Mary Spence MBE C.Geog FRGS F.B.Cart.S 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 Publications).
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 email@example.com
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.
Extract from news release dated 25.9.23 ...
A cartographer & publisher previously living in the Black Country but now based on the Welsh border has been recognised with a prestigious international award for her latest map.
Scotland-born Mary Spence, formerly of Kingswinford but now living near Hay-on-Wye, was presented with a framed certificateby the new President of the International Cartographic Association Georg Gartner - Professor of Cartography at Vienna University of Technology, Austria - for her creation of 'The World - Great Discoveries'.
This was one of several maps Mary sent to represent UK in the International Map Exhibition at this year’s Conference in Cape Town and it was declared 2nd best map overall in the wall maps (map panels) category from a world-wide selection of 170 maps from 34 countries.
Quotable quote: Speaking immediately after her citation Mary said: ‘The President declared I could now call myself a ‘world class cartographer’ which made everyone there laugh since despite having achieved various awards over the years he hadn’t heard of me! I am nonetheless extremely proud of this recognition and am grateful to those who considered my contribution to be of value’.
Watch Mary in full flow at a meeting of Hay-on-Wye U3A on Tuesday 19.4.22 where she explains the functions and practicalities of mapping.
The National Galleries Scotland https://www.nationalgalleries.org have been hosting a series of zoom presentations and associated exhibitions. Presenting 'The Worlds Edge - cartography panel discussion' Mary was in action on Monday 17th January 2022. Described in the pre-event publicity as 'world-renowned Cartographer Mary Spence MBE' she was joined by author & singer-songwriter Malachy Tallack in an exploration of the real and imaginary in mapmaking and journeying. It proved to be compelling viewing that received wide approbation. The whole show was recorded and is somewhere out there in the world of YouTube-Land but we're blowed if we can find the link. Let us know if you do.
Oh, and here's a carto-cat to cheer the day; this particularly fine pedigree specimen of British Shorthair is named Charlie (or Cha-puss) and she is seen here actively scrutinising a map of Guernsey. Tough work, as you see. But hey, we've all got to make a living.
As part of their programme of 'tea time talks' (largely inspired by the covid pandemic and allowing members to keep in touch with developments) Mary delivers to the British Cartographic Society a masterclass of how things have changed momentously in the world of making maps - and all from the perspective of one who adapted to it and who continues to develop the skills and techniques into in the modern era of digital data and touch-screens.
Presented 8.11.21, duration 45 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUZYRRFleeQ
We didn't have an image of Mary to hand as she did her presentation, but there are plenty in the video. So here's another cat to keep you going. This is Dennis The Menace as a youngster, a Bengal fused with tinges of the Devil Incarnate. Just look at those eyes and that stare, then convince me he is not a monster from hell. You wouldn't believe what he has already done to our curtains. Plus now he's twice the size.
The following is a nomination recently submitted in support of Mary by Clare Seldon C.Geog. A Chartered Geographer qualification is just about as 'top of the shop' you can get so no surprise that Clare is Principal Consultant (Cartographer) at Steer, specialist in wayfinding, location planning and Sports and Major Events mapping. Even so, she tells Mary 'Thanks for being an inspiration.' This is what Clare says: (note the bit about the 'lone female stance') ...
'Here is is my nomination for Women in Geospatial+ #TheyMapThePath inspiring women+ cartographers, through her leadership at British Cartographic Society (BCS) is Mary Spence. I first worked with Mary at BCS back in the early 2000s whilst she was Vice-President of the BCS and I volunteered to help revamp the society annual awards scheme. I quickly admired her lone female stance in the male dominated industry and saw her pick up many awards internationally as well as her MBE for services to cartography in 2004. She was President from 2006-2008 and was awarded Honorary Fellow of BCS in 2015 for her continued positive contribution to the society and industry as a whole. Her leadership to develop and deliver the successful Better Mapping seminars encouraged me to present at them myself and has led to me delivering training on the subject in my own workplace. Mary is equally supportive to help deliver a conference or support the more 'unseen' parts like the graphic design of a flyer to support the cartographic community. She truly is one of the greatest cartographers* as well as a highly valued member of the BCS membership. '
*Read more on Mary here: https://lnkd.in/eQDKQY9
UPDATE SUMMER 2023. Completely unknown to us, and being discovered only during routine enquiries for a mapping project, Mary and the Women in GIS book made a surprise appearance in a feature by Laura Clark for the online Groundsure Location Intelligence resource groundsure.com - here is the link: https://www.groundsure.com/mary-spence-a-leading-lady-in-the-world-of-cartography/
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.
Certificate and citation for Honorary Membership; a rare event indeed.