Panorama of London – Anthony van den Wyngaerde c. 1543
I like maps, and I would love to have a huge map collection. Alas I am poor, and let’s face it, I’m some dilettante map nerd who probably knows nothing about maps, so no one should take me seriously. A couple of weeks ago, however, I did stumble upon something, which I thought was cool enough for me to write about.
Walking back from The Highline, I stumbled upon Left Bank Books, pretty much your typical used and rare book store (albeit one of the cooler ones I’ve visited). So there I was killing time looking through books, when I notice a small crate with atlases. Hidden between the larger atlases, I found a small folder-like book wrapped in a plastic cover. The “book” is called ‘Maps of Old London’ published in 1904-1908 by Adam and Charles Black in London and is a collection of nine reproductions of old maps of London. Unfortunately, the copy I purchased only contained four maps, with their covers in pretty bad shape (the maps themselves are in good shape). A quick Google search and I was able to find the eBook. Here is the editor’s note.
An atlas of Old London maps, showing the growth of the City throughout successive centuries, is now issued for the first time. Up to a recent date the maps here represented had not been reproduced in any form, and the originals were beyond the reach of all but the few. The London Topographical Society has done admirable work in hunting out and publishing most of them; but these reproductions are, as nearly as possible, facsimiles of the originals as regards size, as well as everything else. It is not every one who can afford to belong to the society, or who wishes to handle the maps in large sheets. In the present form they are brought within such handy compass that they will form a useful reference-book even to those who already own the large-scale ones, and, to the many who do not, they will be invaluable.
The maps here given are the best examples of those extant, and are chosen as each being representative of a special period. All but one have appeared in the volumes of Sir Walter Besant’s great and exhaustive “Survey of London,” for which they were prepared, and the publishers believe that in offering them separately from the books in this handy form they are consulting the interests of a very large number of readers.
The exception above noted is the map known as Faithorne’s, showing London as it was before the Great Fire; this is added for purposes of comparison with that of Ogilby, which shows London rebuilt afterwards. Besides the maps properly so called, there are some smaller views of parts of London, all of which are included in the Survey.
The atlas does not presume in any way to be exhaustive, but is representative of the different periods through which London passed, and shows most strikingly the development of the City.
I must acknowledge the valuable assistance I have received from Mr. George Clinch, F.G.S., in the many difficulties which arose in the course of its preparation.
G. E. Mitton.
The four maps from the collection that I have are the Wyngaerde, Agas, Ogilby, and Rocque maps. The presence of the Wyngaerde map is very fortunate since it is described as being “the earliest representation of London that has come down to our time”. I’ve managed to scan the ‘Panorama of London – Anthony van den Wyngaerde‘ map, and have uploaded it in hi-res. I would really like to be able to scan the other three, but their size makes it difficult to do so. Click on the image to open view the complete file (hefty 42 mbs).
Here is the first part of the description of the map, as written in the original atlas:
Description.—This is the earliest representation of London that has come down to our time. Accurately speaking, it is not a map, but a picture; but as many of the old maps are more or less in the same category, we need not exclude it on that account. Such topographical drawings are apt to be misleading, owing to the immense difficulties of perspective—witness the wretched samples hawked about the pavements at the present time. But, considering the difficulties, this map of Wyngaerde’s is wonderfully accurate, and it has the advantage of being full of architectural details which no true map could give.
Designer.—Of Wyngaerde himself little is known. He is supposed to have been a Fleming, and may have come to England in the train of Philip II. of Spain. He is known to have made other topographical drawings. The date of the one here reproduced cannot be fixed with perfect certainty, but must have been between 1543 and 1550.
Original.—The original is in the Sutherland Collection at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and it measures 10 feet by 17 inches, and is in seven sheets. A tracing of it, made by N. Whittock, can be seen in the Crace Collection, Prints Department, British Museum, or in the Guildhall Library.
The present reproduction is from that made by the London Topographical Society, which photographed the original.
It is reduced, and is here placed in three sections, which overlap for convenience in handling.
The original is still part of the Sutherland collection is located in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.