Open City: London, 1500–1700 exhibition material

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This article offers a comprehensive list of each piece included in Open City: London, 1500–1700 one of the Exhibitions at the Folger.

London Observed (case 1 and wall between cases 1 and 2)

1574 map of London. Folger Digital Image 3371.

According to old stories, England—or Albion—was settled by the Trojan prince Brutus, the great-grandson of Aeneas, after many years of wandering. Troynovant, or New Troy, was the name of the capital. Such mythic tales were only beginning to be questioned in the England of Queen Elizabeth I. New sources of evidence were sought in written records, archaeological finds, and systems of mapping. London came into focus as a subject of historical study as voyages of discovery and trade to new parts of the world awoke English interest in the origins of their own society.

The first written reference to London is thought to have been made by Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus. His Annales, written in the second century AD, told the story of Boadicea, a British warrior widow who led a native rebellion against the Roman governor, Suetonius, in 61 AD. In describing Suetonius’ decision not to defend London, Tacitus characterized the city as “not greatly famous by the name of a colonie, but for concourse of Merchants, and provision of all things necessary, of great fame and renow[n]e.”

Centuries later, historian and headmaster of Westminster School (for boys) William Camden set out to write an account of Roman Britain. Intending to emphasize Britain’s place in the Roman Empire, Camden ended up surveying the history and topography of England, county by county. Adapting the Greek term for place, Camden’s “chorographical description” of the nation became a landmark in English history writing.

But perhaps best known is John Stow's Survey of London, which provides the one indispensible source of information about London at the turn of the seventeenth century. His Survey is organized as a systematic walk around the walls, through the gates, and into the wards of his native city. Stow’s sources included the memories of older contemporaries, the records of the city, and charters of the recently dissolved monasteries. He aimed to preserve the memory of the medieval city passing out of existence. His account was adapted over the years as London grew and changed.

For visual depictions of the city, we can turn first to the "Nuremberg Chronicle," a world history mixing a Christian view of providential history, from Creation to Last Judgment, with new humanist influences from Italy. The “Nuremberg Chronicle” combined some fairly realistic depictions of late fifteenth-century cities with purely fanciful, interchangeable views. London clearly was not of sufficient importance to the publisher Koberger to invest in a custom woodcut. Instead, the woodcut used to depict London in the Latin edition also depicted Troy, Pisa, Ravenna, and others.

Other visuals of London can be found in maps of the city. John Norden's small but user-friendly map of London offers a scale of distances and an alphabetical key to major streets, homes, and public buildings in London. Norden emphasized London’s civic governance by adding the coats of arms of the major trading companies. His was the first map of London to focus closely on the city apart from the seat of national government in Westminster. By contrast, Franz Hogenberg's map Londinum Feracissimi Angliae Regni Metropolis features the medieval city walls, but the view takes in the whole area extending from the seats of national government at Westminster and Whitehall Palace in the west to the broadening of the Thames for ocean-going traffic in the east. Several streets and intersections are labeled, but the most reliable points of orientation to the city are the river landings and other landmarks that can be seen best from the river. St. Paul’s Cathedral is centered in the view. This is a rare surviving depiction of the medieval St. Paul’s. The cathedral is shown complete with its spire, even though the spire had burnt in 1561.

Items included

Case 1

Wall between cases 1 and 2

Changing Cityscape, Vanishing Monasteries (case 2)

Large compounds owned by a number of religious orders dominated London’s medieval landscape. To their supporters, these monasteries were places of prayerful retreat and charitable giving. To their detractors, they were centers of greed and hypocrisy. Henry VIII’s decision to close (or “dissolve”) England’s monasteries revealed another view: monasteries harbored enemies to the state. His decision caused one of the greatest shifts in land ownership in London’s history. While the king and select courtiers enjoyed the spoils, the city adjusted to waves of repurposing and rebuilding.

Henry VIII closed British monasteries in waves. The 1534 Act of Supremacy required each religious house to acknowledge the king as the Supreme Head of the English Church. With the First Act of Suppression in 1536, Henry VIII closed smaller monasteries and pensioned some of the monks. With the Second Act of Suppression, shown here, Henry stressed (improbably) that the surrender of monasteries had been voluntary, and he addressed the messy legalities of ownership, leases, liberties, and privileges. By 1540, over eight hundred monasteries were closed.

But these closures were confusing. A lease of three tenements and a wharf in St. Margaret's Parish, Southwark illustrates uncertainty over the impact of Henry’s new laws. The Fraternity of Our Blessed Lady had leased the properties to a waterman for fifty years on condition that he not use any of the properties as “common hostelries or brothel houses.” But on the back, someone has written: “These three leases are in question to be new made according to the words of the corporation of King Henry the VIII.” In other words, did the fraternity still control the properties?

Pictured in William Dugdale's Monasticon Anglicanum, St. John’s Priory in Clerkenwell had one of the more colorful histories of the major London monasteries. St. John’s was the English headquarters of the crusading order of the Knights Hospitallers. They had been founded to assist pilgrims to Jerusalem, and by the time of the dissolution, they were fighting the Ottomans from Malta. Like Blackfriars, St. John’s served the Office of Revels after the dissolution. Within a decade of its closure, some stones from this monastery were diverted to the Lord Protector Somerset’s new home on the Strand.

Fifty years after the dissolution, Thomas Norton responded to a request for first-hand information about Henry VIII’s intentions in closing the monasteries. His correspondent was employed by Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth I’s master spy. With a long list of strategies and manipulations, Norton fingered Thomas Cromwell as the mastermind, “the man that by his zeale his wisdom and his Courrige was godes instrument to carry all to good effect.” Norton concludes his letter by recommending others who may have relevant information, including the Recorder of London.

For a history of the English Reformation from the Protestant point of view, John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, as the Actes and Monuments was popularly known, is the seminal text. It went through multiple editions, with the text growing steadily. In the woodcut above, Henry VIII and his advisors Archbishop Cranmer and Chancellor Thomas Cromwell triumphantly vanquish Pope Clement with a bible and a sword. Among those looking on in horror in the pope’s party are Cardinal Pole, Bishop John Fisher, and Catholic monks, recognizable by their tonsured hair.

Items included

  • FACSIMILE. John Foxe. First volume of the ecclesiasticall history contaynyng the actes and monuments of thynges past. London: John Daye, 1570. Call number: STC 11223 vol. 2; displayed p.1201, LUNA Digital Image.
  • England and Wales. Anno tricesimo primo Henrici octavi. London: Thomas Berthelet, 1539. Call number: STC 9397; displayed p. XVII.
  • Thomas Norton. Contemporary copy of letter from Thomas Norton, Sharpenhoe, Bedfordshire, to Francis Mylles. August 31, 1581. Call number: X.c.62; displayed Fol 1. LUNA Digital Image and Transcription of letter.
  • William Dugdale. Monasticon Anglicanum. London: Aliciæ Warren, 1661. Call number: D2486; displayed p. 504, LUNA Digital Image
  • St. Margaret’s Parish, Southwark. Lease from St. Margaret’s Parish, Southwark to Thomas Glover, waterman. January 21, 1537. Call number: Z.c.34 (60) and LUNA Digital Image.

Shakespeare's Townhouse (pilaster before case 3)

William Shakespeare was a shrewd investor. He profited handsomely as a shareholder in his acting company, the King’s Men. In 1597, he purchased New Place, one of the finest homes in Stratford, and he seems to have retired there by the spring of 1613. But at that time, he also purchased a London townhouse at Blackfriars as an investment.

This is Shakespeare’s copy of the deed. He made a cash deposit of £80 on a sales price of £140. The three trustees for the sale included John Heminges, who co-edited Shakespeare’s complete works after his death. Also after his death, Shakespeare’s trustees sold the Blackfriar’s property.

Items included

  • Henry Walker. Bargain and sale from Henry Walker, citizen and minstrel of London, to William Shakespeare. March 10, 1612/13. Call number: Z.c.22 (45) and LUNA Digital Image.

Blackfriars: Changing Hands, Changing Functions (case 3)

Record of Sir Thomas Cawarden's expenses at Blackfriars, ca. 1540. Folger Digital Image 60916.

Blackfriars was a Dominican monastery that commanded the western flank of the walled city, with extensive river frontage. After the dissolution of the monasteries, Blackfriars was repurposed for everything from aristocratic town homes to rehearsal (and later, performance) space for a children’s choir. Blackfriars also served as a warehouse for the Office of the Revels. In 1596, James Burbage bought the large hall where several medieval parliaments had met to establish an indoor theater.

As a former monastery, Blackfriars enjoyed certain legal “liberties” which kept it outside London’s jurisdiction, though it was inside the city walls. After King Henry VIII appointed Sir Thomas Cawarden Master of the Tents and Revels in 1544, Cawarden established headquarters at Blackfriars. A list of “moneye payd for stuf” in the move includes one item that speaks to the desecration of the parish church of St. Ann’s on the property: a payment for carting “the great altar stone . . . to Blachynglye.” Bletchingly was Anne of Cleves’ country manor, where Cawarden was steward. When the Catholic Queen Mary came to the throne, St. Ann’s parishioners forced Cawarden to make restitution.

As a warehouse for the Office of the Revels, Blackfriars saw its share of extravagance. Two manuscripts record, respectively, some expenses involved in moving items, and an inventory of items stored in Blackfriars. The expense account also gives a behind-the-scenes look at the preparations for a royal coronation. A list of forty-six tailors begins on this page, some working “daies” and “nyghtes” to prepare for Edward VI’s coronation in 1547. Other charges in the manuscript have to do with the building and transportation over water of a “mount,” probably a parade float. Among the items being stored at the Office of the Revels at Blackfriars are loans to the City of London for Edward VI’s coronation procession. They include one long garment “blewe sarcenett [fine silk] fryngyd yelowe of yt self A cape purpull velvett fryngyd with golde.” Stephen Cobbe, George Todlowe, and William Mosyne are the citizens being entrusted with these loans.

Today, we know the name Blackfriars in association with the theater there. The Children of the Chapel Royal were the first actors in the Burbages’ Blackfriars. Francis Beaumont wrote The Knight of the Burning Pestle, a burlesque of romance and adventure, for them. It features a citizen grocer, his wife, and their apprentice, the kind of respectable citizens who attended plays at Blackfriars. But these citizens refuse to behave at the theater. Instead, they repeatedly interrupt and redirect the plot of the play. Beaumont calls attention to how easily the boundaries between actors and audiences are transgressed in London’s theaters.

Shakespeare’s complex tragedy, Othello, was written for the Globe, but it also played at the more intimate, and more expensive, Blackfriars. Othello was a black soldier in the Venetian republic, who has won the heart of an aristocratic lady. In its explorations of Othello’s place in Venetian society, the play insistently counterpoints dark against light, black against white. Before he kills his wife, Othello says, “Put out the light, and then put out the light.” The line may have sent a chill through Blackfriars’ candlelit spaces.

Items included

Edward V's Coronation (wall above case 3)

  • Wall Panel: "The coronation of King Edward V"

Trade Companies (pilaster before case 4)

Incorporation bestowed a charter and a legal personality. Cities and craft and trade companies were alike corporate bodies with legal standing — and all depended on the royal prerogative. With this dense grid of repeating squares, Benjamin Wright educated people in the codes of city (or “corporation”) and company (or guild) coats of arms. The first twelve are the “great” companies of London — the wealthiest companies from which the Lords Mayor were elected. A total of sixty companies are represented, with the watermen bringing up the rear. Certain civic privileges were restricted to freemen of the companies, but women participated in the trades, through their family businesses. Many widows managed their shops.

Items included

  • Benjamin Wright. The armes of all the cheife corporations of England wt the Companees of London. London, 1596. Call number: STC 26018 and LUNA Digital Image.

Cheapside (case 4)

Fair and honest trade was the goal of London’s markets, though it could remain elusive, despite multiple layers of regulation. Cheapside was London’s largest market, and it was also one of London’s busiest thoroughfares. The street was lined with the stores of citizen-shopkeepers, including the deluxe Goldsmiths’ Row. In temporary stalls, traders from surrounding counties sold their goods. Street hawkers plied their wares among the throngs. The conduits, or water fountains, were popular gathering spots and important public works. The Cheapside Cross was a central symbol of faith, and the Standard an occasional place of execution.

One of the most vivid images of Cheapside Market appears in Hugh Alley's Caveat for the City of London, shown here. Alley was a freeman of the city of London. He was also a whistle-blower, a task that was encouraged by laws that rewarded informers with a portion of whatever fines were collected. Writing to the Lord Mayor, Alley warned against the three main abuses of the food markets: forestalling (setting oneself up as a middle man), engrossing (monopolizing enough of the supply of a product to sell at an inflated price), and regrating (buying goods in one market for resale in another).

Along with abuses in the markets came opportunities. Most young men in London were trained in trades through apprenticeships—and many came from around the country for the opportunity, like John Turke (son of John Turke, fishmonger of London). Turke was bound apprentice to Edward Fisher (merchant adventurer and skinner) for nine years. The minimum term was seven years, and with successful completion of an apprenticeship, one would be freed into a trade company. For better or for worse, companies were a stabilizing force in society. They had certain responsibilities for regulating their trade—and vested interests in maintaining their privileges. Beyond that, only freemen could become citizens and their privileges extended to the governance of the city. Freemen signed an oath of loyalty to the monarch, the city, and its customs.

Companies held status as incorporated bodies only as a privilege granted by the king. A petition to the king from the Vintners Company seeks a restatement of their traditional rights. They object to encroachments on their trade from two directions: by importers and by coopers (who made the barrels in which wine was sold).

Anxieties about a changing London are revealed in plays like Thomas Middleton's A Chast Mayd in Cheapside. Moll is the daughter of a goldsmith who owns one of the luxury shops in Cheapside. Moll’s father seems willing to sell his daughter to the wealthiest suitor, even after he is informed that the suitor’s last name, Whorehound, is a good indicator of his character. Most of the action of Middleton’s play appears to confirm moral anxieties about an increasingly wealthy London: everything has its price.

Items included

Tittle-Tattle: Or, the several Branches of Gossipping (pilaster before case 5)

  • FACSIMILE courtesy of the British Museum. Tittle-Tattle; Or, the several Branches of Gossipping. Woodcut, ca. 1560–1600. 18th impression. Museum number: 1973, U.216 and Image.

Parish Life and Alternatives To It (case 5 and wall above case 5)

1562 sketch of St. Paul's cathedral by Alessandro Magno. Folger Digital Image 2795.

The number of London’s parishes remained remarkably stable before the Great Fire of 1666, though many of the dynamics of parish life changed. People’s social worlds were never limited to their parishes, but church services marked important moments in their lives: infants were baptized, and the dead were buried from the parish church. A parish cared for its poor. Religious doctrines and practices could divide parishes. Recusants, unwilling to leave their Catholic faith behind, left the parish instead. Foreign dignitaries in London enjoyed diplomatic immunity from compulsory attendance, and immigrant communities, like the French Huguenots, were allowed to build their own churches.

Lists of parishes, like that copied out in Thomas Trevelyon's miscellany give navigational hints in their names: Breadstreet, by the wall, at Paul's wharf, and so on. Historically, the basic demographical information we have comes from parish records. Churchwardens recorded the births and deaths in their parishes. A tiny printed form, collected by the traveler George von Schwartzstät, vividly illustrates the course of a plague scourge in 1609, showing that nearly half the deaths in London during the week of August 24 were from the plague. There were only one-third as many births as deaths — a clue that London’s population growth was a product of immigration.

Another traveller, Alessandro Magno, was a Venetian merchant who travelled to London in the fall of 1562. He added a sketch to his travel diary of St. Paul’s cathedral under renovation. He decried the English Protestant “heresy” and described going to Catholic mass at the homes of the Spanish and French ambassadors. He reported that Londoners “look at us suspiciously, but they say nothing, and since the ambassadors are allowed to have [mass] said, we are permitted to attend.” Religion was grounds for diplomatic immunity.

But religious doctrines were divisive within parishes, and the political climate continued to change. Henry VIII made Edmund Bonner Bishop of London when the English church was Catholic. His son, Edward VI, imprisoned him for not imposing the use of the Protestant Book of Common Prayer in the diocese of London. Then, Edward’s Catholic sister Mary reinstated Bonner, and under Mary, he issued the “Visitation Articles,” or requirements for the doctrinal compliance of every parish priest under his rule. With them, he turned the clock back to Catholicism, though it would turn once more when Elizabeth succeeded her sister four years later and imprisoned Bonner once again.

Although a parish worshipped together as one “body,” social and gender distinctions still prevailed. In fact, a seating chart ensured that social distinctions were maintained. The choir area was preserved for men, for instance, and their “goodwives” were assigned pews further back. The chart shows the seating at St. Margaret’s Westminster, a religiously conservative parish. In 1593, new regulations dictated who got to be a pew-holder. Anyone falling into poverty (and onto the relief list of the parish) had to surrender his or her pew. These regulations were especially hard on widows, who made up a large percentage of any parish’s poor. If you look closely at the document, you'll notice extensive smudging—this represents repeated scrapings of the vellum and insertions of new names to keep the pew assignments current. Read this blog post from The Collation for more information.

Items included

Case 5

  • FACSIMILE. Thomas Trevelyon. Trevelyon miscellany. Manuscript, 1608. Call number: V.b.232; displayed fol. 33v34r and LUNA Digital Copy.
  • Bill of Mortality for August 24–August 31, 1609. London, 1609. Call number: STC 16743.8 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Church of England. Book of Common Prayer. London: Richard Grafton, 1549. Call number: STC 16274; displayed sig. Oviii recto and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Church of England. Articles to be enquired of in the generall visitation of Edmonde Bishoppe of London. London: John Cawood, 1554. Call number: STC 10248; displayed cii-ciii and LUNA Digital Image.
  • John Véron. Notes of two sermons preached by Mr. Véron. March 8, 1559/60. Call number: X.d.501; displayed fol. 3.
  • Alessandro Magno. Account of Alessandro Magno’s journeys to Cyprus, Egypt, Spain, England, Flanders, Germany and Brescia. Manuscript, 1557–65. Call number: V.a.259; displayed 167v–168r and LUNA Digital Image.

Wall above case 5

Imagining a new St. Paul's (pilaster after case 5)

Henry Farley was a scrivener who thought that the condition of St. Paul’s Cathedral was a public disgrace. For nearly a decade, Farley waged a one-man campaign for its restoration. In 1616, he commissioned John Gipkyn to paint this remarkable diptych, which may have once hung in John Donne’s study.

Farley later wrote that the images came to him as a dream. The front panel illustrates his vision of a royal visit to the Cathedral. Dignitaries led by the royal family process across the city as in a coronation entry. When open, the left panel shows that group assembled for a sermon at Paul’s Cross. The final panel reveals Farley’s vision of St. Paul’s in its fully restored glory.

Items included

St. Paul’s Cathedral (case 6 and wall between cases 6 and 7)

St. Paul’s Cathedral was the symbolic heart of London—as well as a navigational landmark, commanding the high ground of Ludgate Hill. Venerable as it was, London’s cathedral was also badly in need of repair. Its medieval spire fell after being struck by lightning in 1561. There were repeated calls to rebuild in the following century. But the cathedral was not the seat of an archbishop, nor did it enjoy the particular largesse of the monarch. Changes in doctrine undermined St. Paul’s role as a unifying spiritual presence. It was only after the Great Fire of 1666 that the St. Paul’s we know today was built.

Early views of London, including the map by Franz Hogenberg, can be dated pre- or post-1561 on the basis of their depiction of the medieval spire of St. Paul’s. The title page of James Pilkington's sermon expresses a common sentiment after the cathedral was struck by lightning and the spire collapsed. The burning of the cathedral was interpreted as God’s judgment. “Were these greater sinners, than the rest?” Pilkington asked. “No: I saye unto you except ye repent, ye shal all lykewyse peryshe.”

The damaged cathedral had its advocates for repair, Henry Farley among them. The painted diptych was part of Farley’s sustained campaign, and he also published a text which interpreted the diptych as “a Dreame in three parts.” James I was eventually persuaded to attend a sermon at Paul’s Cross by Bishop John King. James set up a commission to repair St. Paul's and appointed dignitaries to it. But plans for repairs faltered, and some of the marble was diverted to the water gate at York House, the riverfront home of the duke of Buckingham.

James’s son, Charles I, finally took up the cause of repairing the cathedral with a commission in 1633. Like all good patrons of a capital campaign, he contributed himself “a great summe of money out of Our owne Treasure, to bee imployed in that worke.” Londoners gave generously, too. The Chamber of London collected over £100,000 between 1631 and 1644. But contributions fell off, and work was suspended as the country fell into civil war.

The desire and the plans to rebuild were in place, as is shown in William Dugdale's History of St. Pauls. A view of the cathedral’s west front features the 1630s restoration work of architect Inigo Jones. The columns for the portico were reputed to be the largest in Europe at the time. The portico provided a practical alternative gathering place to the nave, known as Paul’s Walk. But the statues of King Charles I and his father King James I instead of saints caused controversy. The grandeur Jones achieved was short lived, in any event. During Oliver Cromwell’s rule, the great cathedral was reduced to stabling horses in the nave.

Edward Belowes' single sheet reduction seems to be the people’s version of William Dugdale’s deluxe tome. Or perhaps it was a promotional piece for the more expensive book. Whichever is the case, we see something of the circulation and reuse of images and an attempt to capture a market. The poem comments on the sad state of the cathedral. The signature Benevolus is a loose anagram of Edward Benlowes’s name, as well as a reference to the voluntary giving on which the cathedral depended.

Finally, in 1666, the Great Fire badly damaged St. Paul’s. Christopher Wren was knighted for his proposals and models for a new cathedral. A tax on coal laid the financial foundations for rebuilding, and construction began in 1675. Wren’s son reported that when a stone was pulled from the rubble to mark the center of the dome, it was a fragment of a gravestone inscribed with the word “Resurgam,” or "I shall rise again.” By 1710, Wren’s magnificent dome—the first in England—commanded attention on its hilltop site, giving St. Paul's profile on London's landscape the look we still recognize today.

Items included

Case 6

  • James Pilkington. The burnynge of Paules Church in London. London: William Seres, 1563. Call number: STC 19931 copy 1; displayed title page.
  • Henry Farley. St Paules-Church her bill for the Parliament. London: George Eld, 1620. Call number: STC 10690; displayed title page.
  • Charles I, king of England. His Majesties commission, and further declaration: concerning the reparation of Saint Paul’s Church. London: Robert Barker, 1633. Call number: STC 9256; displayed title page.
  • William Dugdale. The History of St. Pauls Cathedral in London. London: Thomas Warren, 1658. Call number: D2482; displayed plate p. 164 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Edward Benlowes. On St. Paul’s Cathedral. London: Dan. King, 1658. Call number: K487 Copy 1 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • FACSIMILE. Detail from Robert Morden and Philip Lea. This Actuale Survey of London, Westminster, & Southwark. London, ca. 1725. Call number: MAP L85c no. 18 and LUNA Digital Image.

Wall between cases 6 and 7

  • Wall Panel: Featuring a floorplan of St. Paul’s Cathedral and callouts describing the varied activities that took place there.

Royal Exchange (case 7)

Opened in 1569, the Royal Exchange was London’s bid to become a major player in international trade. It was an uneasy partnership of private enterprise and public good, involving the city, the monarchy, and an individual developer. Its architecture mimicked that of the Bourse in the Dutch city of Antwerp. Antwerp was Europe’s leading merchant center and England’s closest trading partner. The Exchange’s daily trading sessions took place in an open courtyard. Above were two levels of “pawn” shops where one could buy the luxury goods that international trade produced.

Sir Thomas Gresham was a member of the Mercers’ guild who represented the crown in trade with the Dutch. Gresham arranged for the city to purchase land for the Exchange, and he paid for the building himself. Gresham imported materials and workers from Holland, leading to friction with London’s bricklayers. After his death, the city, which had been led to believe that it would inherit control over the Exchange, was surprised to find that Gresham had left partial control to the Mercers’ Company in his will.

In an etching by Wenceslaus Hollar, the Royal Exchange teems with life. The image depicts the arcaded courtyard during the daily sessions that were opened by the ringing of a bell. Hollar has carefully included some distinctive foreign traders in the scene: a pair of Muscovites on the left, notable by their fur hats. Two turbans in the center distinguish Turkish traders. The encroachment of other activity is also suggested by the woman hawking wares in the foreground.

The Dutch were the largest immigrant community in London. The Dutch merchant community sponsored one of the pageants for James I’s coronation procession, and they set it in front of the Royal Exchange. Stephen Harrison designed the highly decorative arches that were constructed for the occasion and he published a showy book of engravings. The seventeen figures representing the Dutch provinces alongside the English heroes of Protestantism, including Edward VI, remind viewers that the Dutch and English were partners in both trade and religion.

Thomas Heywood’s play, If you know not me, you know no bodie, commented on current events. Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Thomas Gresham are characters in this play, with scenes set at Elizabeth’s visit to the Exchange in 1571. But the play does not indicate what John Stow had reported: for Elizabeth’s visit, Gresham offered the few shopkeepers in the Pawn a year’s free rent if they would light up all the empty shops around them. In granting Gresham the privilege to call the building the “Royal” Exchange, Elizabeth deprived both Gresham and the city of naming rights.

Georg von Schwartzstät was a German merchant who created a diary of his travels through Europe. He illustrated his commentary with a number of cut-out engravings, maps, and—in the section on England—excerpts from Camden’s Britannia. He admired the Royal Exchange as “the ornament of the city.” He also noted the “beauty of the women who sell their goods,” a reminder of the age-old practice of using feminine beauty as a sales pitch.

In fact, the tower of the Royal Exchange looms in the background of an etching of fashionable women’s dress. Part of Wenceslaus Hollar's series of etchings of "seasons," this one is a personification of winter. Hollar’s fine craftsmanship is apparent in the textures of dress and, especially, the fur. The inclusion of the Exchange as a winter setting suggests that its indoor shops could be a cold-weather destination.

Items included

Hollar's Long View (southwest corner)

Wenceslaus Hollar's 1647 view of London. Folger Digital Image 1795.

With this sweeping panorama, the whole of London, circa 1644, is displayed as if from a single observation point. That point of view was, in fact, the tower of St. Mary Overy on the south bank. The playhouses are also commanding presences on the Bankside. Unfortunately, the two playhouse labels were switched, probably in the printing shop. Another curiosity is the fulsome dedication to the Princess Mary on the far left. When the Long View was published in 1647, England was embroiled in a civil war, King Charles was being held prisoner, and London was almost a Parliamentary garrison. The city arms alone crown the cartouche. The royal arms have a much diminished presence at the lower left.

Items included

Playhouses (northwest corner and case 8)

London’s open air playhouses were the earliest purpose-built spaces for English drama. As audiences, people from all walks of life came together, however fleetingly. By its nature, drama is ephemeral. The vast majority of plays are lost, but those surviving in manuscript and print provide important information about the theater. The texts reveal the give and take between the audience and performers. They also reflect Shakespeare’s career, as player and playwright. Royal proclamations, business papers, and even the location of playhouses beyond the city limits shed light on the complex and shifting interests of city, court, theater professionals, and their London audiences.

Aristocratic patronage shielded actors against the legal actions that might otherwise be taken against them as “masterless men.” Because Shakespeare and his company could say they served the Lord Chamberlain—and then the king himself—they had some protection from laws against “rogues, vagabonds, idle and dissolute persons.” And lucky for them that they did—this proclamation by James I’s Privy Council provided a new solution for the social problem of dealing with homeless, poor, and itinerant people: send them away to foreign countries including “the New-Found Land and the East and West Indies.”

As a member of the King’s Men, Shakespeare acted as well as wrote for the Globe Theater. The ghost of Hamlet is one of the roles people like to imagine he played. This oral tradition is given credence by the fact that Shakespeare is listed among the players in the posthumously published folio of his plays. We can also find a trace of that acting career in the cast list of Ben Jonson’s first comedy, Every Man in his Humor. Shakespeare is listed as first among the principal comedians.

One of the plays Shakespeare wrote for the Globe was Pericles. Although not as well-known today as many of his other plays, Pericles was a popular play of its time, if measured by its multiple early editions. With frequent scene changes, from Antioch, to Tarsus, to Ephesus, and on to shipboard, Pericles took full advantage of the Globe’s bare stage. The title page uses both Shakespeare and the Globe on Bankside as selling points, showing the marketability of Shakespeare’s name. Pericles was probably not entirely by Shakespeare, however, and (for reasons not fully understood), it was not included in the First Folio.

Other playwrights active during this period were Thomas Middleton and Ben Jonson. Middleton's A Game at Chess was a flashpoint of political controversy. In 1625, after the proposed “Spanish Match” between Prince Charles and the Spanish Infanta failed, the play stoked anti-Spanish prejudice with a high concept production that featured a stage floor painted to resemble a chess board and characters dressed in white or black. The Black Knight was unmistakably a parody of the Spanish ambassador to England, the Condé de Gondomar. Tens of thousands of Londoners might have seen the play before it was stopped after an unprecedented nine consecutive days. But not all plays were as well-recieved by the audience. Title pages are one of the most important sources of evidence we have about the performance history of the drama, though we cannot always take their claims at face value. Sometimes, a title page can hint at a playwright’s dissatisfaction with the reception of a play. In presenting his text “as it was never acted, but most negligently play’d,” Ben Jonson appeals to the solitary reader as more likely to attend to the text than be distracted by theatrical business.

The great flourishing of London’s public playhouses was brief. These forms of entertainment always had their detractors. City government worried about crowd control. Moralists condemned the pretense at the heart of acting—the pretense of being someone else—not to mention the bawdiness and innuendo for which the drama was known. The monarchy objected to the display of “affairs of state” for all to discuss and judge. In the 1640s, a series of parliamentary acts began to close down these London gathering places.

Items included

Northwest Corner

  • Wall Panel: "Playhouses", featuring images illustrating the Globe, visitor impressions, and theater as empire.

Case 8

  • James I, King of England. A Proclamation for the due and speedy execution of the statute against rogues, vagabonds, idle and dissolute persons. London: Robert Barker, 1603. Call number: STC 8333 sheet 2 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Ben Jonson. The workes of Benjamin Jonson. London: William Stansby, 1616. Call number: STC 14751 Copy 1; displayed p. 72 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Thomas Middleton. A game at chesse as it was acted nine dayes to gether at the Globe on the banks side. London: 1625? Call number: STC 17882.2; displayed title page.
  • William Shakespeare. The late and much admired play, called Pericles, Prince of Tyre. London: William White and Thomas Creede, 1609. Call number: STC 22335 Copy 2; displayed title page and LUNA Digital Copy.
  • Ben Jonson. The new inne, or, The light heart. London: Thomas Harper, 1631. Call number: STC 14780; displayed title page.
  • Henry Marsh. The wits, or, Sport upon sport. London: for Henry Marsh, 1662. Call number: W3218; displayed title page and frontis.
  • England and Wales. An Order of the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament for suppressing of publique play-houses, dancing on ropes, and bear-baitings. London: for Edward Husband, 1647. Call number: E1709A and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Thomas Dekker. Receipt from Thomas Dekker to Philip Hynchlow. Manuscript, January 18, 1598/99. Call number: X.d.319; displayed verso and LUNA Digital Image.

Bartholomew Fair and Smithfield (case 9)

Smithfield (derived from “smooth field”) was the London livestock market that had been established in the twelfth century. North of the city walls, Smithfield was outside St. Bartholomew’s monastery, where an equally long standing and popular annual cloth fair, Bartholomew Fair, took place. Fair dates were set according to the calendar of saints’ feast days. Fairs gave people release from everyday routines and, sometimes, everyday regulations of behavior. Fairs were subject to the same concerns about petty crime and the spread of disease—especially plague—as other large public places. Smithfield was also a prominent site of exemplary punishment.

Pocket diaries, calendars, and almanacs proliferated with print. Richard Grafton's version contained “many proper tables,” according to the title page, as they were “newly set forth and allowed by the Queen’s Majestie’s injunctions.” If one purchased this Brief Treatise, one had at one’s fingertips information about how to calculate the beginning of law terms (Hilary, Michaelmas, etc.), the date of Easter, the distance between towns on highways, the names of parish churches, and the principal fairs in England. One of these was Bartholomew Fair, which brought many people to London every summer, whether as tradesmen or customers. This three-day annual cloth fair at the feast of St. Bartholomew (August 25th) had begun by the early twelfth century, shortly after the St. Bartholomew’s Priory was established. The fair quickly attracted puppet shows, wrestling matches, bull and bear baiting, and other activities and stalls. In 1615, a year after Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair was performed, the ground at Smithfield was paved over, leading to great concerns that the fair activities would be threatened. But the fair survived until well into the nineteenth century. The last Bartholomew Fair was held in 1855.

Ben Jonson’s comedic temperament was well suited to the festive misrule of Bartholomew Fair. More than thirty named characters in his play of that name represent the whole spectrum of London’s society. Some were naïve, like the fair’s namesake, Bartholomew Cokes; others had an air of superiority; still others were hypocrites. All end up at Ursula’s booth, where pigs are roasted and mischief is hatched. Jonson refers to the Hope Theatre as “dirty and stinking every whit” as a reminder to his audiences that they too are among the fairgoers.

But all was not festive at the fairgrounds. Smithfield was also a site of exemplary punishment. Anne Askew and Nicholas Shaxton were both punished for heretical opinions near the end of King Henry VIII’s reign. Askew moved in aristocratic circles; Shaxton had been the bishop of Salisbury. Both denied the real presence of Christ in the sacrament of the mass. Askew withstood harsh interrogations and even torture. She was perhaps only twenty five when she was burnt at the stake in Smithfield. Shaxton recanted his beliefs and then presided at her execution. But compare the title page of Askew’s Examination with Robert Crowley's account. In the former, Askew is depicted at peace and triumphant for having followed the dictates of her bible over those of the corrupt church. Crowley's scene, by contrast, is crowded with witnesses from all social classes, an image meant to shame the former bishop who presided at Askew’s execution for acting against his conscience. The same woodcut was reused to illustrate Askew’s martyrdom in John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

Religious controversies played out here as well. On Queen Elizabeth’s birthday in 1679, and continuing for the next several years, street theater and political campaigning met as an enactment of Whig bravado. An elaborate procession of people costumed as members of Catholic religious orders made its way through the streets of London in mockery of the pope. The effigy was dumped into a bonfire in front of a statue of the queen. One year, the bonfire was set at Smithfield, a place infused with memories of so many Protestant martyrs.

And large unregulated gatherings like Bartholomew Fair gave way to anxiety about contagion. This broadside would have been posted in public places to spread the news of the royal proclamation: Bartholomew Fair would not be held in 1625, for the “universall safety” of Charles I’s subjects. No one was to travel to London for the fair, and furthermore, no Londoners were to travel to any fairs outside the city that year. Such prohibitions give a glimpse of the wide network of tradesmen for whom Bartholomew Fair was an important destination.

Items included

  • Richard Grafton. Brief treatise conteyning many proper tables and rules. London: John Charlewood, 1576. Call number: STC 12156 Copy 1; displayed F6v-F7r.
  • Anne Askew. First examinacyon of Anne Askewe. Wesel: Dirik van der Straten, 1546. Call number: STC 848; displayed title page and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Robert Crowley. The confutation of thirteen articles. London: Steven Mierdman?, 1548. Call number: STC 6083; displayed plate after f. A8.
  • Ben Jonson. The workes of Benjamin Jonson. London: John Beale, John Dawson, Bernard Alsop and Thomas. Fawcet, 1640. Call number: STC 14754 Copy 4 pt. 1; displayed A5 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • FACSIMILE from Houghton Library, Harvard University. The solemn mock procession of the Pope, cardinals, Jesuits, fryers etc. through ye city of London. November 17, 1679. London: for Jonathan Wilkins, 1680. HOLLIS number: 004204682.
  • FACSIMILE. J. Bluck. Bartholomew Fair. London: R. Ackerman’s Repository of Arts, 1808. Call number: ART vol. b3 no.193 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Charles I, King of England. A proclamation prohibiting the keeping of Bartholomew Faire and Sturbridge Faire. London: John Lichfield and William Turner, 1625. Call number: STC 8793 and LUNA Digital Library.

Green Spaces (pilaster before case 10)

This page is the only completed sheet of Wenceslaus Hollar’s most ambitious mapping project. Had it been fully executed, the multiple sheets would have added up to a wall-sized map ten feet wide by five feet tall. Braun and Hogenberg had mapped the agricultural fields that lay to the west of the city in the latter half of the sixteenth century. By the time of Hollar's mapping project a century later, those open fields gave way to the contained green spaces of the developed west end: Covent Garden’s piazza, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and St. Giles in the Fields, a parish then still on the outskirts of the city. The project displays confidence in a growing market for luxury goods. But Hollar did not achieve his supersized scheme for the “Honour of this great Cittie.” Subscriptions may have been slow to come in, and then the Great Fire of 1666 devastated London.

Items included

Westward, Ho: The Development of Covent Garden (case 10)

The relatively open space between London and Westminster became an increasingly attractive draw for high-end residential development. Those who could afford it headed west to escape the crowded and fetid streets of the city for fresher air and water. Francis Russell, fourth earl of Bedford, had come into control of the old convent garden that had supplied produce to Westminster Abbey. With advice from architect Inigo Jones, the earl built an upscale town square to cater to London’s aristocratic classes and courtiers. It became known as Covent Garden. The theaters followed. So did all the religious and political tensions of the capital city.

In James Howell's updated version of John Stow’s Survey of London, Covent Garden is briefly introduced: its background as gardens for the convent at Westminster, the continental influence on Inigo Jones’s Italianate piazza, the arcaded walkways, and even the contested jurisdiction over its small church, one of the first Protestant churches built in London. Within the boundaries of the parish of St. Martin in the Fields, St. Paul’s church had been funded by the earl of Bedford, who fought against the diocese for the right to appoint a nonconformist minister.

Wenceslaus Hollar's engraving of the piazza in Covent Garden lacks its famous covered produce market. That is because commerce was actively discouraged. Inigo Jones’s piazza was a large open space intended for the enjoyment of its leisured upper class residents. The columned church portico and the arcades visible to the far right hint at his plan to surround the piazza with protected, paved walkways. Such innovations attracted aristocrats like Sir Edmund Verney, the first of the “Persons of the greatest Distinction” to sign a lease.

Despite the beauty of such architecture, not everyone was a fan of the “urban sprawl” filling up much of the remaining open space around London. Richard Brome’s play, The Weeding of Covent Garden, was probably first produced at Blackfriars just as ground was breaking on the real estate development in the early 1630s. It satirizes the growth of capitalism as reflected in such development and land speculation. The play’s character Rookbill, an architect, specifically targets architect Inigo Jones and his grand designs, but the play also capitalizes on the buzz about this innovative residential square.

The newer suburbs like Covent Garden were not immune from the “general contagion” of the plague. As in the city proper, every parish in the surrounding liberties and the city of Westminster had to establish watchmen, mark the houses of the sick, and prevent day-time burials in a coordinated effort against an outbreak of the plague. Although many had moved west to escape them, the filth and disease of the city followed.

Because it was outside the city proper, the west end became another popular place for public theaters. One of these, the Cockpit Theater was converted from a cock-fighting arena. Reopening in 1617 after a devastating fire that gave it another name, the Phoenix, this was the first theater in London’s west end. When theaters reopened after the Restoration, Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels, sent an official demand to the actors that the ticket prices be lowered (to the rates “as were formerly taken at the Black-fryers”) and a stern reminder that he still had the authority to censor “prophanes and Ribaldry” in the theater.

The playwright Sir William D’Avenant ensured a measure of continuity in English theatrical traditions. But at the Cockpit, he also introduced new conventions in scenic design and, especially, music. With the tacit permission of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate, and before the London theaters officially reopened, D’Avenant presented an operatic take on the favorite English theme of Spanish cruelty. The inclusion in this play of an English army of liberation for the enslaved Peruvians had to be explained in a note as a prophetic “vision,” or poetic license.

The upscale suburbs were not immune to politics, either. A letter from John Ferrers, written during the tense years of the “Exclusion Crisis,” when parliament voted to exclude the future King James II from the royal succession because he was a Catholic, describes several bonfires that raged in the city one night. As might be expected in an aristocratic neighborhood, an anti-parliamentary fire was set in Covent Garden. But not all aristocrats supported the king. The next year, Lord William Russell, grandson of the earl who built Covent Garden, was implicated in an anti-royalist plot, and executed.

Items included

  • Richard Brome. Five new plays. London: Andrew Crook and Henry Brome, 1659. Call number: B4872 Copy 2; displayed title page for “The Weeding of Covent Garden”.
  • James Howell. Londinopolis. London: John Streater, 1657. Call number: H3091; displayed p. 350 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Orders formerly conceived and agreed to be published…concerning the infection of the plague. London: Richard Cotes, 1646. Call number: O401; displayed title page.
  • Henry Herbert. Letter signed from Henry Herbert, London, to Mr. Michaell Mohan. Manuscript, October 13, 1660. Call number: X.c.96 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • William D’Avenant. The cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru. London: Henry Herringman, 1658. Call number: D321; displayed title page.
  • FACSIMILE from The British Museum. Wenceslaus Hollar. Piazza in Covent Garden. London, 1645–50. Museum number: G,6.10.
  • John Ferrers. Letter from John Ferrers, Preston, to Thomas Parker. Manuscript, April 15, 1682. Call number: X.c.118 and LUNA Digital Image.

Civil War (wall between cases 10 and 11)

The years of civil war saw an outpouring of petitions for liberties cast in religious, political, or economic terms—or as a fiery mixture of them all. This printed petition may have been passed out in the streets or posted in prominent places. It is addressed to both “members of Parliament and rich men of the city.” It dismisses the controversies over church governance as a distraction, and levels some highly specific charges of political corruption. It is not precisely clear who is making this impassioned plea for justice for the underclass, but the broadside includes some key terms used by John Lilburne and others known as Levellers.

Items included

  • The mournfull Cryes of many thousand Poore Tradesmen, who are ready to famish through decay of Trade. London, 1648. Call number: 265657 (flat) and LUNA Digital Image.

Church Against Church (case 11)

When Parliament met in 1640, it read a petition signed by 15,000 Londoners to abolish the Church of England’s hierarchy, “Root and Branch.” Religious divisions were among the causes of civil war and even regicide. London was the epicenter of religious controversies, not only as the scene of petitions and protests, but as the hub of reports and proposals sent in from across the country, as well as from the religious exiles in Rotterdam, New England, and Bermuda. The press became a new kind of virtual public gathering place. The very idea that public opinion mattered came about through religious and political controversies.

Parliament summoned a group of clerics to meet at Westminster Abbey in 1643 and charged them with reforming the state church. This visual commentary on their work is symmetrical, seemingly to reflect an even-handed view. But if the man on the right is destroying the church, is the man on the left repairing it or merely picking it apart more deliberately? Adding to the ambiguity, the verses can be read either across the confessional divides or down each side, to different effect.

It was at this time, in 1643, that Parliament authorized a new round of iconoclasm (the destruction of idols and images), and the Cheapside Cross was pulled down, as were other religious monuments throughout England. Written before the destruction of the cross, two pamphlets turn to satire to present their contrasting opinions on the act to London’s readers. They were printed for two different publishers and served different interests, but the same woodcut serves both cases, pro and con.

Thomas Edwards supported the Presbyterian reforms, which distributed power to individual congregations, among other things. He vilified those who would go further as spreading a gangrene through society. Edwards collected stories and reports from a network of informants. The reliability of Edwards’ reports is not necessarily clear, though, opening the question of how far one can trust the spin of a strong polemicist. Some of his most bitter venom was reserved for John Goodwin, pastor of St. Stephen’s Coleman Street and a leading religious Independent.

Other religious points of view came into play as well. The Quakers valued an inner light over Scriptural revelation, a silent contemplation over set prayers, and a conscientious refusal to take oaths or pay tithes. Quakers were the most heavily persecuted of the midcentury sects, and London’s prisons teemed with Quakers. Shown closed, a personal collection of ninety pamphlets witnesses the importance of print to the Quakers’ mission. Most of the key Quaker authors are included. William Antony probably compiled the collection. He signed many of the title pages, and his initials are stamped on the cover.

Protestant sectarians identified strongly with biblical Jews. For some, the conversion of the Jews would be another sign of the return of Christ to rule on earth. In December 1655, Oliver Cromwell opened conversations about readmitting Jews to England as a first step in this process. He also allowed Jews to worship privately in London’s Creechurch Lane. But few English were willing to tolerate the open expressions of Jewish religion in their midst. They were more comfortable, like the Quaker Isaac Penington, trying to persuade Jews to convert.

These rapid changes in religious and political policies were interpreted by some as signs of the millennium in which Christ would return to rule on earth. Anna Trapnel is one of the better known women visionaries who took on the role of an Old Testament prophet. A pamphlet publicizes the sensational eleven day prophetic trance that she fell into when she accompanied the radical Welsh cleric Vavasor Powell to his examination for treason at Whitehall Palace in 1653.

Items included

  • The Ambiguous Confessor. Engraving. London?, ca. 1650. Call number: 249539 ART (size M) and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Thomas Edwards. The third part of Gangræna. London: for Ralph Smith, 1646. Call number: E237 Bd.w. E228; displayed Section 3 p. 113 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Francis Howgill. Some of the misteries of Gods kingdome declared. London: for Thomas Simmons, 1658. Collected and bound together with numerous Quaker pamphlets. Call number: H3179; displayed closed and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Jasper Crosse. The dolefull lamentation of Cheap-side Crosse. London: F.C. and T.B., 1641. Call number: D1837; displayed title page.
  • Samuel Loveday. An answer to the lamentation of Cheap-side Crosse. London: for T.A., 1642. Call number: 150- 407q; displayed title page.
  • Anna Trapnel. The Cry of a Stone. London, 1654. Call number: 157- 082q; displayed title page.
  • Isaac Penington. Some considerations propounded to the Jewes. London, 1660. Call number: P1192; displayed title page.

Building Regulations (pilaster after case 11)

Issued by Charles II shortly after the Restoration, this proclamation begins with a reminder that “Orders and proclamations heretofore published by his late Royal Father, his grandfather and in the time of Queen Elizabeth ... have been not at all or very little observed.” The new king cites concern for the health and safety of the populace. He prohibits the building of any new structures within two miles of the city gates, except on the foundations of older buildings. New buildings must also be constructed of brick and stone rather than timber to help minimize the threat of fire.

These concerns were sadly realized a few years later with the devastating plague year of 1665 and the Great Fire in 1666.

Items included

  • Charles II, King of England. A proclamation concerning building, in, and about London and Westminster. London: John Bill and Christopher Barker, 1661. Call number: C3250 and LUNA Digital Image.

Fire and Plague (case 12)

Two events decimated London shortly after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. An especially ravaging plague struck in 1665, and then a “Great Fire” raged for several days in September 1666. Accidently set off in Pudding Lane, the fire was not contained until it had destroyed the greater part of London within the walls. As teenage eyewitness Samuel Wiseman wrote: “The dreadful Blaze appearing unto some, / T’assimilate th’ approaching Day of Doome, / When all the World consum’d with Fire shall be, / And Time gives place unto Eternity.” In other words, it felt like the end of the world.

Each December, the city of London published a singlesheet summary of all the christenings and burials that had taken place during the past year. These bills were arranged by parish, and with them, one can track the spread of diseases, such as plague, throughout the city and the suburbs. During the devastating plague year of 1665, there were 97,306 burials recorded, of which 68,596 were attributed to plague.

The year after the devastating plague of 1665, the Great Fire raged through the city. Samuel Wiseman was just seventeen when he lived through it—what he called the “dreadfull fire” of 1666. His eyewitness description of the fire’s progress in verse was published the following year. This manuscript copy was made by his mother, Barbara, in 1681. The poem concludes with the statistics that London’s Surveyors reported: “273 Acres waste; Houses Burnt 130,200; Of Parishes and churches 89; 11 Parishes Remaining.”

Less than one month after the Great Fire, the dean of St. Paul’s preached a sermon before Charles II. Sancroft references the Old Testament prophet Isaiah in urging Londoners to take to heart the bitter lessons of God’s Righteousness. A printed note in a margin specifies that the king had declared “that God hath laid this heavy Judgment upon us all, as an Evidence of his Displeasure for our Sins in general.” But Sancroft does not dwell on human sinfulness as much as he seeks to understand God’s inscrutable ways.

A home insurance industry developed in London only after the Great Fire. While the City debated its role in fire insurance and one citizen proposed a joint stock company, Nicholas Barbon set up a business on his own. When he took partners, he reorganized as the Fire Office. The rates were calculated per £1 of rent. Seven years was the minimum period of coverage, and fixed payments were made for fixed annual premiums. Note that the rates for insuring timber buildings are twice those of brick structures.

Items included

  • London’s Dreadful Visitation: or a collection of all the Bills of Mortality for this present year. London: Edward Cotes, 1665. Call number: L2926.2; displayed recto of folded leaf following sig. O4 with title page shown in facsimile.
  • Penelope Patrick. Receipt book of Penelope Jephson. Manuscript, 1671 and 1674/75. Call number: V.a.396; displayed fol. 12v13r and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Samuel Wiseman. On the dreadfull fire of London the 2 of Sep 1665 [i.e. 1666]. Manuscript, 1681. Call number: X.d.423; displayed leaf 3r and LUNA Digital Image.
  • William Sancroft. Lex ignea, or the school of righteousness. London: Timothy Garthwait, 1666. Call number: 134- 119q; displayed title page.
  • Fire Office (London, England). A Table of the Insurance Office at the Back-side of the Royal Exchange. London: Thomas Milbourne, 1682. Call number: 219411; displayed broadsheet.

A City Burned (pilaster after case 12)

Perhaps no one was in a better position to expertly depict the extent of the Great Fire’s damage than Wenceslaus Hollar. Within days of the fire, Hollar was at work on a new map. The king wrote to the Lord Mayor of London and the aldermen, requesting that they assist Hollar in any way possible. This view responds to the by-then conventional outline of the city, and it continues to include the outlines of individual buildings in the surrounding areas outside the perimeter of the fire. But within the perimeter of destruction, Hollar depicts the ground plan only. This contributes all the more to the visual impact of the devastation.

Items included

  • Wenceslaus Hollar. A Generall Map of the Whole Citty . . . by which may bee computed the proportion which is burnt. London, 1666. Call number: Art Vol. d71 no.13 and LUNA Digital Image.

Principles and Practices of Religious Toleration

In his Letter Concerning Toleration, John Locke writes: "Why are assemblies less sufferable in a church than in a theatre or market?" Another way of asking John Locke’s question is: why must everyone worship in the state church? Well over a century had passed since King Henry VIII had legislated a change in the state religion from Catholic to Protestant. Londoners had witnessed many cycles of persecution, with those in power dictating the religious orthodoxy of the day. King Charles II offered some limited rights for religious nonconformists in 1672. That Declaration of Indulgence was quickly withdrawn, but it opened a way for nonconformists to worship more publicly. John Locke began to argue for a separation of civil and religious authorities.

John Locke's Letter Concerning Toleration famously argued that a church was a voluntary society and that the state had no business coercing anyone’s beliefs. Locke puzzled over the foundations of good government and the proper treatment of religious differences within society. When he followed the earl of Shaftesbury into exile in Holland, he composed his argument, writing the letter in Latin, the language of international scholarship. It was printed in English after he returned for the reign of William and Mary. Despite this call for religious freedoms, Locke was still a product of his time: he excluded Catholics and atheists from toleration.

Before taking up the throne in 1660, Charles II wrote from abroad of his intention to respect the “liberty of the tender consciences” of his subjects. In fact, a blistering series of punishments against religious nonconformists ensued. Charles returned to the theme of conscience with a Declaration in 1672. Writing that the “sad Experience of Twelve Years” had taught the failure of enforced belief, he proposed the suspension of penal laws against nonconformity and the licensing of church meeting places for Protestant sectarians.

Parliament forced King Charles to withdraw his Declaration of Indulgence the year after he issued it. Nonconformist congregations risked renewed surveillance. Those ministers who were arrested were typically tried for seditious libel. This list of meeting houses and locations was compiled during the constitutional crisis near the end of Charles’s reign. It is meant as an expose of religious dissenters for prosecution. The range of meeting places is wide, from guild halls to coffee shops and inns, alleys and markets. Without legal protection, the nonconformist congregations nevertheless permeated the cityscape.

Margaret Baxter once accompanied her husband, Richard, to prison for his nonconformity. Margaret Baxter’s experiments with church building were even more unconventional. As described in this memoir, written by her husband after her death, Margaret rented upstairs rooms at the St. James Market for Baxter to preach in. When the building was found to be unsound, she decided to build a meeting house. She was one of the first to build new places for Protestant nonconformist worship in seventeenth century London. A parish map of St. James in Piccadilly shows where Richard Baxter preached in the parish market. Where others saw a newly fashionable neighborhood, in the mode of Covent Garden, Baxter saw only people living “like Americans [i.e.Amerindians], [who] have heard no Sermon of many years.” Baxter refused any religious identity other than “mere Christian,” but that did not save him from religious persecution.

Items included

  • John Locke. A letter concerning toleration: humbly submitted, &c. London, 1689. Call number L2747 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Charles II, King of England. His Majesties declaration to all his loving subjects. London, 1672. Call number: 138- 693f; displayed title page.
  • LOAN courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. A list of the conventicles or unlawful meetings within the city of London. London: Nat. Thompson, 1683. Huntington Call number: 135302.
  • Richard Baxter. A Breviate of the Life of Margaret, the daughter of Francis Charlton, of Apply in Shropshire, Esq; and wife of Richard Baxter. London: for B. Simmons, 1681. Call number: B1194 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • John Stow. A survey of the cities of London and Westminster: containing the original, antiquity, increase, modern estate and government of those cities. London: for A. Churchill, J. Knapton, R. Knaplock, J. Walthoe, E. Horne, [and 5 others in London], 1720. Call number: 158628 v.2; displayed engraved map after p.80 of part 2: "The Parish of St. James's Westminster" and LUNA Digital Image.

Seat of Empire

Title page of A new systeme of geography, 1694. Folger Digital Image 7501.

By the end of the seventeenth century, wars with the Dutch had established England’s naval supremacy. London’s position as the country’s engine of growth and industry was strengthened. New trading partners and routes connected London with the known world. New systems of banking and financing were in place. With products, people, and ideas from around the world circulating in new places and reshaping communal outlooks, Londoners found themselves at the center of an emerging empire.

To support England’s rising naval power in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, people like Samuel Pepys recognized the need for a British industry in maps, sea charts, compasses, and other instruments. Several established publishers moved into the map trade. The London clockmaker, John Seller, was appointed Charles II’s royal hydrographer in 1671. With his pocket-sized volumes, Seller also aimed to produce geographical works for a general public, eager for information on “any Empire, Kingdom, Principality, or Government in the whole World.”

A naval power would need a navy, and how would England find a ready supply of loyal subjects? Twenty years’ worth of “Children put forth Apprentices to the Practice of Navigation” from Christ’s Hospital are listed in this pamphlet. Built at the former Greyfriars’ monastery, Christ’s Hospital had been given to the City of London to continue the charitable goals of the evicted Franciscans. Eventually, Charles II gave it a new charter and a new mission as a mathematical school, to train orphans and poor children for the British navy. The account diplomatically reminds the new monarchs, William and Mary, of the ways this charity school benefits the nation.

As the British empire expanded, collections from around the world made their way back to British shores. The John Tradescants, father and son, achieved fame as horticulturalists through collecting trips on the European continent and to Virginia. The father established gardens in Lambeth, on the south bank of the Thames. People could pay a fee to visit rarities from around the world at “Tradescant’s Ark.” The son produced this catalogue of the curiosities in the collection. Eventually, the collection formed the nucleus of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.

An early novel, Aphra Behn's Oroonoko probes the role of race and slavery in empire building for a reading public back home. Behn was a royalist propagandist and the first professional English woman playwright. Late in her career, Behn turned to prose. Like an increasing number of Londoners, Behn herself had traveled abroad. Oroonoko is based in part on her brief experience as a young woman in the English colony at Surinam. Her sensational story of an African prince enslaved by the English also blurs boundaries between exotica and ethnography.

At home in London, news and events were discussed at coffee houses. The first London coffee house opened in 1652 near the Royal Exchange; by 1700, there were more than 2,000. The new venue offered a gathering place where classes could intermingle to discuss news in civil fashion. The scene pictured here seems tame enough at first glance, but notice the fight breaking out among the customers. The scene also raises the question of the role of women and servants in this supposedly democratizing world. Is the woman fair game for bawdy innuendo or a civilizing presence?

Items included

  • John Seller. A new systeme of geography, designed in a most plain and easie method, for the better understanding of that science. London, 1694. Call number: 150- 437q; displayed plate no.6, after p.112 and hand-colored engraved title page and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Christ’s Hospital, London, England. The present state and list of the children of His late Majesty King Charles II, his new royal foundation in Christ’s Hospital. London, 1690. Call number: 154- 358f and LUNA Digital Image.
  • John Tradescant. Musaeum Tradescantianum, or, A collection of rarities : preserved at South-Lambeth neer London. London: John Grismond, 1656. Call number: 154- 794q and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Aphra Behn. Oroonoko: or, the royal slave. London: for Will. Canning, 1688. Call number: B1749 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Edward Ward. Vulgus Britannicus: or the British Hudibras. London: for Sam. Briscoe, 1710. Call number: PR3757.W8V8 Cage copy 1 and LUNA Digital Image.

London ca. 1700

“Divers churches, the stately Guildhall, many Halls of Companies, and other Publicke Edifices; all infinitely more Uniform, more Solid, and more Magnificent than before: So that no City in Europe (nay, scarce in the World) can stand comparison with it.”
—John Strype, Survey of London, 1720

The triumphant rebuilding of London in the last quarter of the seventeenth century is displayed in the scale and composition of this map, first published in 1690. The outline of the city is familiar. But the reach of the organic whole that is coming to be greater London has extended: in the west to Arlington House (the precursor of Buckingham Palace), in the north to Sadler’s Wells and St. Pancras, in the east to Mile End Road and Stepney (not far from the 2012 Olympic Park). The many informational tables function as an extensive set of “keys” by which one can locate buildings. Beyond that, they are a statement of civic pride and strength.

London had risen from the ashes of the Great Fire and was on its path to modernity.

Items included

  • Robert Morden and Philip Lea. This Actuale Survey of London, Westminster, & Southwark. London, ca. 1725. Call number: MAP L85c no. 18 and LUNA Digital Image.