Daniel Crouch Rare Books has just issued their Catalogue III, Mapping London. Crouch is a specialist in maps and the associated types of material, such as sea charts, plans, atlases and globes. They focus on antiquarian examples, though there are a few items this time that make it into the last century. In this catalogue, Crouch has centered on one small corner of the globe, the city of London, and occasionally, a few miles of surrounding lands. Since most maps are targeted right on the city, as it follows the banks and bend in the River Thames, thumbing through this catalogue gives a bird's eye view of how much the city has grown over the four centuries from the 15th through the 19th century. Naturally, a current map would show much greater expansion still, but London looks barely more than a large village 400 to 500 years ago.
As Crouch notes in their introduction, “Within these pages you will find 100 plans showing London's rapid development, from the Tudors to the Windsors. You will see London the glutton, purged by fire, the home of the rich as well as the poor, and a refuge and opportunity for strangers.” The city has changed dramatically, socially, politically, culturally, economically, and just about ever other way, but as these maps show, the Thames still runs through its heart and London is still London.
We will start with what Crouch calls “the earliest extant plan of London.” It wasn't even printed in England. First published in 1572, this is a 1574 Cologne printing of Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg's Londinium Feracissmi Angliae Regni Metropolis. This is a bird's eye view taken from a point somewhat south of the Thames. London is described as “famed amongst many peoples for its commerce, adorned with houses and churches, distinguished by fortifications, famed for men of all arts and sciences, and lastly for its wealth in all things.” There is also a paean to the Hanseatic League, on whose behalf the map was likely first produced. While the Braun and Hogenberg version was first published in 1572, it is evidently based on an earlier map, of which only a part remains. Such features as St. Paul's spire, which was destroyed in 1561, indicate this depicts London in the 1550s. Part of this map is shown on the catalogue's cover. Item 1. Priced at £9,500 (British pounds, or about US $14,873).
This plan, while already a bit out of date when published, was the basis for several other later maps in the catalogue. For example, item 2, published in Amsterdam almost a century later, in 1657, is almost identical. Mapmaker Johannes Janssonius (Jansson) had acquired the Braun and Hogenberg plates. He made some changes, though not to the depiction of London itself. He removed the title at the top, leaving the area essentially bare, and replaced the drawing of four Londoners at the bottom contained in the original and there inserted his own title – Londinum Vulgo London. £3,000 (US $4,695).
Item 11 is Marcus Doornick's Platt Grandt der Stadt London. It was published in 1666, one the most important, and devastating years in the city's history. That was the year of the Great Fire, and Doornick's map depicts the aftermath. Fanned by strong winds, there were limited options available to firefighters in the days before firetrucks and large water hoses. It was only finally put out by blowing up buildings to create a firebreak, but by this time, much of the city was gone. The heart of the city lies empty on this map. The streets are still shown, but the buildings are gone. Most of the city's residents lost their homes in the fire, though Londoners quickly set about the task of rebuilding their city. Below the map, there is accompanying text about the fire in three languages – Dutch, French, and English. £2,500 (US $3,913).
Item 40 is a massive, intricately detailed plan of London: A Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster and Borough of Southwark, with the Contiguous Buildings. From an Actual Survey taken by John Roque, Land Surveyor and engraved by John Pine. Published in 1746, it took Roque nine years to plat the city, and one wonders how he was able to do it so quickly. It was built on a scale of 26 inches to the mile, and printed on 24 sheets. All told, it measures about 80” x 150”. £20,000 (US $31,261).