Historical Atlas of Toronto


192 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-1-55365-290-8
DDC 911'.713541






Reviewed by W.J. Keith

W.J. Keith is a retired professor of English at the University of Toronto and author A Sense of Style: Studies in the Art of Fiction in English-Speaking Canada.


Maps, maps, maps. Derek Hayes has specialized in volumes of maps and related materials over the last few years, including one of Canada (though not the great three-volume work with the same title that appeared in the 1980s and 1990s) and others devoted to the United States, the Arctic,British Columbia, California, and Vancouver.

Maps can obsess some people and bemuse others, but this book has something to interest everybody. The earliest dates back to c.1641, the latest (the lights of the city as seen from outer space) to 2005. In between are maps emphasizing just about every aspect of Toronto imaginable: its continued (and disturbing) growth, of course, but also the varied subway system proposals, the expressway controversies, the evolution of “Toronto Island,” the National Exhibition, even the city’s sewage system.

Above all, it is not confined to maps alone. There are numerous engravings, photographs (both black and white and colour), reproductions of early paintings and posters, along with various odds and ends that add interest to the more central material.

Researchers will find it invaluable, while casual browsers may well pick it up for a brief glance and become thoroughly absorbed. There are, to be sure, a few frustrations. Many of the maps are by no means easy for the uninitiated to interpret, and those looking for their own immediate area may encounter difficulties, since the scales are often small and a decided strain on aging eyes. But, given the scope of the book and the wealth of material at hand, this was inevitable.

So far as the text is concerned, Hayes strikes a nice balance between the solidly informative and the entertainingly evocative. His enthusiasm is as obvious as it is infectious. The whole book is expertly designed and attractively produced. An atlas for all seasons, as one might say—especially recommended for those long, dark Toronto winter evenings.


Hayes, Derek., “Historical Atlas of Toronto,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28008.