Plotting the invisible

CARTOPHILIA 2: THE PARIS MAPGUIDE Michael Middleditch has mapped whole cities single-handed, but the Paris underground was a challenge

FOR A MAN who has forgotten which motorway exit I need to reach his house, Michael Middleditch does a pretty good map. Ever since he was a 16-year-old cartographer of military sites for the (then) War Office, he has mapped out his life with maps. After being made redundant from a big cartographical company in 1981, he has - single-minded and single- handed - produced maps ranging from the world to St Albans (where he lives).

At the age of 58, he has just put Paris on the map and, especially, its Mtro. With the exception of just a couple of illustrations, he carried out every process in The Paris Mapguide (Penguin, £4.99), from pounding the Parisian streets for research to setting the type. The darkroom of his home used to be the downstairs loo. His typesetting machine and lightbox are now in the bedroom of a daughter who has conveniently moved out. "It's a very slow process to produce a map," he says. Particularly if you do everything yourself.

"Mapguides" is a term thought up by Joan, his wife. While his Penguin map of Europe is just that, ditto of Europe and North America, his mapguide of central London is a slim guidebook with 30 pages of maps or, alternatively, a 30-page, six-inches-to-the-mile street directory plus pubs, statues and opening times of the Trafalgar Square Post Office. The Paris Mapguide is fatter, covering most of the area inside the Priphrique ring road. Streets, domes and temples lie, open to Middleditch's eagle eye. "A triumph of clarity and design," declared the judges who gave it a cartographical award.

Yet the most spectacular piece of mapmaking is of terrain visible to no one. The Mapguide opens with a new design: Middleditch's Mtro. This is reminiscent of the London Underground map but more realistic.

The London Tube map is a classic of design, a highly effective piece of fiction. It is a triumph of geometry over actuality, all straight lines and clean bends. So that the mind can grasp it, the wobbles have been ironed out. Liberties are taken with the points of the compass: Chancery Lane, for example, is not due east of Notting Hill Gate but north-east.

"I've tried to give the Mtro map its own character rather than make it just a London Underground map with different railway lines." His task was made more fiddly by the virtues of the Mtro itself: "Twice as many lines as London's Tube and more than twice as many stations." He has even included the "Mtor" line, No 14, from St Lazare in the north-west to Maison Blanche in the south-east; it doesn't open until 1997.

"I've also tried to keep it both geographical and geometric, a compromise between the two. I play around with the lines until it looks attractive and reads well."

One compromise is with Line No 1, which runs right across the map from Dfense in the west to Vincennes in the east. This is Paris's answer to the Central Line; coloured in a similar crimson hue, it too is drawn for most of its length along a dead level east-west axis. This is the core of the whole design. Yet it is an idealised version, as just one stop, going west from Concorde to Champs Elyses, demonstrates. The street map reveals that the stretch of track in fact tilts down on the right- hand end.

The street map itself is a slight variation on reality. All maps are. "Everything is exaggerated; you have to make a road wider to get its name in." He was continually drawing and redrawing.

Michael Middleditch was 17 when he first went to Paris with his grandmother: after many visits the city still offers its rewards. He remembers walking around as a teenager with his mind full of Leslie Caron in An American in Paris: "Nearly 40 years later, during the making of this mapguide, I stood next to her in a shop in rue de Rennes." Given all this time spent prowling about the place, what's his French like? "Every time I use it," he answers, "they reply in English."

Michael and Joan Middleditch took to the Parisian pavements for a solid five months. They noted and photographed everything, down to statues and murals. They stumbled across two Statues of Liberty and one flame all by itself. They rode on the buses to check the routes.

The completed masterpiece includes not just the big-name restaurants but also the smaller establishments whose cuisine the two of them have enjoyed. As well as tourist traps like the Folies Bergres, it marks the small jazz clubs where they have tapped their feet."If you do it yourself," Michael says, "you can indulge yourself and include your own interests."

Once all the information has been gathered in, he takes, as do all cartographers, a standard "base map" of the city and then imposes his own design on it. "I start with the outlines, all drawn by hand, and I hand-letter the words. Then I typeset the street names and stick them over the top." Instead of the customary four colours, he uses six to mark out the different features.

Michael Middleditch returned to France for a final check on accuracy, only to discover he had to take account of a complete change in the colour coding at the Louvre. Actually, the museum should by rights have followed Monsieur Middleditch instead of the other way round. But that, of course, would be a clear case of putting the cartographer before the horse.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam