Edinburgh Civic Survey – 1949

Prepared by Patrick Abercrombie and Derek Plumstead for the Town Council, the book contains detailed data for traffic, health, education, recreation, population density and so on, beautifully depicted in a series of maps, charts and diagrams.

An incredible find

I stumbled across this civic survey and plan for Edinburgh from 1949 whilst on a city break up there a couple of weeks ago and had to buy it. This huge book (280 x 360mm & 111 pages) is full of the most incredible post-war maps of the city.

The page above for example, shows the distribution of authority (red) and non-authority schools (black) in Edinburgh. Each dot on the map represents a pupil, solid for secondary and outline for primary, also colour coded to indicate whether they attend an authority or non-authority school.


This page compares pre-and post war traffic accidents. The supporting text concludes “from the number, size and colour of the symbols it is at once apparent which are the most dangerous points in the road system where accidents occurred in 1937 and recurred in 1946…


…while the coloured portions of the segments indicate the number of times an accident occurred at any one of these points during the two years.”


The typography is a treat…


…as are the compasses that sit at the foot of each map under the key…


…the illustrations…


…the historic street plans (this one dates from 1819)…


…and the detail in each of the 25 fold-out maps.


The greatest surprise though, were the 3 biggest maps that were hiding in a sleeve inside the back cover.


The biggest one is a land use survey of the whole of Edinburgh, at a scale of 1:5000 its over a metre wide. This’ll be framed and on my wall at home before too long.


Edinburgh is full of really interesting second hand bookshops. This book was found at the back of Edinburgh Books in West Port. I recommend paying them a visit if you’re ever in town. Full set of photos on our Flickr.