Well here’s something we didn’t know: the British Museum has an extensive collection of artwork relating to the topology of London. An excellent new book, compiled by museum cataloguer Anna Maude, presents over 70 views of the capital from that collection.
Only a handful of these images — Hogarth’s Gin Lane, for example — will be familiar to most readers. The rest offer completely fresh views of familiar places. Particularly striking are James Pollard’s detailed drawing of a cattle-jammed Smithfield, William Daniell’s aerial etching of Wapping docks, and John Harris’ view of the tracks out of Euston (all included in the image gallery above).
Best of all is Thomas Shotter’s lithograph of Piccadilly, whose many details include Georgian sewer works, studies of the various classes and costumes using the street and — the eye is slow to discover — a pair of hot air balloons drifting over the capital, a century before the first aeroplanes.
Excellent though the content is, the small size of the volume means it can serve only as a taster for these works. We hope — no, we plead — that the museum will mount an exhibition of these treasures as soon as possible.
The British Museum’s London: A View From The Streets is out now, £9.99.
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