London in vintage maps

An exhibition of rare and antique maps charts the changing appearance and socio-political climate of London, from the original tube plan to where the city’s rich-list live.

The British Library’s map exhibition two years ago was busy from start to finish, and not just with geography teachers. Who knew that old maps would become so cool? Perhaps something to do with us missing them in the advent of online maps – usually a cause of frustration, and certainly not objects of beauty.

This summer Daniel Crouch Rare Books is holding another map exhibition, specifically rare and antique maps of the capital. Mapping London is a show of almost 50 original maps ranging from as far back as 1572 to the present day.

The first ever London Underground map and Harry Beck’s iconic design from 1933 are both part of the collection. Artist Simon Patterson, whose ‘Great Bear’ uses Beck’s original design, has reimagined the tube plan again in a new artwork.

There are numerous beautifully hand-drawn plans of the changing face of London as it was in every century since the 16th, when cows are shown grazing in the fields, Southwark was a newly built village on the South Bank with theatres and bear-baiting pits, and you could walk from one end of the city to the other in under an hour (and the horse-and-carts moved faster than black cabs do today). Several works also map out socio-political changes in the capital, portraying concentrations of poverty, wealth, immigration and varying ethnicities.

All pieces are original and for sale, starting from £100. The most valuable in the show is expected to be Greenwood’s Map of London from 1827 (pictured), which will be on sale for £16,000. If your budget doesn’t stretch that far then Liberty, Waterstones and the National Gallery all do some more affordable versions of vintage tube and London street maps, from £3, in wrapping paper.

‘Mapping London’ by Daniel Crouch Rare Books runs during Masterpiece London, 27 June – 3 July. All items in the exhibition are on sale priced £100-£16,000. Find them at Stand B30 at Masterpiece London 2013, The Royal Hospital Chelsea, London SW3 (

article on <>