London: A History in Maps promises to reveal the capital’s inside story

London: A History in Maps front cover

London: A History in Maps, published today, examines how the capital has transformed itself from a small, walled town, into one of the world’s most dynamic cities over the last 2000 years. Telling the story through a fantastic series of maps, many from the British Library’s collections and seen here for the first time, it charts the development of the capital from the first known image on a coin in 297 AD, right up to the present day and the lasting legacy the Olympic games will have on the cultural and geographical make-up of the city.

Written by the British Library’s Head of Cartographic & Topographic Materials, Peter Barber OBE, and containing over 400 colour illustrations, these maps, along with paintings, illustrations, engravings and coins, promise to reveal the inside story of London and Londoners through the social, economic, cultural and political history of the city.

Highlights include:

  • Maps showing German plans for invasion in 1940 mapping the quickest routes to the heart of the capital
  • All the most important early detailed maps of London
  • 17th century street guides which highlight the early origins of a London A-Z long before its twentieth century inception
  • A drawing of the Wren steeple at St Bride’s which is thought to have inspired the traditional tiered wedding cake
  • Charles Booth’s original colour-coded poverty maps showing how wealth was distributed across the city
  • Maps developed for unemployed Londoners in the 1980s
  • Modern-day maps showing artists’ impressions of the impact of regeneration

Published in conjunction with the Council of the London Topographical Society (LTS), this book also tells the history of the maps and the lives of the men and women who made them. Laurence Worms (LTS Council member) offers notes on engravers which give an insight into the lives of map-makers such as Joseph Bye and Benjamin Smith, who were convicted of forgery (a not unheard-of sideline for map-makers in the 19th century) and sentenced to death.

Author Peter Barber OBE, curator of two of the Library’s most popular exhibitions, London: A Life in Maps (2006-7) and Magnificent Maps (2010) says:

“The British Library has one of the world’s finest collections of maps, which are used by researchers not simply as geographical records of time and place, but as a way of seeing how people at the time viewed their world. Each of the maps in this book express the mentality of the age they were made, and the way depiction of space was adapted to reflect the concerns, assumptions, ambitions and prejudices of Londoners at the time of their creation. As London continues to grow and develop, maps will play a key role in advancing future generations’ understanding of what Londoners felt was important about the London of 2012.”

London: A History in Maps is available from Tuesday 4 September 2012.


Notes to Editors:

London: A History in Maps is published by the British Library on Tuesday 4 September 2012, price £30 / ISBN 9780712358798/ 232 x 311 mm/hardback/ 400 pages

The book is available from the British Library Shop (tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7735 / e-mail: bl-shop@bl.uk) and online at www.bl.uk/shop

For more information contact:


The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.  



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