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TLS Review: Surveying London ... THE LONDON ENCYCLOPAEDIA

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  • Michael Robinson
    Surveying London: Why the city, in all its oddity and variety, deserves the full encyclopedic treatment Rosemary Ashton Ben Weinreb, Christopher Hibbert, Julia
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 14, 2008
      Surveying London: Why the city, in all its oddity and variety,
      deserves the full encyclopedic treatment
      Rosemary Ashton

      Ben Weinreb, Christopher Hibbert, Julia Keay and John Keay, editors
      THE LONDON ENCYCLOPAEDIA
      Completely revised third edition
      1,101pp. Pan Macmillan. £50 (US $99.50).
      978 1 4050 4924 5

      Why compile an encyclopaedia of London? The man whose idea it was, Ben
      Weinreb, wrote in the introduction to the first edition of this work,
      in 1983, that he looked back to John Stow's famous Survey of London,
      published in 1598 to show both "what London hath been of ancient time"
      and "what it is now", to be both history and guidebook. In the
      nineteenth century, London not only grew physically into the world
      city we know today; it also saw itself chronicled as never before,
      with the introduction of population censuses, ordnance surveys, the
      social journalism of Henry Mayhew and the poverty maps of Charles
      Booth, not to mention the works of literary observers such as Carlyle
      and Dickens. Peter Cunningham, a civil servant in the Audit Office,
      wrote his celebrated Handbook of London in 1849, the first historical
      survey in alphabetical form. This became the model for Weinreb and his
      collaborator Christopher Hibbert. They agreed with Cunningham that
      London was a large enough and various enough subject to warrant the
      full encyclopedic treatment. ... Pepys – vying with Dickens for the
      status of most-quoted observer of London life in the volume – tells
      his story about kissing the lips of Henry V's wife, Catherine de
      Valois, in the open tomb she had lain in for over 250 years,
      "reflecting", he notes with glee, "that this was my birthday, 36 years
      old, that I did first kiss a queen" (which raises the question: did he
      follow this with further queen-kissing?). ...

      Continued:
      http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/the_tls/article5317582.ece
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