Thursday, February 18, 2016

You can look at these antique maps for hours

© 2016 Christy K. Robinson 

Have you ever wondered about the image used in this blog's header? It's a portion of a large panel engraved in 1616 by Claes Jansz Visscher, a Dutch artist of the 17th century (when the Dyers lived). The amazing thing is that Visscher never visited England--so where did he get the descriptions of the River Thames and the hundreds of buildings in the engraving? How did he know where to plot St. Paul's, the Tower, the Globe Theater?

Mercurius Politicus, a blog about 17th century history, says that Visscher's panorama is derived from a 1593 map engraving by John Norden, a surveyor and engraver. 

1593-John Norden's map of London. Click to enlarge.
(Wikipedia Commons)
 Visscher used Norden's map as a resource, but tilted the view nearer the horizon and just higher than a cathedral spire. We can do that with Google Maps street view or Google Earth. But for a 17th century Dutchman who hadn't even visited London, his panorama is astounding!

We can go even further back to an angel's-eye view of Tudor London, with the 1560 Ralph Agas map called Civitas Londinium. (Where did these people get the idea for such a high-altitude perspective?!)

1560-Civitas Londinium, by Ralph Agas. Click to enlarge.
(Wikipedia Commons)

A similar panorama of London was engraved in 1647 by Vaclav "Wenceslaus" Hollar, an etcher from Prague, Bohemia.

1647-Long View of London, by Wenceslaus Hollar.   (Wikipedia Commons)

As part of the 1616-2016 commemoration of Shakespeare's death, London's Guildhall Gallery is exhibiting the modern version of Visscher's panorama. From the same birds-eye perspective Visscher used, modern artist Robin Reynolds has created a 2016 panorama of London. Since most of us are not able to attend the exhibit, the websites will have to do. To see the Visscher and Reynolds works compared side by side and with zoomed-in sections, check out this news item at the link. 

London panorama in 2016, by Robin Reynolds.
Before I wrote the books on the Dyers, I studied all the maps of the 16th and 17th centuries to determine where the Dyers lived, in relation to their church (St. Martin-in-the-Fields), William's master Walter Blackborne's house (where William was apprenticed, and where he and Mary lived when newlyweds), the New Exchange (where Blackborne and William Dyer were proprietors of a haberdashery), where Sir Henry Vane's parents lived, and many other locations. To see some close-ups and photos of the places, see my article in this blog, The Dyers of London and where they lived.

Christy K Robinson is the author of five books:

1 comment:

  1. Comments from Facebook:

    Ken Horn: Fascinating, Christy.

    Charlotte Knight Watkins: Amazing!


Reasonable, thoughtful comments are encouraged. Impolite comments will be moderated to the recycle bin. NO LINKS or EMAIL addresses: I can't edit them out of your comment, so your comment will not be published. This is for your protection, and to screen out spam and porn.