12 Oct 2016
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
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.
First published in Issue 3