This is an absolutely astonishing publication. Not just a detailed original map of Elizabethan London in about 1561 but a guide to life at the time, with symbols for wells, people practicing archery, churchyards, clocks, different kinds of boats on the river, weighing scales in a market, etc etc . . . All clearly interpreted in a symbol index at the end. The introduction and all indexes are readable and highly informative and even amusing. One of the best buys of my life!
First published in 1979, this A4-size book contains a wealth of material about the geography of Elizabethan London. It consists of a reprint of three late-Tudor maps over 31 pages. The vast majority of these pages (28 in total) is devoted to a superb annotated reproduction of the 'Agas' map. There then follows two pages of the 'Copperplate' map, and finally a one-page reprint of Brawn and Hogenberg's map. All three are clearly interrelated and yet have minor but important differences.
The seven-page immensely readable introduction by John Fisher explains these differences and also forms a minor essay on what can be gleaned from the maps. Subjects cursorily covered in this introduction include churches, monastic remains, secular buidings, houses, water supply, food markets, industry, commerce and trade, recreation and entertainment, transport, and the streets themselves.
Finally, the remaining thirty pages consist of two marvellous indices to the maps. The first is a place-name index covering streets and buildings from Abchurch Lane to York Stairs via Girdlers' Hall and Pissing Alley. The index shows where to find these on the maps and provides other basic information. The second index is one of symbols, indicating bastions and gates in the city wall, churches, persons depicted on the map (e.g. "milkmaid, milking cow" and "two people taking their dog for a walk"), wells, conduits, pumps, and other miscellaneous features from cannons to watermills.
This is a fascinating work of art and history. The paper quality and standard of reproduction are both extremely good, as one would expect from the London Topographical Society. The only drawback is that the maps are in the style of monochrome engravings, but the scale is such as to bring the detail to life.
This is a beautifully produced specialist's book capable of providing hours of pleasure and profit to the curious amateur. The six introductory pages are clear and informative and do not pretend to be more than an outline. The main part of the book is the 'Agas' map on 28 A4 pages, containing a wealth of detail - though you need to look carefully at the Explanation of the Index, at the back of the book, to understand the symbols and the layout. The Index itself is excellent, and links all the features shown on 'Agas' and the other two maps, the Copperplate Map and the Braun & Hogenberg. It is a pity these two are not more enlarged - the former because the detail is so fine, and the latter because the scale is so small you can see very little but the general outline of London around 1560.
But my quibbles are minor ones. If you are interested in Elizabethan London and enjoy maps, this book will entrance you.