I was interested to find 2 copper printing plates from around 1559 displayed in the Museum of London which show one of the earliest and most detailed maps of London and parts of Middlesex. No printed version of this map has survived. The plates show archers in Finsbury Fields and Water Carriers with their horses in the Thames (many people at that time did not have piped water so had to buy or collect buckets of water to take home).
Only 3 plates from an original set of 15 have been discovered (my rather blurry photo shows part of one of the plates). The two in the Museum of London cover the Eastern side of the city from Shoreditch in the north to London Bridge in the South. A third plate is in the Dessau Art Gallery in Germany and shows the area around St Paul’s Cathedral.
I’ve discovered that the online collection at the British Library is an excellent place to view old maps of London and Middlesex. This collection has copies of some of the world’s finest early maps such as Matthew Paris’s Map of Great Britain, The Anglo-Saxon Mappa Mundi and Crace Maps of London.
If you want to buy your own print one of the best places to get it may be Stanfords – one of the oldest map retailers in the world – established 1853. Proprietor Edward Stanford commissioned the engraving of a series of large library maps of the continents and approved a team of surveyors to construct the first accurate map of London and Middlesex which was published in 1862 and was hailed by The Royal Geographic Society as “the most perfect map of London that has ever been issued”.
Museum of London,
150 London Wall,
96 Euston Road
12-14 Long Acre