A rare example of an exceptionally early map of late medieval London has been uncovered by a London antique maps dealer.
It was published in the ‘Civitates Orbis Terrarum’, the first series of printed town plans, inspired by the success of the ‘Theatrum’, the atlas compiled by Abraham Ortelius. This example is from the fourth state of the plate, with the spelling ‘West Muster’ and the addition of the Royal Exchange.
The plan of London says that it dates from 1572, but was probably copied from a larger earlier example as it shows St Paul’s Cathedral with its tall spire intact, even though that had been burnt down in 1561.
Some of the more interesting things to see is the moat that ran around the old Roman London wall, and the lost gatehouse which is now in a basement next to the Museum of London.
Most of Charing Cross is still fields, hence the correct use of the term for the Trafalgar Square church of St Martin in the Fields. The monastery of Charterhouse is shown here, just outside the City walls for plague burials, and south of the river, the emerging playhouses.
The map itself was made by the Flemish/German engraver, Frans Hogenberg. In 1568 he was banned from Antwerp by the Duke of Alva and travelled to London, where he stayed a few years, so it’s likely that the map was made while he was in London.
It’s thought that the map was commissioned by the Hanseatic League, who operated a trading enclave in London where today’s Cannon Street station stands.
At the time it was commissioned the population of London was roughly 200,000 people,
Images of the map above, courtesy of Alteagallery.com