Cambridge University Library


Inspired by BeckLondon Underground by Harry Beck (Maps.c.72.93.11)


February - July 2012

Harry Beck’s 1933 plan of the London Underground proved to be a masterpiece of design.

His original plan has been an inspiration to many and has been adapted, changed, modernised and reworked countless times to represent a whole range of topics and ideas.

This display features a few of these creations along with one of Beck’s earliest plans.

On display:

Underground Railways of London ca. 1930
Prior to Beck’s plan early maps of the London Underground ran into problems of combining an overcrowded centre with distant outlying stations at a time when the District Line stretched as far as Southend.
CUL Classmark: Maps.c.72.93.10

London Underground by Harry Beck (Maps.c.72.93.11)

London Underground by Harry Beck
An early example of Harry Beck’s diagrammatic map of the London Underground. First sketched in 1931 it wasn’t until 1933 that Beck’s plan was issued by a sceptical London Underground who had initially thought the design too revolutionary.
CUL Classmark: Maps.c.72.93.11

World metro map
This diagrammatic map shows metro systems in cities and towns around the world linked by lines resembling those found on many metro maps.
CUL Classmark: Maps.20.F.7

The Great Bear by Simon Patterson
Simon Patterson’s work, shortlisted for the 1996 Turner Prize, adapts the London Underground map replacing the names of stations with those of philosophers, engineers, actors, musicians and other celebrated figures.
Patterson has been quoted as saying “I like disrupting something people take as read … What interests me is juxtaposing different paths of knowledge to form more than the sum of their parts.”
CUL Classmark: Maps.aa.20.G.5

Detail from Underground Railways of London (Maps.c.72.93.10)

Music on the tube a map by Dorian Lynskey
ca. 2006
This map uses an updated version of Beck’s original plan to plot the history of 20th century music with each of the original lines replaced by a different genre of music. Classical music features on the Docklands Light Railway with pop on the Circle Line.
CUL Classmark: Maps.aa.20.G.27

Tube Map: September 2009
Transport for London have continued to amend and update Beck’s original diagram to include new lines and stations as the underground has developed. Some of these attempts have been more successful than others.
This 2009 edition caused an outcry when the River Thames was removed in an attempt to reduce clutter. London Mayor, Boris Johnson, ordered the river to be replaced on the next edition.
CUL Classmark: Maps.d.20.G.155

Underground Railways of London (Maps.c.72.93.10)

Tubular fells: Wainwright's 214 by Peter Burgess
A topological map of Alfred Wainwright's 214 fells, akin to Beck’s London Underground map.
CUL Classmark:

New London tubemap by Mark Noad
Not everyone finds the modern versions of Beck’s map easy to use and many attempts have been made to devise alternate presentations of the system. This map shows a geographically accurate diagram of the London Underground system where the locations of the stations are accurate in relation to each other, although distances in the outer zones are compromised.
CUL Classmark: Maps.d.20.G.143

Due to interest and new acquisitions the display was refreshed in June. The World metro map and Music on the tube were replaced by the following items:

Greater Shakespeare
Created for the Royal Shakespeare Company by Kit Grover and Dr Hester Lees-Jeffries of St Catharine's College this plan maps out the relationships of Shakespeare’s characters across all his plays.
CUL Classmark:

Olympic legends map
Produced to coincide with the London 2012 Summer Olympics this reinterpretation of the London Underground map replaces station names with those of Olympic legends and each line representing a different Olympic sport.
CUL Classmark: Maps.aa.20.G.32

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