It was fun (if somewhat surreal) to see a slightly truncated version of my stitched-together version of Horwood’s Plan reproduced on a scale even larger than the paper originals on the wall of the Tate as part of the current William Blake exhibition. It was great to be able to help the curators out with this. There’s snapshot below, although this don’t really do justice to the scale.
As you’ll be able to see from the expanded header menu, I’ve recently added a series of new curations to the site, including plate series from John Thomas Smith’s Antiquities of London (1791-1800), Thomas Malton’s A Picturesque Tour Through the Cities of London and Westminster (1792-1801) and the 1816 collection of Select Views of London compiled and arranged by John B. Papworth. I’ve also mapped the passages from the seventh book of William Wordsworth’s Prelude that directly describe London. These marker layers have also been added to the All Curations page, which allows different visions of London to be compared. There’s still some work to be done with these new elements, particularly when it comes to introductions, but hopefully they’ll be of use. If you encounter any errors or mistakes while using the new parts of the site, it would be great if you could drop me an email so I can fix things.
The British Library has recently launched Picturing Places, a new resource exploring its rich topographical holdings. Many of the images used on this site – including the Plan itself – were kindly provided by the library, so I was very glad to be able to give something back by contributing an article on ‘Accumulating London’ to the project. This article explores the interactions between a series of different publications from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that sought to claim particular niches through depicting the city. Some of these works are covered by Romantic London already, but a couple will form part of a major update to the site that I’ll be launching in stages over the next month or so.
The first part of this update is something that I’ve wanted to make a part of the site for a very long time – the revised fourth edition of Horwood’s Plan published by William Faden in 1819. I’ve now added this as a new tiled map layer for all the existing content, allowing visitors to explore the changes in the city over the course of the early nineteenth century by contrasting Horwood’s original with Faden’s final revision. I’ll be adding a fuller discussion of the additions that Faden and his cartographers made to the Plan at a later date, but if you’re keen to trace the development of the docks and the East End, examine the creation of Regent Street or look at what Regent’s Park might have looked like if the original designs had been followed more closely, a page for exploring the 1819 version can be seen here.
The first article that I wrote arising from this project, ‘Coherence and Inclusion in the Life Writing of Romantic-period London’, has just been published in a special issue of Life Writing edited by Felicity James and Julian North and showcasing papers from their Writing Lives Together conference (held in September 2015). The article is behind a paywall, but if anyone without appropriate library access is interested in reading it, I have a direct access link that I’d be happy to send by email.
I’ve been drawn away from this site for the past few months by the process of settling into Glasgow and because of exciting developments with the AHRC-funded ‘Institutions of Literature, 1700-1900’ network that I’m co-running, but I’ve now completed work on three additional curations that I’ll be linking in with the main body of the site shortly. I’m also hoping to have a bit more time over the summer to make some fairly substantial changes and updates.
I’ve been a bit delayed in moving forward with Romantic London due to my relocating to take up a new job at the University of Glasgow, but now that I’m beginning to settle in, I’m hoping to have the time to finish off work on the next phase of updates to the site, which will add a series of further topographical works, as well as some new literary texts. In the meantime, I’ve got a number of pieces of writing relating to the project coming out over the next few months, the first of which is a contribution to the Keats Letters Project on John Keats and urban time. The folks over there also put together a cool video showing off some of the ways that you can use Horwood’s Plan to help investigate the materials that they’re working on. The Keats Letters Project is republishing every surviving letter by Keats two hundred years after the date when it was written (or as close to this date as can be established), with commentary by a range of different scholars and creative writers. It’s a great idea and there’s a lot of really thought-provoking material already published, so it’s well worth checking out.
I’ve been having a bit to trouble with the back end of the site over the past month, but I’ve now resolved these issues, so over the next few weeks the site’s content will be almost doubling as I add further topographical plate series, courtesy of the British Library, and begin to work on mapping different literary versions of London. I’m currently updating the site with a second Ackermann publication to complement the Microcosm: the collection of Select Views of London that he issued in 1816 along with a text by the architect John Buonarotti Papworth (the first plate in the series, showing St James’s Palace, is above). I’ll also be adding Thomas Malton’s Picturesque Tour Through the Cities of London and Westminster (1792-1800), which is one of my personal favourites. I talked about both of these works at a conference on Transforming Topography a couple of weeks ago; the recordings of that event should be available in due course.
After these two curations have been added, I have plates from three other publications lined up. The continuing development of Maps Marker Pro also means that I’ll be able to improve the site’s flexibility by allowing users dynamically to control the markers shown on the various maps. I’ve put together a sneak preview of this feature on this page, which includes markers for the three guides to London currently on the site. I also now have access to the 1819 revision of Horwood’s Plan published by William Faden. Preparing this for the site will take a little while, but once this is done, I hope to make this available as an additional layer on all the existing maps; London expanded a great deal in the twenty years between 1799 and 1819, and juxtaposing the two maps should be very helpful for more fully understanding the changes that it underwent.
After a period of relative quiet, I should be able to make a number of updates to the site over the next few months. The British Library is currently in the process of scanning plates from a series of books which will allow me to more than double the amount of material presented here. In the meantime, though, I’ve added a map and a slideshow using the plates from Pierce Egan’s Life in London: Or, The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorne, Esq. and his Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic, the Oxonian, in Their Rambles and Sprees Through the Metropolis, which was first published in serial form in 1820 and 1821 before being collected in 1821. Egan’s book was an enormous popular success throughout the 1820s, spawning theatrical adaptations, pirate editions and a series of unauthorised spin-offs and continuations. I’ll add an introduction shortly providing contextual information about Egan and his work and reflecting on the idea of London that his book promotes. I’m also hoping to find a way of mapping the full text of Life in London, but this is a rather more complicated proposition, as it involves finding a way to deal with the woodcuts and other complex formatting constraints and a means for encoding small caps in a manner that the majority of browsers can decode.
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.
The site is going to be a bit peculiar over the next few days as I start publishing some major new sets of annotations and begin reorganising the menu structures to incorporate these. There will be a number of blank and semi-functional pages while this process is underway, but fairly soon there should be a lot more content available for exploring London at the turn of the nineteenth century, including both its grandest locations and its more insalubrious sides.
This site is still in the early stages of its development, but I’ve now put up a number of pages discussing the rationale for the project and various aspects of Horwood’s Plan. These examine the Plan’s qualities and the process of its creation; discuss the digital version hosted here and the means by which this was produced; and consider the scant biographical evidence about the life of its creator. The pages are all linked in the top menu bar and will be updated as the project progresses and as new thoughts and evidence come to light.