How to use Hashing Effectively

This is a snippet of an old map of Paris published by Karl Baedeker publishers in 1907 for Paris and Environs. I have often seen this map because it is in the inside cover of one of my children’s books, Adele & Simon by Barbara McClintock. However, it wasn’t until I really looked at it closely today that it struck me how phenomenally impressive it is that the cartographer managed to use hashing for the city blocks without overwhelming the map.

Hashing is very difficult to do without making a map just plain ugly and I usually advocate for using it sparingly, if at all. However, here it is just beautiful. The only critique that could possibly made of it is that the drafts-person did not use a steady line weight throughout, but somehow even that adds to its charm. If it isn’t visible to you in the little snippet above, the pinkish-red color is hashing, with a bolder line of the same hue surrounding each city block or section.

Did you also notice how the letters in the major street names actually ascend and descend above and below the road casings? In other cases the letters are at the southern end of the road, offset to such a point that the bottoms of the letters (even those without descenders) actually go a bit over the casing line. You can see this in the snippet above in the letters “o b,” which is the end of the name Rue Jacob.

The maps from this particular publisher were well-regarded for their detail, of which you can see quite a bit in just the small piece shown above, and their accuracy. A tremendous amount of detail was packed onto this map while still allowing for readability and only using the colors white, magenta (pinkish-red), blue, and black.

  1. #1 by Martin von Wyss on September 6, 2010 - 10:23 am

    Beautiful example, Gretchen. But I dare say that the hashing works because, and not despite, the fact that the strokes are of varying weights. I think the effect would have been a catastrophe otherwise. Imagine doing a fill in Illustrator with regularly-spaced lines of a consistent line weight. It’d look so wrong, I think! The observation about the type is a very good one. The offset of the type to just south of the baseline could be a result of the black plate not being in perfect registration, but I prefer your interpretation. Legibility is very good, isn’t it? Thanks!

  2. #2 by Gretchen on September 7, 2010 - 5:38 pm

    I think you may be right about the type off-set being a result of a mistake. Mistake or not, though, it looks pretty cool. In fact, it looked so funky and fresh that I am using the idea for my next book. Every page displays the title and page number in the upper right corner. I’ve underlined the type but allowed quite a bit of overlap (very unconventional) between the line and the type. You never know where you can get your next idea from!

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