Thursday, July 13, 2006

London Super Scale with Blisters

Phyllis Pearsall is a true London hero. It is not often you can say that someone has truly touched thousands if not millions of lives but Phyllis Pearsall has. Since her death in 1996 she continues to affect huge numbers of Londoners lives every day.
Pearsall was the creator of the A to Z.
My knowledge of the geography of London is often viewed through a mental map of the city, when referencing places, names or journeys around London the A to Z appears in my minds eye. I visualise these things through my own mental reinterpretation of those yellow streets, white roads, green public spaces, brownie pink houses and white expanses of indeterminate blocks. The variety of typefaces and text sizes transform soon to be visited places into evocative sites that carry ideas before I even understand the reality of them.

Phyllis Pearsall was not a cartographer and the idea of the London atlas was not a winner in her fathers eyes, from his office in America where he ran a map making company he left Pearsall free reign to create her vision, with little or no support she embarked on an epic journey to chart, map and record every street in London. In a city as huge as London she was probably the only Londoner in modern times to know literally and at first hand every inch of this unknowable city. With some persuading her fathers workers, the cartographers in his London based office, helped Pearsall realise the amazing book that probably every Londoner owns.

Pearsall was loved by all her staff at the A to Z company, those that worked with her have nothing but praise for her philanthropic management style. She treated all her staff as friends and was unflinchingly supportive in their times of need, something many companies could learn from in current times. The loyalty showed to her staff by Pearsall was exceptional, she placed the company in trust to enable it to be protected from being sold to best protect its workers.
Due to Phyllis Pearsall’s exceptional life and work Southwark Council unveiled a blue plaque on the house of her birth yesterday.

On a personal note I can vouch for the enduring success of the A to Z. I am currently working on an art piece that requires 2 copies of any A5 black and white A to Z. I have trawled a variety of second hand bookshops and although newer colour versions occasionally appear I have been told that it is highly unusual for the black and white version to be given to them as the books are used to the point of destruction and are not fit for any place but the bin.

With that in mind if anyone has an old A5 black and white A to Z they wouldn’t mind donating to an artist for his work, let me know.


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