I discovered that Horwood’s Plan existed just after Christmas, wondering whether there was a map which you could use to pinpoint the exact London houses where Romantic-period writers lived and stayed and to see what was going on around them. When I discovered Horwood’s incredible feat of research, diligence and art, I knew that one thing I wanted it to be was a digital object which could be used easily and annotated freely in ways which would be impossible with the giant, awkward papery original.
What I didn’t know was whether a digital version of the Plan was a thing which I could make. I suspected that I probably couldn’t. I don’t have any particular expertise with coding or mapping systems, and I knew that the most I’d be able to do was compile and tweak existing things. Still, I decided to push ahead and see how far I could get. A bit of Googling instilled the sense that the sorts of things I would be trying to do were also the sorts of things that others had worked out previously. This turned out to be the case, and while the site currently doesn’t do everything in quite the ways that I’d imagined, it does a lot of things that hadn’t initially occurred to me. For this, I’m in debt to all the people and institutions listed on the acknowledgements page and to generations of scholars who’ve studying London, literature, printing and related matters. My getting to this point has been down to the generosity of others who’ve sharing their knowledge, time, resources and technologies: sincere thanks to you all. It’s been really fun so far.
The site as it stands contains the digital Plan, a series of explanatory pieces and annotated versions placing plates from the Microcosm of London (1808-10), plates and text from Modern London (1804) and text from Fores’s New Guide for Foreigners and the 1788 edition of Harris’s List of Covent-Garden Ladies. I knew from an early stage that I wanted to include the wonderful Microcosm aquatints, but the other set of annotations on the site so far are drawn from things I discovered or was guided to in the course of my reading about London’s late eighteenth and early nineteenth century history. The guides, I think, form a coherent starting point, and I’m hoping to add a couple more of these. Harris’s List is a bit of an anomaly as the site stands, but will eventually form part of a larger section on different aspects of London life in the Romantic period, including sets of annotations marking things like the locations of bookshops, publishers and social spaces of various kinds. What the site doesn’t include at the moment are annotated versions of the Plan focused explicitly on writers’ lives and works; this is something I hope to begin working on soon.
One of the nice things about working digitally is the ability to have the site change and evolve as the project develops. I hope that you find this initial iteration Romantic London helpful, but there’s a lot that could and should be done to improve it. Any feedback about the site as it stands or regarding potential directions that you’d be interested in would be greatly appreciated – I can be reached via the comments or on firstname.lastname@example.org.