The Ghost Map, Steven Johnson, 2006.
A fascinating book. It’s about how Dr John Snow made a map of the deaths in an 1854 Cholera outbreak in London and figured out what causes cholera, how to prevent it, and in the process pretty much invented epidemiology as well as influencing everything from information design to how modern cities build waste systems. Great book, fun to read, lots of cool information, makes me appreciate modern science all the more.
However: there is no print of the map. You know, the Ghost Map, from the title of the book. A good portion of the book is Johnson referencing details on the map and describing how the map was made and how it was changed in subsequent versions. Yet the only image of the map is a cropped closeup used primarily as a decorative plate for chapter title pages. It looks like a graphic designer thought the actual map was too boring or unattractive, and so decided to blow up a small portion of it for use as a background for text.
It doesn’t make any sense. The book is about the map! The book and the map are about information design! You can’t see the scale or the distribution of deaths or half the things Johnson talks about if you’re only looking at the center of the map!
The map is in the public domain, so it can’t have been any more expensive to print than the other contemporary images in the book. Look, here it is on my blog. Isn’t it interesting?
I stopped reading the book 2 chapters from the end, when Dr Snow was dead, there was no more cholera in London, and it finally dawned on me that they really weren’t going to show me the map. So I looked it up on Wikipedia and re-read the section about it in Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, which rocks and is full of awesome informative images.
Stupid publishers. If the book is about an image, show me the damn image. Even my paperback copy of The DaVinci Code had a print of the Madonna of the Rocks. Sheesh.
For more information on cholera, check out the WHO cholera site.