Melway Love

I’m a hoarder.

There we go. I’ve said it.

If I was trying to be fancy about it, I’d say I was a collector. But in reality, I’m a holder-onerer. I like to keep things, to save them up. For what? I’m not sure. But that’s me. Even as a child, I used to look at other kids, ripping their stickers off their protective backing with gay abandon, blithely sticking them in random places. Don’t they know how hard it is to get those stickers off and preserve them again? What if they want to move them? Is that really a wise course of action?

It’s with a kind of envy that I watch Asher, our youngest girl, do exactly that – all over our house. But times have changed. I think I still have the set of yoyo stickers that I got in hospital in 1980 because I wasn’t able to be at school watching a demonstation put on by a guy called Renis. Now, that would have been a funny interaction with a bunch of five year olds. But like I say, it was 1980. Firstly, no one used words like Renis. And secondly, stickers were few and far between. You had to savour them. You didn’t get to go through four sticker books in a morning – Asher.

So, like I said, I’ve always been a hoarder. A saver. A collector.

And today’s collection of choice?

The Melway.

* * * * *

I came to this late, which is unsurprising; cartography is an acquired taste. But in my case, it was mainly because I didn’t really know about it. My first ever Melway was the 1993, edition 22. Growing up in Ballarat, and with a poor sense of direction, I scratched my way around town, referencing everything against our house and Target. I didn’t have a bird’s eye visual of the town in my head. There was a black and white map from the council shoved into the creaky old drawer in the lounge room, but it really wasn’t worth looking at. And as for travelling to Melbourne? This meant visiting my grandparents in Vermont, and there is only so much you can learn about Canterbury Road.

The change came about when I moved to far-flung Clayton for university. Sure, the medical campus was just over the road, but… Melbourne was big. I mean, I didn’t even know where Target was.

So my parents bought me a Melway. As part of my leaving home package, along with extra socks and a less embarrassing doona cover. I remember the first time I opened it. For a visual person like me, it was – and still is – exquisitely beautiful. Where was this piece of art when I grew up in Ballarat? What was going on in the back of the family car with the UBD and the RACV map? I mean, seriously? These were only marginally better than the council map.

Merv Godfrey agreed. It’s originating designer, Mr Godfrey was frustrated by the shortfallings of other maps, and spent five years hand drawing the first ever edition in 1966. There were initial concerns that it would flop, because if was so highly priced. It cost $2.50. I know people. At the time, you could buy half an apartment in Manhatten for that.

And yet, it was an instant success, and has never looked back. Even the original version had seven colours; the modern versions have thirteen different colours. Merv set it apart from the crowd by drawing streets as a single line, rather than double lines with the name written between. This improved legibility, and allowed for vastly more detail. I mean, how simple? It transforms it from a blur of lines to a thing of order and beauty. And the London A to Z still hasn’t caught on – the poor old duck.

Melway is now part of our lexicon, another reason Melburnians look down on northern states for our aesthetic superiority. That there is now a Sydway and a Brisway doesn’t seem to have stemmed this flow – ‘cause we started it, you know?

So my collection began as the new editions of the old, the ones that got lugged all over Melbourne in my Peugeot 504, sitting precariously on my lap, generally flipping between maps 58, 59 and 60, and then back to 43 and 44. I knew exactly how big a handful to grab – it was like all pages in between were glued, just as they were for the students north of the river on 29 and 30. But that just wasn’t my hood.

The collection grew slowly in number, my mum kindly remembering my Melway fetish, adding to it from op shops here and there. The crowning glory of the whole collection came a couple of years back when my father-in-law gave me his own pristine copy of the original 1966 Melway. I still don’t think he knows quite what it meant to me to have been given that gift. It sits pride of place – right in the centre of the pool room.

But collections come in waves, and moving multiple times over the last few years, I began to wonder why I was lugging a catalogue of phone-book-sized pieces of art to each new home, now numbering twenty. Collectors lull had definitely kicked in. That is, until yesterday.

* * * * *

Apparently I’m hard to buy presents for. Apparently if I want something, I go out and buy it. Apparently, I tend to only want practical things these days, like drills or electronic blinds, or Frozen costumes. There is not a lot of extraneous collection going on.

Until now. The impractical has returned. Suse kept asking what I wanted for Christmas, and I kept drawing blanks. And then I thought of it. And then I saw it.

On eBay.

An edition 3.

From 1968.

You don’t want to know what it cost. Just know that Editions 12 up are a dime a dozen. It’s the single digit ones that are rare. That I have an original in my collection is bordering on unbelievable. But now, it seems, Santa is adding a Number 3.

And a 41, and a 42. And the new mini-version. And a reproduction of the original, released just last year. And there are a few more I’m watching on eBay.

The sleeping giant has been awoken.

But what is even better is this – iMelway for iPad. Not only are maps 43, 44, 58, 59 and 60 magically JOINED, but it includes Ballarat. My own home town, is now in 13 technicolors.

And finally, it’s worth looking at a map of Ballarat.

Do you have a sentinel memory of the Melway? The same weird fondness of detailed maps? Another cartography fetish? An Edition 2 in mint condition?

 

Melway 3

10 Comments

  • You gave yourself away as a non-Melbournian straight away… in Melbourne, it’s always been knows as “The Melways” (never ever without the ‘s’)!
    Looking forward to seeing the iPhone version…and Ballarat (I’m a bit over google-maps getting me lost).

  • Yes, Talina, check out iMelway – it’s a ripper!

    And yes, I too have referred to it as the Melways for many years. It was only in researching this blog that I learnt of the fervour people feel about this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melway) – and given that I decided to geek it up with my love of the exact precision of the Melway, I thought it only right and proper to not get it wrong! 🙂

  • kat says:

    Hi.

    I recently found a Melway 1980 13th Edition. I was wondering how much it would be worth. It’s in fairly great condition.

    Thanks

  • Depends on the market a bit, but unfortunately anything from Edition 10 onwards are still pretty common. Try your luck searching it on eBay. Good luck! 🙂

  • Seth A says:

    Up until now I thought I was the only one that collected the Melways. My pride and joy is also the original 1966 First edition. My collection isn’t big since I’m only 14 but I’m slowly increasing my collection from local op shops!

  • Well done, Seth! You’re a huge step ahead of me – I can only imagine having had a first edition when I was 14! Op shops are a brilliant way to build your collection. Well done, and good luck with your collecting. 🙂

  • Tracey says:

    Hi Mark, I have an original 1966 edition 1 Melways that way grandmothers. It’s in good condition with plastic covers. Do you how much it would be worth or where I would even sell it, if I was to sell it. Thanks, Tracey

  • Hi Tracey,

    You could try your luck on eBay. Prices for an original Melways generally vary from $200 to $500, although some times you’ll see them sitting around being relisted. It really depends on demand, as with most things. Good luck! 🙂

  • Bill says:

    G’day Mark I’ve an edition no 4 Melways and asking same question – is 4 rare anyhow much is it worth? Thanks. Is anyone collecting missing 4?

  • Hi Bill,

    Melways 4 are around, but they are from 1970, so they are 46 years old now! Some people would pay up to $200 if in good nick, sometimes more, but often less.

    The best thing to do would be to go to eBay and just search ‘Melway’ – and you will see what is around, what people are asking, and that generally the older it is, the more valuable it is. Good luck. 🙂

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