A 450-year old map that shows one of the earliest surviving contemporary images of London will go on display next month.

The Civitas Londinium, also known as the Woodcut or Agas map, was made by an unnamed map maker in the 1570s and gives a unique bird’s eye view of London, across the Thames from Southwark towards the hills of Hampstead and Highgate. The map was printed from woodcut blocks on eight sheets, and in its present state measures approximately 2 feet 4 inches high by 6 feet wide

Only three prints of the map are known to survive, all dating from reprints made in 1633. One is owned by the London Metropolitan Archives, one by the Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and one by the National Archives at Kew.

Extract from the Civitas Londinium – British History Online

Following an extensive program of conservation treatment, one of the three maps will go on show in a free exhibition opening at the London Metropolitan Archives on 11th April. The exhibition, which aims to show the history of the City in maps, will also include a survey of London made the week after the Great Fire of London to help rebuild the city, which at the time had a population of about 350,000.

The exhibition also includes maps created in the 19th-century showing the spread of then fatal diseases like typhoid, cholera and smallpox, which inflicted terrible loss of life in Victorian London.

The exhibition will also include work by Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg, John Rocque, John Ogilby and William Morgan, Richard Horwood, and Christopher and John Greenwood.

Some of the maps on display will highlight the growth of London at a local level, with maps of parishes and localities, as well as the development of the capital across the Greater London area. Others will demonstrate the use of maps not just as a way of navigating the city, but also as a way of presenting information that records the experience of previous generations of Londoners, from pandemics to population studies.

The exhibition, Magnificent Maps of London will be at the London Metropolitan Archives between 11th April and 26th October. It will be open Monday to Thursday 10am – 4pm and entry is free.

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3 comments
  1. Kieran says:

    Monday to Thursday 10pm to 4pm are pretty poor opening times. They could have made the effort to open an odd weekend!

  2. KR says:

    The LMA is a tiny facility dedicated to the archives – and as I recall the actual archives aren’t open to the public. They kindly put on these very tiny exhibitions, for free, so the hours are there to permit the volunteers to be present. They are nothing like our big London Museums with tons of people going through, there is no shop, either, so it’s really not possible for them to have opening hours to suit everyone. We’ve always taken a day off to go, and then tried to find something else to do, since it doesn’t take particularly long, either. But it’s really enjoyable when it’s a subject which interests you – well worth the visit. Thanks ti Ian for bringing it to our attention.

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