Phyllis Pearsall, the story of A-Z Maps

As an amazing example of DIY creativity and persistence, I agree with the first sentence: “Phyllis Pearsall was a remarkable woman… in 1935 she got lost in London while using a 20 year old street map which was at the time the most recent available. Working from a bedsit in Horseferry Road (in SW1!) and with the aid of James Duncan – a draughtsman borrowed from her father, a Hungarian mapmaker, she began to catalogue the 23,000 streets that featured in the first edition. Working eighteen hour days she walked a total of 3,000 miles in compiling it.

Completed in 1936 she met almost universal apathy from the book buying establishment and so formed the Geographer’s A-Z Map Company and arranged to have 10,000 copies printed – completing all the proof-reading and design work herself. She delivered 250 copies to WH Smith (in a wheelbarrow!) on a sale or return basis and it proved a great success – later the formula was extended to other British cities.”

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