All entries for Saturday 08 December 2007

December 08, 2007

Mapping the City

Writing about web page http://www.oldlondonmaps.com/

Descending, I went wandering whither chance might lead, in a still ecstasy of freedom and enjoyment; and I got - I know not how - I got into the heart of city life. I saw and felt London at last: I got into the Strand; I went up Cornhill; I mixed with the life passing along; I dared the perils of crossings. To do this, and to do it utterly alone, gave me, perhaps an irrational, but a real pleasure.

Charlotte Bronte, Villette, Chapter VI (1853).

In the people's eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.

Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, p. 2 (1925).

Whilst maps can't quite convey the vibrancy and particularity of city life that is captured in literature throughout the ages, the collection of maps from the 13th to 19th century provided on this website offer a fascinating insight into the changes the city has undergone. Some of the maps depict the entire city in intricate detail, and thanks to the wonders of technology can be viewed in enlarged close-ups (I particularly like Greenwood's 1827 map). Others show smaller sections or map the changing nature of the city, such as the 1756 map of a proposed new road from Paddinton to Islington. There's also an extensive database of articles and views of London.


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