London Underground ‘Diagram of Lines and Station index. Original 1958 map by H.C. “Harry” Beck, dated 1958 to bottom right of front cover (see scan in Product Gallery.) Shows H.C. Beck imprint at bottom left corner of diagram. Printed by Johnson Riddle & Co. Ltd, St. Mary Cray, Kent.
Henry Charles Beck (4 June 1902 – 18 September 1974) was an English technical draughtsman who created the present London Underground Tube map in 1931. Beck drew up the diagram in his spare time while working as an engineering draftsman at the London Underground Signals Office. London Underground was initially sceptical of Beck’s radical proposal, an uncommissioned spare-time project, but tentatively introduced it to the public in a small pamphlet in 1933. It was immediately popular, and the Underground has used topological maps to illustrate the network ever since.
Beck believed that Underground passengers were not concerned with geographical accuracy and were more interested in how to get from one station to another and where to change trains. While drawing an electrical circuit diagram, Beck came up with a new idea for a map that was based upon the concept of an electrical schematic on which all the stations were more-or-less equally spaced rather than a geographic map. Beck first submitted his idea to Frank Pick of London Underground in 1931 but it was considered too radical because it did not show distances relative from any one station to the others. The design was therefore rejected by the Publicity department at first, but the designer persisted. So, after a successful trial of 500 copies in 1932, distributed via a select few stations, the map was given its first full publication in 1933 (700,000 copies). The positive reaction from customers proved it was a sound design, and a large reprint was required after only one month.