Mapping In Style

For an artist, designing a Herb Lester map must be a dream job. You’re given one sheet of paper on which to bring a city to life–to map its many marvels, illustrate its feel, and guide its owner to a perfumerie in Paris or where they make the best sour dough loaf in Copenhagen. Of the ever-growing collection of maps I have amassed, each one is impeccably designed and beautifully illustrated by artists clearly thrilled to be a part of this project.

The love for Herb Lester maps has spread to every corner of the web and to boutiques worldwide; all have praised Herb Lester’s combination of guide book, gorgeous design, very fine taste, light weight, and pocket-size. What began as a bare yet informative guide to help London freelancers find places to plug in their laptops, has evolved into a full-fledged map-making enterprise that has sought the expertise of designers and city-dwellers around the globe. I’ve put the Paris, London, and New York maps to the test, and can assure you that these folks know their stuff. I’ve spent years living next door to Greenwich Village, and had never even heard of “Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books” on Carmine Street or Julius’ on West Tenth (all listed in the “Truly Greenwich Village” map by Karen McBurnie and Jon Hammer). More recently Herb Lester gave blogger/ photographer/ writer Matthew Hranek free reign in New York City and out came the “William Brown Project: Around Town New York City” map. His very random selections are united only by their amazingness. Although I wasn’t too appreciative that he outed Japanese secret-spot, Omen, where I go for the serene ambience, delicious appetizers, and celebrity-watching. I have never been to this restaurant without seeing either Lou Reed, Yoko Ono, or Patti Smith. Although last month’s sighting of the Olsen twins was a cause for concern.

In a world of infinite choice, I am all too happy to be guided by those that offer few, but excellent picks. Who has the time and patience to read Rough Guide and attempt to distinguish the mind-blowing from the mediocre? Also, with so many cities now dominated by chains and the usual tourist traps, discovering the older less obvious establishments, (see the “How to Find Old New York” and “How to Find Old LA” maps), independent boutiques, and dive bars has breathed new life into playing tourist. 

With Herb Lester based in London, the British capital has enjoyed the most map love, with plenty of unconventional themed-maps such as “Untamed London: Where Nature Still Run Wild In the Big City” and a guide devoted to London’s best pubs. But with a map out every few weeks, cities like Austin, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, San Francisco, and Glasgow have also been given the Herb Lester treatment. A year’s subscription gets you two maps per month for £35 (in the UK), £45 (Europe-wide), and £50 ($75) for the rest of the world. Sign up here

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