The history of London, from its foundation by the Romans, to the present time. Containing a faithful relation of the publick transactions of the citizens; accounts of the several parishes; parallels between London and other great cities; its governments, civil, ecclesiastical and military; commerce, state of learning, charitable foundations, &c. With the several accounts of Westminster, Middlesex, Southwark, and other parts within the Bill of Mortality. In nine books. The whole illustrated with a variety of fine cuts. With a compleat index.
This is a stately folio volume covering the history of London “from its foundation by the Romans, to the present time” illustrated with twenty five splendid plates. To this volume Peter Collinson (1694-1768), botanist and London purchasing agent for the Library Company, added manuscript notes and engravings from other sources over a period of time ranging (judging from those notes that are dated) from the mid-1750s almost up to his death. The most extensive annotations are on blank leaves inserted at the front of the book. At the head of one of these leaves he wrote: “Peter Collinson, F.R.S., S.A.S., [etc.] observes more remarkable publick edifices, buildings & inlargements has happened in his memory from the year 1702 (I was then eight years old) to the year 1759 then in any era of that number of years before.” At the head of another leaf he wrote, “Stow the indefatigable antiquary [whose 1598 Survey of London is the precursor to Maitland’s History] remarks how much the ground has been raised in Leaden Hall Street. I have taken notice of the same in laying the foundation of St. Katharine Coleman [when it was rebuilt in 1741] in Fenchurch Street was 17 feet before they came to the virgin soil.” These were the two most common themes of Collinson’s notes: the inconceivable antiquity of London and its transformation in his lifetime.
Other notes are more personal, such as his account of the horrifying experiences of his grandmother Hall during the great plague of 1665 and the great fire of 1666. This is supplemented by his insertion of a large folding plate from the mid-18th century showing a plan of London in Queen Elizabeth’s day contrasted with a view of the ruins of the city after the fire of 1666.
Collinson took a great interest as well in London’s smaller fires, inserting detailed printed maps of the destruction caused by fires in his neighborhood in 1748 and 1765. In 1765 fire struck close to Collinson’s house in Gracechurch Street, and he was able to make several corrections to this engraved plan of the damaged properties. Still other notes are updates, corrections, or supplements to Maitland’s text, based on personal knowledge or other published sources. An example is the long note next to the illustration of the ancient Bishops Gate, another landmark in his neighborhood, giving much additional detail, and concluding with a final “pulled down anno 1760.” Collinson clearly did not think Maitland had the last word on the city’s history. He also added a number of engravings from other books, including a nicely colored copy of a foldout “General View of the City of London” (London: John Bowles, 1764?) and another view of London that he noted as “Taken from James Howel’s History of London 1697.” These inserted views call attention to the fact that most of the illustrations originally included in the book are views of single buildings, and there is no overall view of the city in its then-current state.
The Preface admits the book’s most glaring defect, the lack of an up-to-date map. Collinson corrected that by inserting a 1762 “New and Accurate Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster, including the New Roads & New Buildings.”
~ from The Annual Report of the Library Company of Philadelphia for the year 2012 (The Library Company of Philadelphia: Philadelphia, 2013) http://www.librarycompany.org/about/annualreports/AR2012_web.pdf
Title: The history of London, from its foundation by the Romans, to the present time. :Containing a faithful relation of the publick transactions of the citizens; accounts of the several parishes; parallels between London and other great cities; its governments, civil, ecclesiastical and military; commerce, state of learning, charitable foundations, &c. With the several accounts of Westminster, Middlesex, Southwark, and other parts within the Bill of Mortality. In nine books. The whole illustrated with a variety of fine cuts. With a compleat index.
Author: Maitland, William, 1693?-1757.
Call number: *U Eng Maitland 12049.F
(Philadelphia, The Library Company of Philadelphia)
Publisher: The Library Company of Philadelphia
Primary language: English.
Place: London [England]: : Printed by Samuel Richardson, in Salisbury-Court near Fleetstreet., MDCCXXXIX.