Looking for a tube map... Not a map tube, thanks Google
September 16, 2008 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know where I can buy a poster sized vintage London Underground map (AKA tube map)? Preferably a Harry Beck version (i.e. one from between 1933 and 1960). A good reproduction will do at a push.

Basically I'm a map geek and a tube geek, have a great big space on my wall to fill, and Google has failed me. I can't even seem to find somewhere that sells tube memorabilia apart from the London Transport museum, and their selection is pretty small... Perhaps these things just aren't that easy to come by?
posted by iivix to Shopping (17 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I'm in the UK by the way, so can make the trip to any shops, market stalls, etc. if needed.
posted by iivix at 12:21 PM on September 16, 2008

From what I've read elsewhere, TfL is pretty hardnosed about the tube Map's 'iconic' design, and have come down pretty sharply on folks offering alternate versions. That may be why it's so hard to come by - it's considered a copyright protected work, owned by TfL.
posted by pupdog at 12:33 PM on September 16, 2008

Here is the archive. Let us say, that for personal purposes, there maybe a mefite who would help fellow mefites construct, for personal use, a Beck reproduction and have it printed to a good size. Anyone? I need to seduce a map lover and this happens to be his favorite underground series. How devoted? Let us say he has the London Underground symbol laid in glass on his sybaritic shower stall.
posted by jadepearl at 12:47 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is not a direct answer to your question, but if you're looking for a poster-sized print of the Tube, have you seen the artwork The Great Bear by Simon Patterson? It's a standard tube map, but with the names of influential cultural people in place of the tube stops. We have a print hanging in our apartment. Most people don't notice the change at first, but once they do it's always a conversation piece.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 12:50 PM on September 16, 2008

ubiquity once bought me a Harry Beck reproduction from the London Transport Museum. It doesn't seem to be online, but you should give them a call to see if they have it in the shop.

They have what I would regard as an enormous selection of posters. Is there a reason you find their selection inadequate, or are you assuming that the web offering is all they have?
posted by grouse at 1:02 PM on September 16, 2008

The Transport Museum online shop has most of their art collection digitized, and you can buy posters the pieces in any size you want. I gave it a quick look and couldn't find exactly what I think you want, but you should browse in there.
posted by cushie at 1:17 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's a plaque at Finchley Central with some Harry Beck info and his original design. I'll take a photo of it if you want though it doesn't sound like it'll meet your needs.
posted by Dan Brilliant at 2:09 PM on September 16, 2008

Best answer: I was walking through Cecil Court this evening, and one of the shops (I think it was Tim Bryars) had an early Tube map, framed, in the window. It was one of the maps from the mid-1930s showing some of the extensions that never got built, like the Northern Line extension from Edgware to Bushey Heath, and the branch line from Highgate to Alexandra Palace. Maps of this date are rare and collectable, and I suspect this one may be rather expensive, but it was spectacular (and seemingly in excellent condition). If I had the money I'd buy it myself.
posted by verstegan at 2:33 PM on September 16, 2008

Is this it?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 2:47 PM on September 16, 2008

Um, this?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 2:47 PM on September 16, 2008

Originals tend to be a bit pricey and you can check Christies and Southeby's for them. The repros, the transit museum...it's a fun look around anyway (Covent Garden I think)
posted by legotech at 3:03 PM on September 16, 2008

Not the easiest thing in the world to aquire. You may end up having to make one yourself. A jpg is here.
There is a fair bit of tube memorabilia on eBay.co.uk. Search for london underground or london tube. One of the sellers there may be able to help you.
The National Railway Museum at York may have something. Their gift shop is not online. They may have an archive copy.

TfL is pretty hardnosed about the tube Map's 'iconic' design, and have come down pretty sharply on folks offering alternate versions. That may be why it's so hard to come by - it's considered a copyright protected work, owned by TfL.

IANACL but AFAIK I don't think Beck's map was ever copyrighted. There is no evidence of it on the jpg. and in those days London Underground disseminated it widely to diary manufacturers and the like. Even if it was copyrighted that protection may have exhausted itself by now. Tfl own the copyright for the modern version and are very snippy about protecting it. Which may be the reason they don't publish a copy of the Beck version. No copyright, no control.
posted by Dr.Pill at 4:59 PM on September 16, 2008

lots of jpgs here if you fancy a homebrewed solution.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:04 PM on September 16, 2008

I swear I've seen posters of a Harry Beck map for sale at the National Gallery Shop (or possibly one of the other museum shops). It wasn't a particulary special or high quality poster, just on one of those wooden stands along with a whole load of other 'iconic' London posters, in their 'nice stuff, but let's face it, it's still tourist-tat' section. I know because I almost considered buying one. But I can't find it in their online shop, or in any of the other obvious London museum shops online. I think you might have a good chance of finding one if you were to turn up in person.
posted by Helga-woo at 1:59 AM on September 17, 2008

This isn't what you were after but it mappy and tubey and geeky and would fill a large space on a wall.
posted by ninebelow at 4:20 AM on September 17, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, some excellent suggestions, the help is definitely appreciated. By the way, my local pub has a print of The Great Bear on the wall of the gents...

Here's little update from me. Hopefully this will be some use for anyone else seeking an old tube map.

So I went for a little wander around London today, and this is what I've discovered.

The National Gallery doesn't have any tube map posters. But what it does have, is tube map wrapping paper. They've got three designs, nicely printed - the modern tube map, the inverted modern map (i.e. on a black background), and one old map. Sadly not a Beck, but rather the heartbreakingly awful Harold F Hutchinson version from 1960. That said, it is big, and well printed on matte paper, and at only £3, this might be a good solution for someone out there.

The London Transport Museum does have some old Beck maps, in a manner... Two versions, an early one from the 30s, and a later 40s one (I think). But they're basically printed at about A3 size on big A0 portrait format posters, with lots of white space, and a load of "Mayor For London" etc blurb. Not ideal at all.

Meanwhile, taking a walk up to Tim Bryars revealed the beautiful original Beck in the window. It was one from around this period, i.e. 1948 or thereabouts, with the never-completed Northern Heights extension at the top of the Northern Line. It was in its original frame, and I wouldn't say it was in good condition exactly (pin marks, fading, staining). Unfortunately, with an asking price of over a grand, it's more than I want to pay. Talking to the man in the shop I discovered that old maps such as these (especially in the original frames) are extremely rare (as they were never intended to be kept, meaning most have been binned), hence the price. He'd only ever seen two pre-war poster sized maps. There is some good news though, which is that a later 1950s Beck poster can be yours for somewhere in the low hundreds, if you can find one, that is. Also, if you just want a leaflet sized map, there are loads of those floating around.

So I think I'm going down the homemade route. I've already got this book so I guess I'll choose my favourite map from there and look at scanning it and blowing it up.

Thanks again everyone.
posted by iivix at 8:25 AM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yes, it probably was that very same wrapping paper I was thinking of buying. But it wouldn't be the first time I've used wrapping paper as a poster...
posted by Helga-woo at 5:27 PM on September 19, 2008

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