London in the Olden Time - c1538 (on CD)


Cat No.:   CAB0352: (See also product CAB0352-DL for this "book" as a downloadable file and save the mailing cost.)

Full title: London in the Olden Time, being a Topographical and Historical Memoir of London, Westminster, and Southwark, Accompanying a Pictorial Map of the City and its Suburbs, as they existed in the reign of Henry VIII., before the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Compiled from Ancient documents and other authentic sources."

By William Newton, author of a display of heraldry, and published for the author by Bell and Daldy, 66, Chancery Lane in 1855 (MDCCCLV)


This is a truly fascinating map & book, providing the reader with a detailed and intimate peep into Britain's London near the end of the reign of the infamous Henry VIII, just before his dissolution of the monasteries. Or, to be more precise, this is the view offered by the wonderfully detailed and supposedly accurate, 52 in. by 40 in. pictorial map, one of the two parts of this book. The other part of the book is called, by the author William Newton, an "Accompanying Memoir" and it provides amazing detail of the origins, purpose and fates of hundreds of the buildings and locations which are illustrated on the map. This map is more than just the overhead plan of the city's streets, which is what this term normally implies, and the clue to why is in the word "pictorial." As well as providing a "to scale" layout of the streets, William has drawn in the profiles of the buildings - in the locations where they stand. This means you not only get to understand the city's layout, but you can get a first hand impression of what it would have been like to walk the streets.

William doesn't give a particular reason why he chose this part of London's long history as the setting for his work except that he does indicate that none of the historic records he used in his research individually provided a complete and accurate picture of the city either in topography or in architecture. Also, of course, the impending dissolution of the monasteries brought about great change in the ownership and use of many of the formerly religious buildings. Another reason may be that, the chosen period is only about 100 years prior to the Great Fire (1666) which destroyed so many of the ancient buildings and opened the way for sweeping changes in the city's landscape. In spite of all these later changes, today's reader will constantly find themselves familiar with the names given in the text - even if one has only a passing knowledge of the modern city.

Based on the author's introduction we have dated the map at c1583, mainly for simplicity of reference. Still, the author chose to include a line on the map showing the extent of the later Great Fire. He kept this line visually non invasive so that it took us a great deal of time to find and trace it on the map. To make it a little easier for the reader to see, we have provided a second extracted portion of the map with the line highlighted.

The printing technologies of the 1855 publication date would not provide for the printing of a map of this size on a single sheet of paper and a careful examination will reveal the well matched joins of the multiple sheets of which the map was originally composed. What is more obvious, however, is that the publisher, having regard for the wear and tear which a "fold out" map suffers, decided to cut the map into 18 separate sheets and paste them together on a linen backing. While this has allowed the map to survive multiple foldings over the intervening 150 odd years in relatively excellent condition it does mean the "folds" are very obvious. We experimented while processing the scanned map to see if we should electronically rejoin the 18 sections for you but discovered that to make the joins invisible we would have to distort the original map. Consequently we are bringing you the map exactly as it appears in the original book, in 18 separated, but approximately aligned, panels.

It really doesn't matter if you are a long time resident of London, or if you are a complete stranger, when you start to read the stories in this book, and see the places where it happened on the map, you are going to find yourself reliving the history of this colorful and great old city.

We are able to bring you this great book as a result of the generosity in sharing of Mrs. Claire Alexander. Claire has been a long time fan of this book and originally approached us with a question about the possibility of making a scan of such a large map. A long discussion led us eventually to the making of this CD in which, as you can see, Claire gets her scanned map. Please join with us in thanking Claire for her generosity and wish her well in her ambition to become an author.

The Map is NOT computer searchable.

No. of CDs is:  1 ;   Format is:  PDF ;   Searchable?:  YES;

FastFind:  Yes;  ISBN No.:   978-1-897405-55-0 ;