The Angry Corrie 53: Apr-May 2002

Map price increases - are they to scale?

November 2001 saw the Ordnance Survey increase the prices of its three most walker-relevant designs of map. Landrangers rose from 5.25 to 5.99 (14.1%), Outdoor Leisure sheets from 6.75 to 6.99 (3.6%) and Explorers from 5.75 to 6.99 (a whopping 21.6% even though the series was only half-completed and most Scots had had no opportunity to buy their local Explorers at the lower price). The next few TACs will include discussion of various aspects of map cost and quality, and we start with the thoughts of Dewi Jones:

My early forays into the hills are drawn in blue-black school ink on sheet 107 (Snowdon) of the New Popular one-inch series. In 1948 this far-sighted birthday present cost my parents three shillings (15p) for the cloth-backed version. You could have bought the same map on flat paper for 2/- (10p), on folded paper for 2/3 (11p), or dissected and mounted on cloth for 5/- (25p). This treasured heirloom came off the shelves with many others during an attempted analysis of map prices over the years. It was a job the complexity of which I underestimated - there are too many variables - so I've had to settle for a random selection from the piles of cartography spread across the sitting-room floor.

The earliest folded map I have is sheet 49 (Portmadoc and Criccieth) of the Fourth Edition - Popular Series. It cost 1/9 (9p) in 1933, and a cloth edition would have cost 2/6 (121/2p). Sixth Edition New Popular maps were available after the war: larger sheets which cost 2/3 (11p) in the late 1940s. In 1951 sheet 128 (Montgomery and Llandrindod Wells) cost 3/- (15p), as did sheet 47 (Ben Nevis) although the latter map was smaller - Scotland had remained with the prewar Popular sheet lines. In comparison, I don't know how much beer cost in 1933, but by 1952 a pint of bitter was 1/6 (71/2p) and the best seat in the local cinema was 1/9 (9p).

In 1952 the Seventh Series one-inch maps started to appear using the same sheet lines for England and Wales and revising the coverage of Scotland. They were printed in ten colours and to my mind are the most aesthetically pleasing of the one-inch maps. Initially they cost 4/- (20p), then 4/6 (221/2p) in 1955 and 5/6 (271/2p) in 1965. The latest cloth maps I have are dated 1965 and cost 8/8 (431/2p). They then appeared in red covers and ten-colour printing gave way to six, with a visible loss of quality. In 1967 sheet 47 (Sound of Mull) cost 8/- (40p), a price that held until decimalisation. I was living in Scotland by then and a pint of heavy cost about 2/6 (121/2p).

1975 saw the one-inch scale replaced by maps at 1:50000 costing 65p when they first appeared, so the price was up by 62.5% for 200 fewer grid squares. There was a furore, but it was a time of galloping inflation and maps, like everything else, had new prices printed on old. They went up to 2 by 1980 and in 1987 I paid 2.75 for sheet 126 (Shrewsbury). By then a pint of beer had probably gone through the 1 barrier.

It is there that this record ends because the OS stopped printing cover prices, and so we come to the present day when Landrangers have just gone up by a further 14% to 5.99. A pint at my local now costs 1.80 - I hope that is not going up by 14%. Oh, and the best seat at the Porthmadog Coliseum now costs 3.50.

And for all this money do we get total accuracy? No, because the OS incorporates deliberate errors into its maps. It has always been obsessed with copyright, and errors are included to entrap pirate copiers. But that's another story...

Also on the subject of the principality, Alan Blanco has come across a Welsh Tourist Board leaflet headlined: "Wales. It's bigger than Texas if you flatten out the hills." As AB points out, this is another example (after the recent Boring Square coverage) of the wider world belatedly catching on to ideas first aired in TAC. For mention of whether Scotland is bigger than Albion's Plain if you flatten its hills, see for instance Les MacKay's letter in TAC6 and the Grand Unified Scottish Hill Theory in TAC14.

TAC 53 Index