Three books by Capital Transport Publishing on the history of London’s underground maps: No Need To Ask by David Leboff & Tim Demuth, Mr Beck’s Underground Map by Ken Garland, and Underground Maps After Beck by Maxwell J Roberts.
Taken together, the three cover over a hundred years of maps of the Underground, from the different companies in the early part of the 1900s, through the pivotal 1933 Harry Beck diagram, and to the present day. The writers are all well qualified (Tim Demuth, co-author of No Need To Ask, designed the London Railways map of the 1970s; Ken Garland is a respected designer and writer; while Maxwell Roberts has designed his own maps aided by his primary study of cognition) and, despite some overlaps between the books, generally they cover the story very well.
Probably the most interesting is the middle volume, covering both the route to the Beck diagram, his many variations over the years as lines were extended (and management meddled), and the nearly decade-long fight to keep designing the map in the early 1960s. The book includes the worst diagram since 1933, the Hutchinson design, and a first look at the Garbutt diagram that came to succeed it.
The Garbutt diagram and its slow evolution (as opposed to the Cambrian explosion of variations that Beck produced) is at the heart of the final book, which I think I enjoyed more than many would; the story is one of subtle change, livened mainly by the changing landscape of the system (with the Victoria, Jubilee, and DLR lines expanding the scope of the map).
Overall, I’d recommend Garland’s book on Beck’s diagrams to anyone with even a passing interest in the Underground and mapmaking. Roberts is more for the completist, while those looking for history and more decorative design may enjoy No Need To Ask.