A Survey of London and its Revisions
The full title of John Stow’s work is A SURVAY OF LONDON. Contayning the Originall, Antiquity, Increase, Moderne estate, and description of that Citie, written in the yeare 1598. by Iohn Stow Citizen of London. It was entered into the Stationers’ Register on 7 July 1598, and printed in quarto by John Windet for John Wolfe, printer to the honourable city of London. This same edition was reprinted the following year, in 1599 (Pollard and Redgrave 369).
Stow revised and expanded the text. The new 1603 edition was again printed by John Windet, who was now himself the printer to the honourable city of London. Karen Newman suggests that these first editions were published as folios, and argues on the basis of that evidence that they were written with the “elite buyer and reader” in mind (26). However, the Survey was in fact printed in quarto (Pollard and Redgrave 369), which perhaps suggests a broader readership.
Subsequent editions of Stow’s Survey include additions by the respective editors that have sometimes been quoted as being Stow’s writing. These passages appear to be anachronistic, in that many of the events they detail occurred after Stow’s death (Wheatley vii). For example, in 1618 Anthony Munday edited an enlarged edition that was printed by George Purslowe (S.R. 2 November 1613). Then, in 1633, shortly after Munday’s death, another quarto edition, published by Nicholas Bourn, credited Munday as one of the contributors. Munday’s additions document the inscriptions on monuments as well as instances of charitable works (Newman 124). The full title of this edition indicates the process of revisions:
The survey of London containing the original, increase, modern estate and government of that city, methodically set down : with a memorial of those famouser acts of charity, which for publick and pious vses have been bestowed by many worshipfull citizens and benefactors : as also all the ancient and modern monuments erected in the churches, not only of those two famous cities, London and Westminster, but (now newly added) four miles compass / begun first by the pains and industry of John Stow, in the year 1598 ; afterwards inlarged by the care and diligence of A.M. in the year 1618 ; and now compleatly finished by the study & labour of A.M., H.D. and others, this present year 1633 ; whereunto, besides many additions (as appears by the contents) are annexed divers alphabetical tables, especially two, the first, an index of things, the second, a concordance of names.
The title informs us of Stow’s continuing cultural clout or cachet. Instead of publishing a survey of London that picks up where Stow left off, subsequent editions continue to identify themselves as Stow’s Survey of London, with some revisions to bring them up to date. Stow’s work seems to have enjoyed an enduring relevance and significance. Another expansion of Stow’s Survey was edited in 1720 by John Strype, who “brought [the work] down to the present time by careful hands” (Wheatley xiii). Additionally, this edition contained city and parish maps that are considered by many to be the work of Richard Blome (Merritt, “Strype’s Survey”). The additions in these revised editions demonstrate both the extent to which Stow’s original work was altered and the lasting cultural significance of Stow’s original Survey.
In accordance with the de claribus tradition, which views history in light of political events and great individuals, Stow’s work begins with the chronological record of the English monarchs (Newman 122). However, A Survey of London also describes London’s monuments, bridges, walls, and gates, as well as the sports and pastimes of Londoners. Stow breaks the city into parts and methodically covers each neighbourhood as though he were a pedestrian on a tour of the city (Manley 52). According to Newman, Stow’s work “straddles the generic space of social history, humanist etiological folktale, and guidebook” (24). Ian Archer notes that Stow’s Survey is “one manifestation of the celebration of the city’s traditions, its physical fabric, its great benefactors, and the role of its citizens as supporters of the crown, which flourished at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries” (17).
Stow gathered information for his work by “sifting through records of all sorts” (Newman 122). In order to do this archival work, he used information from documents in his personal collection, and from manuscripts that the city of London possessed. Stow was in his seventies by the time of the 1598 publication, and was therefore able to include personal recollections and information in his Survey. In addition, he had over his lifetime gathered information from even older citizens of London, who could inform him about London life in past generations. Stow’s work is nostalgic in parts. His Survey views the “medieval past as a time of ‘charity, hospitality and plenty’” and he looks back on this time as possessing a “community spirit” that contemporary London was lacking (Archer 21). Stow recognizes – and regrets – that urbanization has overtaken the rural areas of his childhood (Newman 25). As J.F. Merritt asserts, the Survey was to an extent “a description of a city that had already disappeared” (1).
John Stow’s Survey of London: The Nostalgia of John Stow.The Theatrical City: Culture, Theatre, and Politics in London, 1576–1649 . Ed. David L. Smith, Richard Strier, and David Bevington. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995. Print. 17–34.
John Stow’s Survey of London: Of Sites and Rites.The Theatrical City: Culture, Theatre and Politics in London, 1576–1649. Ed. David L. Smith, Richard Strier, and David Bevington. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995. 35–54. Print.
Perceptions and Portrayals of London 1598–1720.Imagining Early Modern London: Perceptions and Portrayals of the City from Stow to Strype, 1598–1720. Ed. J.F. Merritt. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001. 1–24. Print.
- Merritt, J.F."Strype’s Survey of London." An Electronic Edition of John Strype’s A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster Ed. J.F. Merritt. Humanities Research Institute Online: 2007. Web. 23 June 2010.
- Newman, Karen. Cultural Capitals: Early Modern London and Paris. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2007. Print.
- STC. Abbreviation for A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland and of English books Printed Abroad, 1475–1640. Comp. by A.W. Pollard and G.R. Redgrave. 2nd. ed. rev. and enl. 3 vols. Begun by W.A. Jackson and F.S. Ferguson; completed by Katharine F. Pantzer. London: Bibliographical Society, 1976–1991. Print.
Introduction.A Survey of London . 1603. By John Stow. Everyman’s Library, 589. London: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1912. Print.
This project is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
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