The Map of Early Modern London (MoEML) at ETCL’s Nuts and Bolts Series

By: Catriona Duncan

In October, I was invited by the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab (ETCL) to present on the work of The Map of Early Modern London (MoEML) for their Nuts and Bolts speaker series. The Map of Early Modern London is an open access digital project that marries early modern mapping with modern GIS (Geographic Information Systems). One of the main features of the project is the Agas map, which is a woodblock print of London from 1561. This map is richly detailed and shows the environs as well as individual streets, buildings, and topographical features of London during Shakespeare and his contemporaries’ times. MoEML has plotted and isolated specific features of the map, such as the London ward boundaries, which can then be highlighted by users to show their reach. Users are able to zoom in on the map to look at specific details, and search the map for specific locations, such as churches and waterworks.

Screenshot of MoEML’s Agas Map.

Diligent historical research is required in order to create our rich accounts of specific places on and off the map, which can be found in our extensive Placeography. As a pedagogical tool and resource for students, the Placeography and map can be utilized when you are reading a Shakespeare play or a city comedy, by looking up the places mentioned within the text to find out cultural and historical information, allowing you to better understand its socio-historical context. Our Gazateer is a collection of placenames and their spelling variants, which allows users to not only find instances of the place they are searching for, but also to see how widely the spelling and naming changed. For example, if you look up Gold lane, you might not expect to know that it was also called Saffron hill. Knowing this variation will aid in your own research as it gives you another search term to use, as well as giving insight into the London early moderners experienced.

MoEML also has its own Library, where we house our TEI encoded editions of Lord Mayors Shows, Royal Entries, Dramatic Extracts, as well as Proclamations. We are also working on an edition of John Stow’s 1598 edition of A Survey of London. My role as a Research Assistant and Encoder is to identify, research, and encode all toponyms and people within this text. The Gazateer, as mentioned above, is generated through this tagging process. Each time I tag a placename and its variant, it is collected in the Gazateer, housing a rich array of spellings. The Survey is an account of the wards and boundaries, topographical features, buildings, statues, as well as the history and mythology of London from its infancy up to 1598. Stow records all this information in an organized manner, creating the feeling that he himself physically walked the streets of London and made an account of everything he passed.

Currently, we are organizing sections of Stow’s 1598 text for peer review, preparing the markup of Stow’s 1603 edition of the Survey, as well as encoding more texts such as Thomas Dekker’s The Gull’s Hornbook into our Library. As an internationally recognized and acclaimed project, we are continuing to work with pedagogical partners from a range of institutions to publish original academic research on early modern London, thereby creating an inclusive, collaborative scholarly community.

If you would like to know more about The Map of Early Modern London, please see our “Contact Us” page.

Catriona Duncan is a 2nd-year MA student (MEMS concentration) and a Research Assistant with The Map of Early Modern London. Her research interests include constructions of space and cities in the early modern period. You can follow her on Twitter at @DuncanCatriona.

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