The map was created by 'Barry Heck' using a photoshopped Tube map and an online anagram generator, on 7 February, 2006. It was originally shown in a thread on the Thingbox chat forum and, after being submitted by one of the site owners, appeared on BoingBoing a couple of days later receiving 31,000 hits within the next six days. (The name Barry Heck is a pseudonym chosen because it is an anagram and spoonerism of Harry Beck.)
The idea came from The Great Bear, a 1992 artwork by UK artist Simon Patterson on display at Tate Modern in London, but it was not until Dorian Lynskey's music genre tube map appeared in a newspaper in 2006 that Barry Heck decided to make it.
Transport for London claimed the image was a copyright infringement and had one of their lawyers ask for the map to be removed from the web. The site hosting it complied and it was removed on the 22 February, 2006 with the censorship being reported on BoingBoing again.
Transport for London also censored other websites that hosted the image such as the www.geofftech.co.uk site. As a result Geoff Marshall, the site's owner, was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live by Chris Vallance about "map-mashing" (making parody maps) in which the London Underground anagram map was discussed. This was broadcast on 14 March, 2006.
The anagram map was featured in thousands of blogs and its progress can be tracked at Technorati.com. Because of similarities with Neverwhere it was mentioned in the letters page of author Neil Gaiman's blog, with his fanbase ensuring over 1,700 others linked to it. But nearly 21,000 other blogs linked to BoingBoing's article alone.
There are several cognate anagrams where the anagram has some relevance to the station name (for example: moon starer/astronomer): A Log Spoke/Gospel Oak; Written Mess/Westminster (referring to the laws passed in the Palace of Westminster); and Concerning Torments/Mornington Crescent (referring to the complex and nonsensical Mornington Crescent game).
Blackwall and Hornchurch stations couldn't be properly anagrammatized and instead they were split into their component words and reversed to produce "Wall Black" and "Church Horn" respectively. Burch Chow/Chow Burch (from the gynaecological Burch procedure) was rejected as an anagram for Bow Church, because of a dislike for uncommon proper nouns, leaving it reversed as "Church Bow". The potentially problematic Bank was anagrammatized into 'nabk', the edible berry of the Ziziphus lotus tree.