Telling Tales - Restoration London

The works at Frieze Masters open up a world of stories

The first accurate map of the capital, made in the ashes of the Great Fire

Daniel Crouch Rare Books, B12

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John Ogilby & William Morgan, A New and Accurate Map of the City of London, 1676, engraved map on 13 sheets, each sheet 40 × 51 cm 
 

John Ogilby & William Morgan, A New and Accurate Map of the City of London, 1676, engraved map on 13 sheets, each sheet 40 × 51 cm 

 

After the Great Fire of London in 1666, John Ogilby – who turned his hand to translating and staging entertain­ ments as well as cartography – claimed that he had lost his entire stock of books valued at £3,000, as well as his shop and house, leaving him worth just £5. As he sought to restore his fortunes, Ogilby looked in new directions, and saw an opportunity in the reconstruction of London’s burnt­out centre. He secured an appointment as a ‘sworn viewer’, whose duty was to establish the property boundaries as they existed before the Fire. He was assisted by his step­grandson, William Morgan, a number of professional surveyors, the master Czech engraver Wenceslaus Hollar and others.


The result, printed one month after Ogilby’s death, was this groundbreaking plan of London, on a scale of 100 feet to an inch: the first accurate and detailed map of the city. On publication, diarist Samuel Pepys and scientist Robert Hooke purchased their own copies. The map’s exactness was not matched until the Ordnance Survey, two centuries later. Depicting a London with grand plans for recovery from disaster (one gap is marked ‘The King’s Wardrobe was here’), the map conveys hope, as well as a refreshing, democratic frankness: recording prisons and working­class areas on the same scale as palaces and avenues.

Issue 3

First published in Issue 3

October 2016

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