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,

The map is currently being offered for sale by Altea Gallery, who also have a lot of other London maps for sale.

Images of the map above, courtesy of Alteagallery.com

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One comment on “A rare medieval map of London
  1. MilesT says:

    Sorry to be picky, but not medieval.

    The map may show elements of London as it was in late medieval times, but the map itself is early modern (published in 1572, although depicting elements before 1560 with some corrections for mid-late 1500’s). Medieval ends somewhere between 1450 and 1500 (by various sources). The clothing on the people of the bottom is from earlier in the 1500’s but that may be a copy from earlier maps or just spurious use of older clothing to give the result an “official”, “authoritative” feel.

    Very nice map, though–have previously seen it (or similar) in books. Would love to have a print on my wall (if I could find the wall space!)

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