underground', 'Dust' and 'Congestion'. Each page unpeels a layer of lost history revealing a city ripe with ghost signs, unusual activities and interesting facts – you just have to know where to look.

Plus tonight authors Henry Eliot and Matt Lloyd-Rose will present some of their more unusual maps at Stanfords in Covent Garden. In the meantime, here are five of our favourites.•

A flow chart of London sewage

Steph Von Reiswitz 'A flow chart of London sewage'

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This chart of London's sewage system traces the history of waste disposal and points out some landmark loos to visit, such as the basement of John Wesley's Chapel on City Road, where you'll find a well-preserved example of a historic lavatory which dates back to the pre-flush era of 1899. Then there's the futuristic egg-shaped pods in Sketch on Conduit Street or CellarDoor on Aldwych, a public loo-turned bar whose transparent cubicle doors only turn opaque upon locking. In Hackney Wick you'll find an unofficial blue plaque dedicated to the world's first perforated toilet paper.  

The Thames Archipelago

Nicole Mollett ‘The Thames Archipelago’

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In the centre of the chapter titled 'Isle' is a 'chart of rugged outposts and forgotten worlds, disputed territories and micronations, islands real and reclaimed.' Use this map, which reimagines London as a separate floating entity, to explore the islands cradled by the Thames, including Eel Pie Island, where Bowie played when his surname was still Jones. Or Raven's Ait which can be hired out for 'high-end boozing and schmoozing'. In 2009 the place was squatted, but now looks like a haven for high-end weddings. Apparently, there are 150 uninhabited islands along the Thames. 

The London Zodiac

Mike Hall ‘The London Zodiac’

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This astronomical chart of London by night will come in handy for those looking for an excuse to use the night tube. Each constellation is a short themed walk. Explore London with routes designed around cocktails, dreams, sweat, drugs and shade. The drugs route takes you past Chelsea Physic Garden and on to Zafash, Old Brompton Street, London's only 24-hour pharmacy. If you fancy a midnight snack head to Vingt Quatre, a 24-hour diner which has branches in Chelsea, Bloomsbury and a new one in Notting Hill. In the early hours, wander from New Spitalfields Market, New Covent Garden and Billingsgate, (which opens at 5am for kippers) using the 'fry-tinerary' to assemble your own breakfast. 

A timeline of trade

Nick Hayes ‘A Timeline of Trade'

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Trade wasn't always dominated by Canary Wharf's towers to Mammon. This map tells the history of London trade using tin, wool and tea and centuries of toiling Londoners. As well as quotes from well-known writers (the Gentle Author, Iain Sinclair etc) this chapter includes local Londoners such as Patrick, a Rastafarian who you'll find selling incense outside Iceland on Brixton High Street. And points out the clues to old industries in the city's architecture; the rustic figures picking hops above the gates of the Hop Exchange are a reminder that these offices were once at the centre of the brewing industry and there are metal railings dotted around London made out of WWII stretchers. 

Xenophilia World City map

Takayo Akiyama ‘Xenophilia World City Map’

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Did you know the term 'melting pot' was coined by East End author Israel Zangwill? There are over 300 languages spoken across the city. The chapter entitled Xenophilia begins with a tour of The Museum of Immigration and Diversity, an unrestored silk weaver's house which includes an exhibition made with local school children that tells the stories of Spitalfields immigrants. Xenophilia is the love of foreign objects and people. More xenophilia please.

Extra tip if you love a riddle or have a lot of time on your hands: Inspired by the seven noses of Soho, the authors have stuck cryptic tiles up around the city. Pictures of the tiles are dotted throughout the book on pages that reveal their locations in the city. Once you find each tile, note down the letters and numbers in the corners. Once you have all six, the letters and numbers will reveal a seventh location and a codeword. Once you've cracked the code your reward is your name immortalised in future reprints of 'Curiocity'. 

*The authors like the idea of you walking the streets with their book in hand, allowing the city to stain its cover – but this isn't no pocket guide; you'll need a strong back and a roomy rucksack.

Mapping London is on Tues Aug 23 2016 at Stanfords 12-14 Long Acre, Covent Garden. £4 tickets available here

'Curiocity: In Pursuit of London' £30 

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