Romantic London: new digital project

Romantic London is a research project by Dr Matthew Sangster (Birmingham) exploring life and culture in London around the turn of the nineteenth century using Richard Horwood’s pioneering ‘PLAN of the Cities of LONDON and WESTMINSTER the Borough of SOUTHWARK, and PARTS adjoining Shewing every HOUSE’ (published between 1792 and 1799). It considers the ways in which the writers and works later grouped under the umbrella of Romanticism interacted with London’s communities and institutions while also examining a wide range of alternative approaches to representing and organising urban existence.

The site is based around a digital version of Horwood’s Plan laid over and georeferenced to modern maps of the city; this allows for detailed examinations and comparisons. As well as considering the Plan and its creator, the site is using Horwood’s work as a means of thinking about the ways in which writers, publishers and artists sought to communicate insights into London’s general character and particularities. By using Horwood’s Plan as a base map and adding other kinds of information to it using annotated markers, the site reflects upon the social, geographical and aesthetic assumptions made in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century attempts to make sense and art of the burgeoning metropolis.

Texts brought into conversation with Horwood’s Plan on the site at present include:
•Entries from the dual-language New Guide for Foreigners prepared around 1790 and sold by the printseller S.W. Fores from his shop opposite the Paris Diligence office.
•Descriptions and images from Modern London, an 1804 publication put together by the radical publisher Richard Phillips, which included two sets of plates of the city, one showing major landmarks, the other showing itinerant traders hawking their wares in more out-of-the-way locations.
•The lavish aquatints from Rudolf Ackermann’s Microcosm of London (1808-10), engraved from collaborations between the artist and architectural draftsman Auguste Charles Pugin and the uproarious caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson.
•The text of the 1788 edition of Harris’s List of Covent-Garden Ladies, a disreputable register of London prostitutes.

The site at present is a work in progress; there are a great number of additions still to be made. You can follow the changes and developments on the site’s blog.

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