Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Earliest Known Map of London

The Copperplate Map of London is the earliest known map of London. The map was made in the 1550's and was made in fifteen copperplate sections. The 15 copper plates were used to print paper copies of the map (none of which survive).

Unfortunately only three of the original engraved copper plates survive. Two of the plates are owned by the Museum of London. If you are able to visit the museum in person you can view the Moorfields plate, which is on permanent display.

Unfortunately there is no interactive mapped version of any of the three surviving plates of the Copperplate Map. However, you can view an interactive version of the Agas Map. The Agas Map of London was made roughly ten years after the Copperplate Map and is a modified copy of the original Copperplate Map.

The Agas Map depicts a London which is still a walled city and where the banks of the Thames are dotted with bear pits and playhouses. If you look at the Moorfields section of both maps you can see how the Agas Map is derived from the Copperplate Map.

Detail from the Copperplate Map (left) & Agas Map (right)

Both maps use the same bird's eye view of London. Both maps show washerwomen and practicing archers at work in the fields. Even the map labels and their placement are almost identical in both maps. This level of derivation is evident throughout the Agas Map.

The Agas Map of Early Modern London is an interactive version of the Agas Map built using the OpenLayers platform. You can pan and zoom in on the map and you can explore locations on the map using the location categories menu. For example if you turn on the streets layer you can click on a road on the map to learn more about the selected road and its etymology.

The Map of Early London website includes a comprehensive encyclopedia of London people, places and topics featured in or important to the map. The interactive locations on the map connect with the encyclopedia. If you select a location from the map or from the locations menu you can read a short introduction to the location and click through to read the full encyclopedia entry.

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