Mary is one of the UK's leading cartographers and enjoys an international reputation for map making excellence, working across all platforms from digital data to field research.
A Chartered Geographer and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, she is also both Past President and Honorary Fellow of the British Cartographic Society.
Originating from north of the border, Mary holds a degree in Geography from Aberdeen University and a post-graduate degree in Cartography from Glasgow University and has since worked alongside a variety of organisations both civilian and military, accruing numerous awards along the way. She was invested for services to cartographic design in 2004.
Mary is an accomplished author; her latest book Cartography; an introduction (with Giles Darkes) is now in its second edition and available through this site (see Books).
In addition to her cartographic duties Mary is also proprietor of Sparrow Publishing, in which she focusses on specialist works and is sole publisher for G. Fisher Enterprises.
For enquiries on any aspect of Mary Spence MBE or Sparrow, she can be reached via the Contact section or direct on firstname.lastname@example.org
If you haven't already guessed, Graham Fisher and Mary Spence are 'an item' and, together with various cats and dogs, share a home and offices on the Welsh borders where their closest neighbours are sheep on one side and an Inn on the other. So now you know.
The Routledge Handbook of Mapping and Cartography just has to be about the last word on how to make maps. Mightily weighing in (quite literally, I weighed it on my kitchen scales at 3lb 2oz, or 1.4 Kg) and extending to just shy of 600 crammed pages, this monumental tome is simply the business, covering everything from cartographic praxis to the use of mapping in schools and other seats of learning around the globe. Its lavishly illustrated text is both informative and accessible, suiting everyone from amateur enthusiast to serious academic.
Rather like a mapmaker's Encyclopeadia Britannica it is a collation of contributions from specialists in their field, so no surprise to learn that 'our Mary' has a section in there. Chapter 24, Colour in cartography, extends from pages 324 to 345 and is a masterclass on how to make a map look good.
The Routledge Handbook of Mapping and Cartography, edited by Alexander J. Kent and Peter Vujakovic, is available now from the usual outlets.
Beyond borders was series of six presentations held at the British Library in London, fortuitously sometime BC (before coronavirus) when Mary was invited to front a prestigious audience and offer her advice on bad maps, how they can be improved and why it is important to do so. (Mapping the odd, unusual and strange). Each speaker was afforded 15 minutes followed by a forum discussion with questions.
She was in fine company; her co-speakers were introduced as:
Travis Elborough is an author and social commentator. His books include Wish You Were Here, The Bus We Loved, Atlas of Improbable Places and Atlas of Vanishing Places. A regular contributor to national print and broadcast media, he has penned articles on all aspects of travel and culture, from pirates in the Caribbean to donkeys at the British seaside.
Born in an area of constant political change in what was once Yugoslavia and is now Serbia, Zoran Nikolic saw the impact political change had on people’s daily lives. This interest in geography extended outside Eastern Europe and became a lifetime fascination with borders and political geography. His book,The Atlas of Unusual Borders: Discover intriguing boundaries, territories and geographical curiosities was published in autumn 2019.
This is Mary we're talking about here, so no great surprise she went down a storm. Who says so? Here's just a couple of items from a bulging postbag of feedback ...
'Bl**dy brilliant' - Mr. J Benjamin of London, invited guest (non-cartographer)
'A legend in the world of cartography' - Travis Elborough (organiser of event and co-speaker)
and, from the archives ...
'Cartographic Royalty' - Mr. D Hosking (former work-colleague and professional cartographer)
In April 2018 ESRI Press published a book called Women and GIS: Mapping Their Stories.
This tells the tales of how 23 women applied themselves and overcame obstacles, using maps, analysis and GIS to contribute to their professions and the world. Sharing the experience of their childhoods, the mis-starts and challenges they faced, and the lessons they learned, each story is a celebration of a woman’s unique path and of the perseverance and hard work it takes to achieve success. Women and GIS: Mapping Their Stories can serve as mentors to motivate readers who are developing their own life stories and inspire their potential in a new way.
They include a Columbian field scientist who helped restore habitats for 45 threatened bird species in the Andes, a former Girl Scout whose love of Orangutans helped convince major food organisation to stop sourcing an unsustainable ingredient and an environmental scientist who developed drones for research and humanitarian purposes.
Mary’s inclusion relates the tale of a young girl growing up on an isolated croft in Scotland who left it all behind in pursuit of a dream that led to her becoming one of the UK's foremost authorities on designing and making maps; and all whilst she simultaneously raised a family and maintained a home.
Mary says: ‘The achievements of the women in this book beggar belief and leave me in awe at what is possible for women of all ages to achieve. To be ranked alongside them within the same pages is a great honour and I am much indebted to those who saw fit to select me. It would be wonderful to think that my legacy would be as an inspiration to other females to go release their potential.’
We unexpectedly came across this on the internet in late February 2018 and, with due acknowledgement to the site concerned, are delighted to reproduce it as unsolicited testimonial.
The Women Who Shaped The World is an article by The Future Mapping Company that records their 'Top 10 Female Cartographers of All Time'.
The selection is an eclectic one covering a period from antiquity to the modern cartographic era. Click on the link below and take a look who comes in at number 9. We're very proud of 'our Mary', even the more so because of all these amazing women who have helped shaped the world, she is the only one who is actually still alive! To learn more, click here.