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Open City: London, 1500-1700
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Green Spaces

London, from Civitates Orbis Terrarum. Hand-colored engraving, 1574.

Wenceslaus Hollar. Bird’s-eye plan of the west central district of London. London, ca. 1660

To the right, above, is the only completed sheet of Wenceslaus Hollar’s most ambitious mapping project. Had it been fully executed, the multiple sheets would have added up to a wall-sized map ten feet wide by five feet tall. Braun and Hogenberg had mapped the agricultural fields that lay to the west of the city in the latter half of the sixteenth century  (see the map to the left, above). By the time of Hollar's mapping project a century later, those open fields gave way to the contained green spaces of the developed west end: Covent Garden’s piazza, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and St. Giles in the Fields, a parish then still on the outskirts of the city. The project displays confidence in a growing market for luxury goods. But Hollar did not achieve his supersized scheme for the “Honour of this great Cittie.” Subscriptions may have been slow to come in, and then the Great Fire of 1666 devastated London.

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