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Tales of Two Cities: Architecture, Print and Early Guidebooks to Paris and London

Department of Art History, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK
Humanities 2013, 2(3), 328-350;
Received: 19 April 2013 / Revised: 26 June 2013 / Accepted: 26 June 2013 / Published: 5 July 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Art and Words)


This pioneering paper is the first to consider the contribution of a new type of urban literature to perceptions and portrayals of the city in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It focuses on London and Parisian guidebooks, a genre that has been little studied to date, particularly those of: Germaine Brice, Description nouvelle de ce qui’il ya de plus remarquable dans la Ville de Paris (1684); F. Colsoni, Le Guide de Londres (1693); and Edward Hatton, A New View of London (1708). The article is the first to establish the significance of language primers as source for tourist guidebooks and the prevalence of lexicographers among those producing them. It examines the modern type of non-antiquarian urban guidebook as part of the new urban consumer culture. It also explores the genre’s contribution to a novel form in the writing and understanding of the city in the period focussed on the contemporary and the experiential, rather than the traditional orientation towards the historical and the monumental.

It is really the Incouragement which is given to the these Arts [Painting and Sculpture], and their near Kinswoman Architecture, that make a City Polite and Beautiful, advances an In-Land Trade, and makes Artists so strive and vye with each other, till by degrees they arrive at the Perfection of the Antients.
Germaine Brice, A new Description of Paris containing a particular account of all the churches, palaces, monasteries … with all other remarkable matters in that great and famous city, translated out of French, 1687.
The great cities of Europe were transformed from their often still medieval layouts and architecture in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries by a classicizing aesthetic allied to a new urban society. Central to the creation of this city culture and form was the new bourgeois realm of the educated, as Habermas defined it, in his classic account of the structural creation of the public sphere [1]. Modern urban culture was inexorably allied to the growth of the now economically powerful and literate middle classes with the financial and social capital to participate in polite leisure and discourse for the first time alongside the aristocracy. The impact of this democraticizing print culture which united the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie in the wider ‘urban renaissance’—as it has been termed in the English context—has been extensively investigated [2]. However, as Richard Wittman writes: ‘surprisingly little effort has been directed towards understanding the place of architecture within these momentous changes’ ([3], p. 4). Wittman in his Architecture, Print Culture and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century France has produced the major contribution to date exploring how a new public discourse and understanding of architecture emerged out of the proliferation of architectural publications in a French context. In British studies of the relationship between print and buildings specifically there is still very little beyond Matthew Craske’s pioneering article on the significance of newspaper coverage on public debate regarding urban projects [4,5]. There have been broader discussions of the relationship between the built form of the city and its imaging in art and literature but with a tendency to focus on spaces, particularly streets, rather than architecture per se. Here the focus will be on the geographical spread and built structures of the city, rather than individual spaces, although some attention will be given to how these features sit within the wider context of urban representation [6,7,8,9].
There has been a great deal of scholarly attention paid to urban writing as a means of creating identity but for the most part this has concentrated on literary genres, such as poetry and urban wayfaring, rather than the perhaps seemingly more prosaically pedestrian accounts of topographical guides [10,11,12]. This article will explore the impact of print culture on architecture through the medium of early guidebooks to London and Paris in the ca.1650–1730 period. Urban histories have been shown by Rosemary Sweet to be one of the ways by which the urban middle classes mapped and created the city in their own image, as they were generally written by and for the new urban bourgeoisie [13]. This was true to an even greater degree of travel guides which had a comparably shorter shelf-life and were more explicitly commercial in nature. The texts with which we are concerned here are commercial productions not official municipal guides, and therefore for the most part do not form part of Foucauldian ‘administrative and police effort to rationalize public urban spaces’; nor the more communitarian impulses of the later locally commissioned town literature.([14], p. 28) Not only were guidebooks a prime example of the aggressive commercialization of the print trade at the time they were also a pan-European phenomenon with an international market. The primary focus here will be on London writing. But the Parisian model had particular resonances for the new type of urban guide pioneered in London and the work of the French author Germain Brice will also therefore require some investigation. In looking at relationships between London and Paris interesting connections across a wider network of European language and travel guides will emerge, as well between the bi- and usually tri-lingual émigrés who dominated the market in travel literature and associated activities. This article will explore what the growth of the guidebook tells us about contemporary attitudes to the city and how they represented urban morphology. What was the impact of the new print culture upon modes of looking at and writing about architecture for increasingly diverse audiences, many of whom lacked connoisseurial or specialist knowledge?
In 1708 Edward Hatton in the Preface to his A New View of London remarked that it was based in part upon ‘a small treatise called A Guide through Paris’ [15]. Hatton’s work, which was subtitled A Book Useful not only for Strangers but for the Inhabitants reflects the close relationship between English and European tourism and travel literature in the period. Indeed despite Hatton’s sub-title it was not until the mid-century that publications specifically aimed at the home market began to appear; prior to this date Londoners used a range of other strategies to negotiate the city, as discussed by Robert Shoemaker [16]. The bias in early publications is very much towards visitors to the city, to the extent that that the Scottish tourist Robert Kirk wrote in 1690: ‘the city is a great vast wilderness. Few in it know the fourth part of its streets. The most attend their business, and an inquisitive stranger will know more of the varieties of the city than an hundred inhabitants’ ([17], p. 9). The Parisian volume to which Hatton referred was almost certainly Germaine Brice’s Description nouvelle de ce qui’il ya de plus remarquable dans la Ville de Paris of 1684 [18]. This was produced specifically with foreign visitors in mind, as he wrote in his Advertisement to the English edition:
No Man doubts that Paris is at present one of the greatest and fairest Cities in the World … Yet it happens very often, that all its true Beauties are not taken notice of by many persons, and principally the Strangers, who complain that they can never find them without making it their particular study, and giving themselves a vast trouble in the search … It is for their assistance, and to satisfie the Curiosity of Strangers that I have undertaken to describe … the most noted Beauties of that famous City.
Brice (1653–1727) who was from a wealthy family, following a good conventional education became a self-taught connoisseur of the visual arts, taking a trip to Italy to further his knowledge. His background was rather different from the scholars who had provided most of the previous histories of Paris. He worked as a teacher and a guide showing foreigners around Paris ‘et, quand il n’entendait point leur langue, il se servait du latin qu’il possedait parfaitement’ ([20]; [21], p. XIII). He was very successful in this enterprise and his clients included several German princes who are the recipients of some of his textual dedications ([21], p. XIIV).
Brice pioneered a new kind of guide which was probably influenced by the guidebooks he would have encountered in Italy, where guides to the Roman antiquities were available from the sixteenth century onwards ([22], p. 54). As he stated in the Advertisement to the work he rejected the antiquarian approach of authors such as Gilles Corrozet and Jacques Du Breul, and was instead focused on the contemporary and particularly the artistic ([19], p. 2; [23,24]). His book came directly out of his experience leading people around the streets of Paris and this is reflected in its slightly didactic tone as well as his careful selection and editing of the most appropriate material. As he related: ‘I undertake not to make an exact description … I have therefore only collected those things which are most observable, and that which deserves to be seen with somewhat more than ordinary remark’ ([19], Advertisment). Large swathes of the city are thus dismissed for not meeting Brice’s criteria of artistic and cultural value: ‘We say nothing of the Hospital of the Trinity nor of the Church of St. Saviour, there being nothing curious in them’ ([19], p. 67). The book was pocket-sized for easy transportability and crucially for visual orientation included from 1698 an annotated fold-out map of the city listing the main sights. Little has been written about the publishing context of guidebooks to date but what is clear, as Michael Harris writes, is that ‘the connections between guide publications and an interest in maps and prints were established early in the eighteenth century’. He cites the part-ownership by major London printsellers John and Thomas Bowles in early English/French guides as evidence, although he does not state which ones specifically ([25], p. 50). Maps became part of the standard apparatus of guides from that time onwards, however, a list of streets also remained an important feature because as William Stow the author of Remarks on London noted: ‘our Maps, or Prospects … [are] made more for ornament than Use, do not describe a fourth part of the Places contain’d in ‘em’ ([25], p. 43). The contingent and inherently problematic nature of cartography in mapping the city in a period of rapid growth is explored further below.
Brice provided his readers with a guide to the art, architecture and intellectual life of the city. His emphasis was on visual appreciation and high culture rather than everyday life. The University Quarter, the various learned societies and the Academies spearheading the revival of French culture all receive considerable coverage. But his greatest passion is for the new buildings of the city which he describes in great detail displaying considerable architectural knowledge culled from his readings of the members of the recently founded l’Académie d’Architecture (1671), notably Perrault and Blondel ([3], pp. 19–24; [26]) He attributes to the latter, ‘all the new gates and also all the other Imbellishments that are raised in Paris of late years’ ([19], pp. 70–71). He writes of the Hotel Colbert, for example, in terms of its planning and proportion: ‘There appears in the fabrick much regularity with an excellent Gust and very peculiar. The Court is square and the Buildings about it of such a neat contrivance that you can hardly meet with the like elsewhere. The Apartments are disposed with wonderful Judgment’ ([19], p. 51). This is in contrast to most English works of the time, which as we will see, tended to discuss architecture largely in terms of decoration and style. Throughout the guide Brice displays a considerable knowledge not just of architectural composition but also of future developments, building materials and even prices. His entry on the Place Royal, now Place des Vosges (1605) exemplifies his knowledgeable and authoritative approach:
The place of which we were speaking is exactly square, composed of six and thirty Pavilions raised of the same symmetry; the materials are of Brick and Free-stone, raised upon a long row of Arches, under the shelter of which one may walk round the place. In the middle of these Buildings they have left a great void piece of Ground, which at present is about to be converted into a Garden and is to be inclosed with a Palisade of Iron. … Reports say this Work will cost a hundred pistols.
([19], p. 93)
Historic architecture is included but discussed purely in terms of its aesthetic merit rather than its historical interest. Thus he writes of the Renaissance Hotel de Ville:
It was built in the Reign of Francis I who laid the first stone himself. The Architecture is however a little Gotique; that is to say, it is not altogether according to the gust of the present age, in which the old Roman and Greek proportions are studied with more careful exactness, Artists endeavouring every day to re-establish this curious Science in the same perfection that it had under the Reign of Augustus.
([19], p. 104)
He also appreciated the nave of the medieval church of Saint-Gervias and was fulsome in his praise of Notre-Dame: ‘The Structure of this Church is of the Gothick manner, but the handsomest and best perform’d in France. It is very remarkable for its Grandeur and Solidity’ ([19], p. 156). However, more often he reflects the contemporary prejudice against the Gothic and his strictures on the Celestins’ buildings are more typical: ‘The Church belonging to these fathers is all Gothick and hath nothing Curious in relation to its Structure. The Altar is not much better adorned’ ([19], p. 135). Nevertheless the inclusion of historic buildings and the occasional appreciation of their merits was to become an important strand in topographical writing and in England, at least, was to form part of an on-going appreciation of the historic and the traditional alongside the new classical culture [27].
Brice’s work is arranged as a series of walks through grouped quartiers. He makes occasional forays outside the city boundaries to buildings of particular interest but quickly returns to the urban core. Brice’s vision is thus metropolitan and morphological presenting the city’s built fabric as a work of art for the visitor’s enlightenment whilst editing out the vulgar and the ordinary. His Description is also highly didactic, intended to instruct and improve the reader. The heavy emphasis given to the Academies creates a strong sense of a cultured elite shaping and producing the city’s architecture in their own image. La Description de Paris was enormously successful, with both foreign and Parisian readers, going through twelve editions during Brice’s lifetime with a further two after his death, the final one in 1752. The later volumes were substantially augmented and included innovations such as: increasing amounts of practical information, illustrations of the principal sites, plus the map of the city from the third edition onwards. The third edition was also the only one to include a street directory. Brice had a particular importance for the English as his Description was translated into English appearing in at least two editions in 1687 and 1688. A Dutch edition was also published in 1718. The preface to the English translation said that it was meant to be a guide for those who had not yet visited Paris including the ‘Young Gentlemen who go over; (as some do almost daily) … this Book in their pocket with them, will be, as their Informer, so their Guide’. It was also intended for those who had already travelled to the city who ‘will not find it unpleasant to refresh their memory with the descriptions given in this Book’ ([19], ‘To the Reader’). This was an important function of contemporary topographical guides which served as much as souvenirs of a trip as manuals for use for locating the sites during a visit; a role which increased once illustrative material began to be incorporated more substantially from the mid-eighteenth century onwards [28].
City guidebooks as a genre are generally held to have emerged in Europe in the seventeenth century, with the exception of the earlier Roman examples ([22,25]; [29], p. 138) In England they did not appear until the second half of the seventeenth century, with works such as James Howell’s Londinopolis; an historicall discourse (1657) which despite its title also included much coverage of what he called ‘modern Occurrences … contemporary with my self’ ([30], ‘To the Reader’). Howell (1594?–1666) was primarily an historian and political writer, but having travelled widely from an early age on business in Europe, he also became known as a travel writer with works such as Familiar Letters of 1645 onwards and Instructions for Forreine Travel (1642) [31]. In what will become a familiar career pattern for a number of figures in this article he also worked as a translator and lexicographer revising a French dictionary in 1650 and producing his Lexicon tetraglotton, a more ambitious English-French-Italian-Spanish dictionary, in 1660 [32,33]. Londinopolis is dedicated to the ‘City of London’ and in the accompanying text Howell compares a passion for cities to that for women, thus linking together his liking both for the homegrown and the foreign:
London … having breath’d Air, and slept in her bosom, now near upon forty years (except the times that I was abroad upon forren Employments,) it is no wonder, if I be habitually in love with Her … nor is it long since, that I made publick love to Venice, and courted Naples also, and I came off with no ill success; I hope to do the like here.
([30], ‘To the City of London’)
Two other early publications, both dating from 1681, were Nathaniel Crouch’s (published as R.B.—Richard Burton), Historical Remarques and Observations of the Ancient and Present State of London and Westminster and Thomas De Laune’s, The Present State of London: or Memorials, Comprehending a Full and Succinct Account of the Ancient and Modern State Thereof. These works, as their titles indicate, included antiquarian material drawn from John Stow’s Survey of London of 1598, the primary historical source for all subsequent accounts of the city. However, in trying to address the present as well as the past they evolved some important features that were to become standard in later guides. Firstly, they both used the pocket-book format also adopted a few years later by Brice which was one of the key attractions of the genre, especially set against the expensive folio formats in which many antiquarian histories were produced. We do not know the quantities in which such guides were purchased but, as Cynthia Wall comments, we can assume the popularity of such books from the numbers of editions and the survival and continuous adaptations of the genre ([8], p. 91) De Laune, whose French name may or may not be of significance, included a small number of illustrations. This was a trend that was to become more pronounced in the eighteenth century further reinforcing the links between publishers of topographical writing and print and map sellers. In 1761, for example, the prolific publisher Robert Dodsley produced London and its Environs Described, the first fully illustrated guide book to the wider metropolitan area. The copper plate illustrations were seen as being an integral part of the whole and the Preface stated that ‘the prints with which the whole is decorated, are all engraved by the best hands, after original drawings which were taken on purpose for this work … at a very great expence’. The illustrations were nearly drawn by Samuel Wale and engraved by eight well-established engravers who regularly contributed to Dodsley’s publications ([28], p. 106).
Crouch’s and De Laune’s works were two of the first post-Fire publications and as such formed part of the much greater wave of topographical activity which sought to re-inscribe the City following its destruction in 1666. Cynthia Wall has drawn attention to the role of guidebooks and urban literature more broadly as a form of surveying. She writes that alongside the cartographical surveys of the City’s ruins and subsequent rebuilding; ‘the literary remapping of London is part of the literal remapping … a verbal as well as visual attempt to find, define, and secure the topographical contours of the city’ ([8], p. 76). The necessity for such a task sprang from London’s rapid expansion in the ca. 1650–1730 period and its consequent incomprehensibility to contemporaries. The population of the built-up area of the London and Westminster was 400,000 in 1650, had reached 575,000 by 1700 and by 1750 stood at 600,000–675,000 ([34], p. 650). It was not just the burnt-out City itself that had been rejuvenated but also the adjacent city of Westminster, which was increasing exponentially as were the outer suburbs beyond the walls [35]. This phenomenal expansion resulted in a characterisation of London as ‘the Monster’ whose spread and size were seen as uncontrollable. Defoe was one of many who elaborated the theme contrasting the wealth and power of ‘the new Rome’ with its lack of a concomitant classical harmony in its form.
It is the disaster of London, as to the beauty of its figure, that it is thus stretched out in buildings, just at the pleasure of every builder.... and this has spread the face of it in a most straggling, confused manner, out of all shape; whereas the city of Rome, though a monster for greatness, yet was in a manner, round, with very few irregularities in its shape.
([36], p. 287)
The experience of the continual metamorphosising of the metropolis was a confusing one in a period of almost constant building activity. The labyrinthe character of the constantly evolving core led to a wave of cartographical and textual activity in an attempt to establish boundaries. Guidebooks, along with maps, were one of the ways in which the increasingly illegible—physically and conceptually—might be rendered legible. One manifestation of this can be seen in the mania for tabulation and list-making which is evident in guidebooks from De Laune onwards. He included information on the penny post and the rates for coachmen and watermen as one of his most important innovations. The provision of practical information in an easily consultable, tabulated form reflects, as Julia Merritt points out, the contemporary concern with political arithmetic ([37], p. 71). But it was also part of an attempt to bring fixity and certainty to the fluid and protean organism of the metropolis. It is seen most markedly in the attempts to calculate the number of inhabitants and dimensions of a place with which nearly every city guide opened. Daniel Defoe is his A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain of 1724–1726 began his section on London with a lengthy account in which he tried to define its outer limits. In order to make sense of the ever expanded city in true Royal Society fashion he drew a ‘Line of Measurement’ around it totalling 36 miles 2 furlongs and 39 rods ([36], pp. 288–94) The line, as Wall writes, became a thing in itself, an active agent moving through and around the city ‘a marker and even an agent of change’ which indicates a new spatial awareness; a modern conception of space as active and ‘produced’ in Lefebvre’s terms ([8], p. 110; [38]). We will return to the implications of this change, especially in relation to notions of mobility, when we consider Colsoni and Hatton in more depth below.
Written representations of cities then were as much numerically as textually conceived with statistics used as a form of nationalistic drum-beating. Edward Hatton enumerated the occupants of London as 696,360 according to ‘Sir William Petty[‘s] … small Treatise in English and French, 1687’ ([15], p. iv). Those of Paris were calculated at 488,055, those of Rome as 125,000 and those of Rouen as 80,000 ‘the Sum but 693,055 which together are less than the Inhabitants of London’. While John Strype in his up-dating of Stow of 1720 devoted a long paragraph to establishing the ‘surpassing eminency’ of London against Paris ‘one of the most flourishing Cities in Europe’ ([39], Bk I, p. 3). He wrote that London exceeded Paris in all the following ten aspects:
I. In the Wealth and great Estates of the Inhabitants. II. In the Wholesomeness of the Air. III. In the cleanly and more convenient way of Living. IV. In the Preference of the River Thames to that of the Seine … and the great Bridge of London built over it. V. In the Shipping and Foreign Trade. VI. In the Cheapness of Food and the great Variety and Plenty of Drink VII. In the Cheapness likewise of Fewel. VIII. In the Magnificence of the Churches; none at Paris being so great as St. Paul’s hath been, and now is. IX. In the Court of Inns. And lastly in the Hospitals, so many and so richly endowed.
([39], Bk I, p. 3)
In this way the sheer physical size of the city and its monuments became a measure of international worth; numerical scale acted in these texts as a signifier of might and prestige. Brice was at pains to inject some sense of artistic value into the debate by establishing the quality of the new Parisian churches in relation to their Italian models, he writes that the Church of the Sorbonne is ‘of the same disposition of that of the Rotunda in Rome … the Architect has imitated it as near he could’ ([19], pp. 74–75) While he notes of the Vale de Grace: ‘Here it is that all Strangers are forced to grant, that we raise in France as fine Building and as regular, as those in Italy so much admired by Travellers. We may also affirm … that this … is one of the most beautiful Works of all this Age’ ([19], p. 57).
Styrpe, De Laune, Hatton et al. came out of the burgeoning consumer culture of late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century London, arising from its position as one of the great entrepôts of the world and increasingly as a major tourist destination both for foreign and native travellers. The author of A Trip from St. James’s to the Royal-Exchange in 1744 wrote of:
Italian, French, German, Dutch Gentry, continually transferring themselves hither; where they soon grow great, meeting with Encouragement more than the Natives, and laugh at their Good-nature for preferring them to their own Countrymen. France furnishes Cooks, Valets de Chambre, Dancers and Teachers of French, who seldom understand a Sentence of English. Italy supplies us with Fidlers and EunuchsScotland sends us Pedlars, Beggars and Quacks; and Ireland, Evidences, Robbers and Bullies.
([40], p. 2)
One of these supposedly monolingual French teachers was Francesco Casparo Colsoni a foreigner living in London who published Le Guide de Londres in 1693. This was just one of his considerable output which included The New Trismagister of 1688, one of the first multilingual grammars to appear in English. It offered a trilingual primer, in French, Italian and English, which unlike earlier works did not use Latin as an intermediary between them [41]. The title page is repeated in all three languages and his name is therefore given as Francesco, Francis and François respectively. It informs readers that Colsoni is a teacher of languages, living in St Christopher’s Alley in Thread Needle Street near the Royal Exchange. He also published The English Ladies new French Grammar in 1699 and La clef-dor de la langue Angloise in the same year, stating that he could be found at the German Academy in Suffolk Street. Other works included: a French and Italian grammar; a book of Kings and Queens; the Royal Almanack; Peace and War in the Field; and Ladies of Europe at the Conclave of Juno—the last two being described as ‘Historical Dialogues’ [42]. Colsoni, like Germain Brice, made his living trading on his language skills and taking advantage of the possibilities for reaching broader audiences that the new markets in print offered. The third edition of his London Guide states that he also kept a chocolate house and had two ‘Good Billiard Tables’. He says that he himself will guide foreigners round the city and that besides French, English and Italian he understands German and Dutch; elsewhere he includes Spanish among his main languages ([43], Title Page).
Rosemary Sweet has analysed the occupations of those writing British urban histories and found that their profiles were far broader than those engaged in their county equivalents, who were predominantly gentry. She has highlighted the presence of teachers, along with clergymen, lawyers, doctors and printer-publishers, as a significant group among those writing urban histories but the significance of foreign language specialists to the genre—particularly in the London context—and the particular traits they bought to urban literature has not been explored ([13], pp. 14–16). The New Trismagister can itself be seen as continuing a strand of urban writing stemming from the Elizabethan language-lesson dialogue manuals of which John Florio’s Florio His Firste Fruites an Italian/English primer of 1578 is the most pertinent here. John Florio (1533–1625) was born in London of mixed Italian-English parentage. His father had converted from being a Franciscan friar to Protestantism and subsequently fled to England. Florio grew up in Switzerland where the family was exiled during Mary Tudor’s reign. His father had turned to language teaching on his arrival in London and his son followed the same career path, working as a tutor and lexicographer, rising to become reader in Italian to Queen Anne in 1604 [31]. Language primers for Latin date back to the medieval period but the increasing interest and commercial requirement for modern languages in the sixteenth century led to the introduction of modern subject matter to match ([44], Introduction). Italian was particularly popular with the increasing interest in Renaissance culture and for a time it challenged the supremacy of French as the chief European lingua franca (as the term itself indicates). Florio developed the language textbook tradition to incorporate sample dialogues which related everyday activities to recognisable London scenes. His initial primer, Firste Fruites for example included a dialogue on the subject of ‘To speake of England’ in which during the course of a discussion of London the following aspects of the city were covered: its merchants, ambassadors, their pastimes, the Thames, and the strangers’s (i.e., foreigner’s) churches. There is a constant elision between the ‘England’ of the chapter title and London which intensified in its successor Florios Second Frutes of 1591. The chapters in the second volume, unlike the first, are both thematic and chronological, following the arc of the day from morning through the various mealtimes to nightfall. The title of Chapter Two gives a good idea of the flavour and structure of the work: ‘The second chapter for common speech in the morning on the way between three friends, Thomas, John, Hery (sic) and Piccinino a servant, wherein is described a sett at tenis’. Elsewhere the scenario of visiting the Exchange is discussed as well as the merits of travelling by water or land to do so, eventually hiring a boat at Paul’s Wharf:
T. Whether goeth your worship/
G. I goe as farre as the Exchange
G. Will it pleafe you to goe by land or by water?
T. It is all one to me, as you please.
G. Let vs goe by water, if fo you pleafe.
T. That which lyketh you, dooth highly please me.
G. Where shall we take bote?
T. At Powles wharfe, or else where you will.
([44], pp. 16–17)
Florio provided not just a guide to polite conversation but to genteel life more generally and his works can be situated within the broader genre of improvement and courtesy handbooks of the sixteenth century. Although written as language texts, the consistent emphasis on the modern and the metropolitan in these works, suggest that they might also be called the first guide books to London.
Colsoni’s Trismagister continued this tradition of metropolitan discourses incorporating ‘Douze Dialogues Familiares’ set in well-known London locations, such as Covent Garden and St James’s Park that like Florio’s follow the passage of a single day ([41], pp. 192–94, 204–06). His Tenth Dialogue, for example, echoes Florio’s journeying gentlemen with the final destination being Greenwich rather than the Exchange. The theme of whether travelling by land or water is preferable is re-visited. In the Ninth Dialogue the rhetoric of improvement so central to Florio is once more to the fore. Two gentlewomen in discussing whether to visit St James’s Park have to consider not just the practicalities and speed of the different modes of transport, as the men did in travelling to Greenwich, but also their social acceptability for their class and gender: A coach proves to be the only respectable option as walking is ‘so dirty’ and a hackney coach is ‘not the custome for persons of Quality’.
My dear, pray what shall we do this evening?
We will do what you pleafe, we will go walk in the Park if you pleafe.
Let us go thither: I am content.
But we have no Coach: How shall we do, I cannot walk thither a foot, ‘tis fo dirty.
But I will not go thither in a hakeny Coach; because it is not the custome for persons of Quality.
Why my dear, Do you believe, people would take us to be naught.
([41], pp. 204–05)
The coach provided comes with a chaperone, in the form of a brother, another implied essential accompaniment to the diurnal activity. The need for such caution is made clear in Colsoni’s Guide de Londres where he points out that the Park may be royal but that it is a public space, perhaps an overly inclusive one: ‘… tout le monde, grans et petis, riches et pauvres, mais particulierement des filles de plaisirs qui ne manquent pas de s’y trouver et d’y trainder luer queus d’hyrondelle (quand il fait beau) depuis lex onze du matin jusqu’ a 2 ou 3 heurs après midy: Et le soir depuis les 6 jusqu’ a 9 et 10 heures’ ([22], p. 9). Language texts therefore could be used to convey information about the moral and social landscape of London as well its physical geography and architecture. They provided an alternative source of urban imagery, alongside guidebooks, offering rhetorics of improvement and social etiquette as well as familiarity with conversational tropes. Their continuing legacy and absorption into city literature can be seen in later eighteenth century works where ‘conversations’ form one of the main form of urban discourse along with ‘trips’, ‘accounts’ and ‘descriptions’. In the 1744 A Trip from St. James’s to the Royal-Exchange the topics include: ‘Conversation betwixt several Gentlemen at an Ordinary’; ‘The Use of a Diamond-Ring in Conversation’ and ‘Of saying nothing in Conversation’, the latter being a particularly necessary art ([40], Contents page).
Colsoni operated from London within a European nexus centred on the burgeoning industries of publishing and tourism. His Guide de Londres makes clear the existence of a network of foreigners working throughout the city. One of the most prominent of these was the Swiss Guy Miege from Lausanne (1644–1718?) who first came to London in 1661 and made it his base from the 1670s [31]. Miege was a writer and teacher of French and geography. He was a prolific author whose works included several grammars and lexicographical works such as the New Dictionary of French and English, 1677. One of his best known writings was the strongly Protestant and anti-Jacobite The New State of England of 1691 reissued as The Present State of Great Britain after the Act of Union in 1707 and 1715. Colsoni commended it as ‘Le Meilleur Livre que vous puissez acheter pur savoir en quelle posture sont les Etats d’Angleterre’ ([22], p. 23). He goes on in the Guide to recommend Miege’s grammars and dictionaries as well as his own Trismagister, suggesting that there may have been a business connection between them. They certainly knew each other. Colsoni wrote that he published the Trismagister with the blessing of Miege and a number of other authors ([41], Dedicatoire). In the Guide he states that Miege takes lodgers and that he lives in ‘la grande Maison Blanche’ by Westminster Abbey, having previously occupied a house in Panton Street off Haymarket ([22], p. 38; [31]).
In 1693 as F. Colsoni, he produced his Le Guide de Londres pour Les Estrangers. Dédié et Offert aux Voyageurs Allemands et François. He is described on the Title Page as ‘Min. Ital et Professeur des Langues’. If the ‘Min.’ abbreviation relates to a religious minister this creates another connection with Brice who studied for the priesthood and wore clerical habit throughout his life, although he never entered holy orders ([20], pp. 1–11). Colsoni’s London guide subsequently went through two later editions; the second one is missing and the date unknown, while the third came out in 1697 and was reprinted in 1710. He begins by acknowledging his noble clients as the inspiration for his book: ‘Vous avés eté les premier directeurs de ce petit ouvrage et je m’y aurois peut etre jamais pensé sans vous’ ([22], p. A2). He promises to take his readers to ‘tous les lieux les plus remarquables de Londres’ and he will ‘seconde tes desires, abrege ton chemin et epargne la Bourse’ ([22], p. A3). He details the churches at which Protestant and Catholic visitors can worship and he then draws his readers’ attention to the 60,000 French Huguenot refugees in the capital. He suggests that they might like to help them financially as the King and Queen were doing, he says, to the tune of £1,200 per annum ([22], p. A3).
The Title page sets out the aim of the work, ‘On voit toutes les choses les plus notable de la ville, les Fauxbourgs et aux Environs’. Colsoni promises his readers that they will ‘ne pas passer deux fois par une mème ruë en faisant votre tour’. The book was arranged as a series of five tours, in contrast to Brice’s long continuous itinerary. David Webb calls him the ‘ancestor of the London in X days guide book’ ([29], p. 140). Walter Godfrey in his edition of the 1693 Guide attributes this arrangement to the influence of Pompilio Totti’s Ritratto di Roma moderna, 1638. This was arranged as a series of six easy day outings followed by trips to more distant locations. Colsoni’s tours offered a carefully mapped out and precise itinerary with even meal breaks being specified. The first Tour ends after taking oysters at Billingsgate with an instruction to ‘retournez pour diner à votre auberge’ ([22], p. 4). This emphasis on the practical was, following De Laune’s model, extended to the inclusion of information such as: the opening hours and prices for various sights; the appropriate tips; the days of special ceremonies and feasts; book auctions and recommended books on English and other languages; and the posting times to France, Holland and Germany. One of the primary roles of guides at the time was to interpret the chaotic maze of the early modern city, a place without street names or numbers, through their mapping—whether cartographical or textual—of its streets, services and customs [17]. Colsoni adopts a very personal and reassuring tone with his readers promising them that ‘Si tu n’entends pas L’Anglois je seray ton Interprete aussibien que ton Guide’ ([22], p. A3). Colsoni presents a city of mobility and circulation of places, people and practices. This emphasis on fluidity echoes de Certeau’s writings on the city as a place formed by the spatial practices of movement as much as by its depiction in texts of all types [45]. Colsoni represents the critical shift, identified by Wall, between Stow’s essentially sedentary approach to the perambulatory prowl of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, from spatial fixity to spatial liquidity ([8], pp. 97–103, 116–18).
Colsoni and Brice both structured their works by walks around neighbourhoods, exemplifying the new active engagement with urban space. Unlike Stow and his more conservative successors, Colsoni dispenses with the traditional municipal boundaries to create itineraries determined solely by their interest for tourists; mobility was not just geographical therefore but also social and cultural. Urban guidebooks have tended to be presented in opposition to literary constructions of London as mere compendiums of information or hack versions of more substantial antiquarian histories. But in Colsoni’s hands the guidebook draws on the tradition of picaresque writing of vade mecums or cautionary tales in which the metropolis is presented as a realm of sensual delight, often in contrast to the restricted offerings of the countryside ([25], pp. 37–38). At the same time Colsoni’s account was firmly grounded in the contemporary physical realities and preoccupations of the metropolis; even the primary distinction between the cities of London and Westminster is not made explicit. The Fifth Tour includes a section on ‘Les Dehors de Londres’, which was greatly expanded in the third edition. Here the geographical limits of the city are stretched to include not only popular nearby resorts such as Islington and Chelsea but the royal palaces at Greenwich and Hampton Court as well, and even places as far afield as Epsom and Windsor about twenty miles or so from town. Colsoni, like his contemporary Ned Ward, author of the London Spy (1698–1700), was one of the first to reflect the truly multifarious nature of ‘the London experience’ which included the liminal zones around the capital as much as the built urban core itself [46,47]. Despite emphasising the role of these areas as a pleasure ground Colsoni did not employ the notoriously lewd and scabarous tone of Ward’s Spy. Indeed he warns his readers against the danger of corruption from ‘Harpies’: ‘On se peut diverter mais il ne faut pas se pervertir en Angleterre, où la debauche semble etre aujour du’huy álamode’ ([22], p. 24). Ward and Colsoni offered two of the most radical accounts of turn of the century London, both structured through perambulations around the varying parts of the city, through which the visitor is introduced to its multi-centred and multi-layered complexities. The main difference is that Colsoni in writing a guidebook attempted to make the metropolis knowable and manageable, while Ward’s literary account presented London’s attraction as lying in its dangerous, labyrinthine impenetrability. This is in marked contrast to Brice’s representation of Paris as an official capital dominated by crown and state. However, we are made aware in the Description of the presence of an alternative centre of power at Versailles whose shadow looms over his account, emptying Paris’s great monumental architecture of the very people that they were erected to represent and who were still engaged in the process of building them. London by contrast had very few symbols of power. The entries for the royal palaces just outside the capital helped to counter this omission. There is an attempt in Colsoni to provide English counterparts to the great Parisian seats of learning through the inclusion of Gresham College and the Royal Society. Oxford and Cambridge were inserted into the third edition to bolster their numbers (and also many other later guides) despite their considerable distance from London.
Colsoni’s ‘Premier Tour’ is indicative of his approach and interests. He begins not at some great historic monument but rather at that temple to consumption, The Royal Exchange, located in the Strand, an interstitial area between the City and Westminster. The Exchange is presented as a marvel of both architectural spectacle and retail delight and the theme of London as a centre for consumption both visual, experiental and material sets the tone for the book. The Tour then moves on to pay homage at the Monument which commemorated London’s miraculous resurrection after the calamity of the Great Fire. Colsoni continues on to the Tower of London with its arsenal, crown jewels, armada trophies, yeoman of the guard and the menagerie—which housed small dogs and lions amicably together apparently!—before finishing with oysters at Billingsgate Market. This opening ‘Tour’ exemplifies the mixture of high and middling culture and the interweaving of places of historical and contemporary interest which Colsoni pioneered in his Guide.
He returns to the Monument and a description of the Great Fire of London in a later section, one of the few historical accounts included in the text ([22], pp. 26–30). He reproduces in full, in both English and French, the anti-Catholic inscription on the Monument that had been removed by James II and then recut in 1689. It blamed the Fire on ‘la Trahison et malice de la Faĉtion Papistique … dans le dessein qu’on avoit d’extirper la Religion Protestante, et l’Ancienne Liberté des Anglois, en y introduisant la Papauté et l’Esclavage’ ([22], p. 27). In this, and his other writings, he echoes his friend Miege’s Whiggish sentiments and elsewhere in the Guide he recounts traditional English tales against the French and papists. The burning of an effigy of the Pope on Queen Elizabeth’s birthday is included, for example, while his sympathy for the French Huguenots has already been mentioned. This seems strange for someone of his background and in a guide intended for a French audience. One possible explanation may be that his fluency with languages arose from a mixed Italian/French Huguenot parentage. He lists himself as ‘Italien Francois’ at one point in the Trismagister ([41], Dedicatoire). This would also help to explain the combination of his French surname with an Italian first name. It is also possible that Colsoni like Miege was Swiss. He may have come from one of the Italian regions absorbed into the Swiss Confederation where Protestantism was practised, such as the Grisons cantons, where John Florio’s parents had fled in the previous century to escape persecution. Or he could have been from Geneva, which although technically not part of Switzerland at this date, formed the centre of Swiss Protestantism.
Colsoni’s guide is far more practical and middlebrow than that of Brice and he displays none of the latter’s artistic awareness. Most of his comments employ the very limited and generalised artistic vocabulary which predominated in England at the time. Bethlehem Hospital or Bedlam, for example, is described simply as ‘un superb Batiment’ ([22], p. 5). While Lord Montague’s house—significantly like Bedlam a French style building—shows us the maximum amount of architectural discussion that might be included; ‘c’est la plus belle et la plus riche d’Angleterre, tant a cause de sa situation et bel ordre, que pour l’admirable Architecture et les rares peinture qui ravissent l’oeil et l’esprit’ ([22], p. 17). Colsoni naturally includes St Paul’s, then still under construction, and relates a story from the sixteenth-century historian William Camden that there had been a Roman Temple to Diane on the site, thus providing it with a suitably classical pedigree. He suggests that it was not just the cathedral but also the Great Model that was essential viewing: ‘Avant que de sortir demandez de voir le Model de ce Temple’ ([22], p. 7). In an attempt to bolster the claims of London as the new Rome, against the more established ones of the Italian and French capitals, he related that the new cathedral ‘il ne cedera en son temps, rien a St Pierre de Rome, tant par sa Structure, Sculputre, et Artifice, que pour sa grandeur, et ses rares commoditez’ ([22], p. 33). Colsoni, unlike later authors, such as Hattton and Strype, rarely engages with the new Rome debate which was so prominent at the time ([35], pp. 12–13; [3], pp. 52–56). It was understandably less evident in guides for foreigners, who might have had first hand experience of the buildings under comparison, than in those for home consumption. He provides an interesting account of the use of St Paul’s as a viewing platform during its construction; one of several similar accounts at the time [48]. In the third edition of the Guide he writes that the cathedral:
qui s’avance beaucoup; y’étant arrivez montez fur les voutes par un bel escalier, et quand vous serez au dessus tournez tout à l’entour et jettez les yeux sur l’assiete de la Ville pour en voir la beauté. Etant descendus … et quand vous serez entrez remarquez l’admirable sculpture de tous les sieges et l’artifice des serruriers qui en ont fait les portes de fer, etc.
([49], p. 15)
He also comments on another panorama where one could ‘voir toute La Ville’, available from a tower at le College de Medecins ([49], pp. 14–15). Here, as in Brice’s Description, the city is represented as primarily for visual consumption, although in Colsoni this did not extend to its aesthetics. However, unlike his French counterpart he is far more interested in the city’s workings which are also described as a form of scopic display. Bedlam hospital has already been mentioned where one could see the lunatics. One could also observe the Chelsea pensioners dining, join the promenade in St James’s Park or visit the law courts at Westminster Hall. In presenting London as a city of spectacle, an endless parade of people and places, Colsoni’s work again displays a similarity with Ned Ward. Like Ward his vision is relentlessly secular and contemporary but there is a tension in his account that is hard to reconcile between exclusivity and egality as he oscillates between different social strata and locales. This may be seen for example in his tactful comment on the festivities for the Lord Mayor’s Installation: ‘Ceux qui ont des Tikets, peuvent aller diner avec Le Lord Marie, où le Roy et la Reine se trouvent eux meme sort souvent, et une sort grande partie de la Noblesse’ ([22], p. 35). His comment relays the existence of tickets without passing any judgement on the likelihood of his readers having the necessary social connections, or not, to secure them. On the one hand through his references to his network of personal contacts he builds up a picture of London as an intimate and interconnected place in which the educated elite may be sure of a welcome. But on the other hand, print culture was rapidly erasing social distinctions, creating a city of public participation rather than private pleasure. This shift towards a more democratic conception of the city is reflected even in the short time between the two known editions of Colsoni; the first of 1693 and the third of 1697 reprinted in 1710.
The title page of the 1710 edition informs readers that it has been, ‘Nouvellement Revue, corrigée et augmentée’. The personal tone and biographical information has been dropped and in its place a more systematic and neutral approach is adopted. Although the edition is not labelled as posthumous its increased detachment and the general abandonment of first person observational analysis suggest that it might have been revised by somebody else, possibly after Colsoni’s death. Unlike the first edition Colsoni’s name does not appear on the frontispiece or anywhere else in the text and all his other known publications date from the 1680s and 1690s. The amount of detailed information given at many sites is greatly augmented, while there is an increased emphasis on providing statistical information presented in a rationalised form. The features of interest at the Royal Exchange, for example, are numbered and whereas previously Colsoni had spoken simply of ‘plusiers statues’ ([22], p. 2) the later edition gives the specific number, 15. The building’s dimensions divided into 7 alleys with their 190 ‘boutiques’ are also carefully enumerated ([49], pp. 4–5). The entry for the Tower of London is greatly expanded and includes for the first time a detailed list of entries for all the crown jewels derived from ‘le catalogue’ ([49], p. 8). The incorporation of material from other printed sources became a standard, and increasingly lengthy, feature of topographical guides as the eighteenth century progressed; symptomatic of the ability of print culture to reinterpret and re-circulate itself in varying manifestations [50].
Colsoni’s most immediate successors in terms of foreign language guides to London were two German books of 1706 and 1726 ([29], pp. 140–41). The later one, according to David Webb, was very French-influenced and possibly a translation of Miege’s New State of England, which included a substantial chapter on London. Michael Harris also mentions The New Guide to London as an up-dating of Colsoni for foreigners ([20], p. 44). In 1708 Edward Hatton’s New View of London: A Book Useful not only for Strangers but for the Inhabitants appeared. He turned the traditional explanation of the need for guides for natives to their own cities on its head by saying that the work would be useful ‘for English Noble and Gentlemen, as intend to Travel, whereby they may be enobled, when in Foreign Countries, to give a satisfactory Account of the Metropolis of their own’ ([15], Preface). We have already noted that Hatton claimed Brice as his inspiration, adding that inspection of his Parisian guide ‘gave somewhat of Birth to the General Heads in the following book’ ([15], Preface). Hatton followed Brice in his architectural interests and his emphasis on the modern while referring his readers to Stow if they required an historical source [51]. He says, however, in the intervening hundred years ‘that what was London in Mr. Stow’s time, is now like another City; the Churches, the Houses, and the very Situation and Names of some of the Streets being so much altered’ ([15], Preface). Hence the need for a ‘New View’, as Hatton called his guide, which sought to provide an overview of the rapidly changing and expanding city based on a new sense of spatiality, with space as an active and dynamic agent in the workings of the urban life. To help chart this transformation a fold-out map of 1707 by Richard Chiswell was included which, as with the text, staked a claim for modernity being ‘A New Map’. The cartography extended to ‘The Suburbs as they now are standing’ the very title reinforcing the mobility and instability of metropolitan form, at the same time as the map tried to establish and fix its boundaries.
Hatton, like many an ambitious author aimed to be ‘pleasing to every Reader’, and he lists the different audiences he hoped to engage in his Preface.
Thus, what is said of the Original Names of Streets, the Foundation and Denomination of Churches etc. will probably be acceptable to the Antiquary. The Description of Churches, Monuments, Ornaments, Statues etc. to the Architect, Painters, Statuarists, etc. That part of Armorial Ensigns, Inscriptions, Cenotaphs, Tombs, Monuments, Grave-Stones, etc. to the Lovers of Heraldry, History, Poetry etc. … That of the Dimensions and Bearing of Streets, the Areas and Terms of reputed Squares, etc. the Length, Breadth and Altitude of Churches and Steeples, Explanation of the Terms of Art, etc. to the Mathematical Genius, and that of the Musæum of the Royal Society, etc. to the Lovers of Natural Philosophy, etc.
([15], Preface)
As well as these specialist audiences Hatton hopes that the sections above will ‘afford Satisfaction and Pleasure to Readers of all Tempers and Complexions’ and that the work will serve as a useful guide to the capital ([15], Preface). One of the main functions of guidebooks in the period was to map cities which were continually expanding and in which, as Hatton commented, street names were often an unreliable guide. The experiences of the Swiss French Protestant Cesar de Saussure who visited England in 1725–1729 and spent a great deal of time in London are worth recounting here. He wrote of a frightening night when he got lost in the city a few days after his arrival without any form of guide and unable to speak English. He does not write specifically of having acquired a guidebook but his subsequent letters home to his family make it clear that he was using one or similar sources for his very detailed accounts of the metropolis, for example he cites the precise dimensions of St Paul’s cathedral ([52], pp. 23–24, 46).
Hatton included three ‘stations’ to help his readers orientate themselves in different parts of the city: The Tower of London for the east of the town, St Paul’s Cathedral for the middle and Charing Cross for the west. In each case he gave the distances from the marker to the principal streets. He also tried to define the overall shape of metropolis. The problem in so doing was that the city did not accord with regular geometry, as it should be according to classical precepts, and so London writers came up with ingenious metaphors to convey its scale and form. Howell in Londonopolis had described it as being like ‘a Jesuit’s hat’, i.e., long and thin, and Hatton continued in a similar vein comparing it to a Laurel Leaf and also a whale.
Some have compared it to a Carpenter’s Rule; but it much resembles the Shape (including Southwork) of a great Whale, Westminster being the under Jaw, St James’s Park the Mouth; the Pall mall etc. Nd, the upper Jaw; Cock and Pye Fields, or the meeting of the 7 Streets*, the Eye; the rest of the City and Southwork to East Smithfield, the Body; and thence Ed to Limehouse, the Tail; and ‘tis probably in as great a Proportion, the largest of Towns, as that is of Fishes.
([15], p. ii). * Seven Dials
Although Hatton’s was a pocket book it was not arranged as a series of walks but rather alphabetically and thematically, under headings such as churches, streets, public statues etc. a format which was increasingly adopted in eighteenth-century pocket guides such as the long-running Ambulator series of 1774 onwards. He began with a gazetteer ‘containing the names of the streets, squares’ with comments on their ‘Quality of Building and Inhabitants’. He writes for example of ‘Ormond Street, a street of fine New Buildings’ while Billingsgate was ‘a kind of Square, which is a commodious Place for Hoys etc. to lie, and take in and unlade Goods’ ([15], pp. 7, 61). Hatton combines the contemporary desire for universal coverage, through enumerating all the streets of the city, with a new attempt to describe the urban mass and its architecture both spatially and critically. The focus on the routeways of the city as a way of understanding its form and patterning, as represented in the maps and many urban odysseys of the period, came out of the new perception of the primacy of movement in the modern city. Hatton’s entries reveal a new interest in visual appraisal but also the very limited language available for architectural description at the time ([35], pp. 146–52). Many streets are described approvingly as ‘fine’ or ‘new’, such as Albermarle Street which was ‘of excellent new building, inhabited by Persons of Quality’ ([15], p. 1). Regularity was also highly prized, Aldermanbury is implicitly rebuked as ‘a spacious street (tho’ somewhat irregular)’ ([15], p. 1). This is the language of classicism with its emphasis on proportionality, novelty and quality but expressed for laymen in embryonic terminology. Despite his claims for specialist audiences in the Preface the ‘Explanation of the Terms of Art’ at the end of the book—covering Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Mathematics and Heraldry—was clearly directed to the non-professional reader.
In the ‘Explanation of the Terms of Art’ Hatton includes full coverage of the classical orders and all their parts, as was common in so many treatises and architectural accounts of the time, but here translated for a middle-class audience without a classical education. His template for the arts is European, he writes in the Preface that ‘the Terms in Architecture, Sculpture and Painting [are] from the Italian’. His description of ‘Architecture’ is broadly based on the Vitruvian canon: ‘the Art of designing a Structure and Proportioning the several Members by due symmetry and disposing the several Appartments in the most commodious manner, so as to make them as pleasant and convenient as the place and other circumstances will admit’. Hatton does not name classical architecture in his Terms nor even use the more common contemporary term ‘antique’ but this is clearly his normative type with Gothic positioned as ‘the other’. Thus he illuminates the ‘5 Kinds or Orders’ and also ‘the Gothick Order’ and ‘the Modern Gothic Order’ ([15], p. 805). His use of the term ‘Gothic Order’ is interesting for it prefigures Batty Langley’s invention in the 1740s of five Gothic orders for which he was vilified by contemporaries ([53], pp. 265–86; [51], pp. 99–100). Hatton then proceeds to explain classical terminology in simple terms often by analogy with well-understood traditional architectural features. Thus a Piazza is ‘a lower or Ground-Walk covered over but open at one side; the same as Cloister (as commonly understood) while an ‘Architrave’ is ‘The first piece of Ornament next above the Column or Pilaster; there are sometimes 2, sometimes 3 Faces, Fillets or Reglets appearing to lie, the upper over the Edge of the lower, as the Courses of plain Tile on a House’ ([15], pp. 803, 811). He often refers to workmen and their nomenclature, for example: ‘Pediment, is that Ornament in Architecture placed over Doors or on Fronts of Houses etc. which is either pitch’d, triangular, or (as the Workmen call it Reaking)’ ([15], p. 810). This has led Bridget Cherry to suggest that Hatton might have had a related professional background himself possibly as a surveyor, as he was also involved in producing mathematical and measuring publications including: An Intire System of Arithmetic, 1721 and A mathematical manual, 1728 ([51], p. 102). It is interesting to compare Hatton’s ‘Explanation of Terms’ with the more well-known lexicographical examples aimed at an architectural audience, such as John Evelyn’s, An Account of Architects and Architecture, Together With an Historical, Etymological Explanation of certain Terms, particularly Affected by Architects, 1664. Evelyn’s extremely lengthy entries, most of which take several pages for a single term, mix Greek, Latin and modern languages with detailed consideration of antique exemplars and the canonical treatises such as Vitruvius, Alberti and Perrault. Evelyn wrote that his Explanation of Terms was badly needed in his home country, where unlike France, neither workmen nor ‘the Politer Students of this Magnificent Art’ were conversant with ‘the several Parts and Members of the Orders’ ([54], To the Reader). Evelyn did not see his book as being solely used by the cognescenti but certainly by a professional audience involved in construction. Hatton’s list by contrast is squarely pitched at the layman, as he wrote: ‘my business here is not to teach the Art but explain the term’ ([15], p. 805).
Hatton followed Brice in articulating an appreciation for the Gothic. His interest may have arisen more from historic than aesthetic interests, nevertheless he valued monuments such as Westminster Abbey (1246 onwards) that were generally disparaged in contemporary connoisseurial discourse [55]. John Evelyn, the diarist and one of the key proponents in introducing classical architecture after the Restoration, was one of the most vehement. He characterised medieval architecture as barbarous and chose Henry VII’s chapel (1503–ca.1512) in Westminster Abbey to make his point:
a certain Fantastical and Licencious manner of Building, which we have since call’d Modern (or Gothic rather) Congestions of Heavy, Dark, Melancholy and Monkish Piles, without any just Proportion, Use or Beauty, compar’d with the truly Antient. … For Proof of this (without Travelling far abroad) I dare Report my self to any Man of Judgment, and that has the least Taste of Order and Magnificence; If after he has look’d a while upon King Henry the VII’s Chappel at Westminster; Gaz’d on its sharp Angles, Jetties, Narrow Lights, lame Statues, Lace and other Cut-work and Crinkle Crankle … one cannot consider it with any Steadiness, where to begin or end; taking off from that Noble Aier and Grandure, Bold and Graceful manner, which the Antients had so well.
([54], p. 9)
For Evelyn Gothic represented the antithesis of civilization and was something that was not just aesthetically displeasing but degenerate and potentially harmful ([5], pp. 19–20; [56], pp. 161–62). This by contrast is Hatton on the Abbey, a passage which reveals his keen eye and potent blend of first-hand observation with an appreciation of the essentials of structure and ornament.
I proceed to describe the Building of this graceful piece of Antiquity, the Walls whereof are Stones, the Floor mostly paved with Marble … the Roof appears true Pitch cover’d with Lead, camerated within; and that of the Nave and cross Isles are supported with 50 Sussex marble Pillars … All which, with the Arches, Roof, Doors and other Apertures are of the antient Gothick Order. … As to the Ornament of this magnificent Pile … but though the grand Enemy of Beauty, Time, has somewhat defaced her External Features, yet there remains not a few marks of her outward Gracefulness: And if we look within, where Time has not been so powerfully assisted … we there perceive a numerous Train of agreeable Prospects, as her fine Marble Pillars and sumptuous Arches; her lofty neat Roof; her Mausoleum of magnificent and rich Shrines … we shall find her to excel, in these Respects … most Churches in the World.
([15], pp. 496–97)
Hatton shows himself to be an early enthusiast for the Gothic here at a time when most architectural commentators followed Evelyn as dismissing such work as ‘crinkle-crackle’ [57,58]. He goes on to praise the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin, better known today as Henry VII’s chapel (1503–ca.1512), as an ‘unparallel’d Edifice’ and a ‘Pattern of Ingenuity’, particularly the stone fan vault with ‘Gothic Arch-Work’ as he calls it ([15], pp. 498–99). One can also see in this passage why later writers such as Stephen Wren in Parentalia leaned heavily on Hatton in describing the City churches [59]. Hatton’s detailed descriptions of both pre- and post-Fire structures meant that he became an important source on London churches, many of which were subsequently radically altered or destroyed. He also dealt with church buildings on the outskirts of the metropolis which for the most part in the early eighteenth century still maintained their post-medieval appearance. These were not grand monuments like Westminster Abbey but Hatton’s approach is still that of the even-handed recorder. He wrote of St Mary, Islington that he could not be sure of its date but that ‘the present Structure, as near as can be judged from its Order, Materials, and other Circumstances, may have been erected about 200 Years’. He then offers a finely balanced judgment on its merits: ‘As to Ornament, it cannot be expected any considerable should be in so old and decaying a Structure: But what I find is agreeable enough’ ([15], p. 377). This appreciation of the non-classical was extended to the suburbs more broadly by Hatton and other writers, where vernacular and traditional architecture continued to form a substantial part of the environment until the late eighteenth century [60]. Guide books presented themselves as primarily concerned with the experiential, i.e., the sensory and the immediate, including the everyday, rather than the aesthetic and in this way they could incorporate elements of the non-polite, such as the Gothic, within the genre while at the same time remaining part of urbane literate culture.
The circumstances surrounding the publication of Hatton’s work also brings into sharp focus the supremely commercial nature of such works. Michael Harris comments:
Clearly the possibility of recurrent demand and the comparatively easy process of up-dating, if required at all, made the guides an excellent commercial bet … the sequences of editions which took some publications through generations in the trade suggest the value placed on successful items; and the wrangling over the property which occasionally appeared above the surface underlines the commercial interest.
([20], p. 49)
The New View was brought out in 1708 by a triumvirate of publishers—Richard Chiswell, Thomas Horne and Awnsham Churchill—who were already engaged in a plan to revise Stow’s Survey of London. They first commissioned Richard Blome the cartographer to undertake the project in 1694 and then when he stalled passed the baton to the ecclesiastical historian John Strype in 1702. Strype’s progress, however, was insufficiently brisk for his impatient backers and so in 1708 they published what was generally perceived as a rival, albeit far more populist, work and delayed the production of the larger folio volumes until 1720 [61].
We will finish with a book which quite literally united English and French interests. The Foreigner’s Guide: Or a necessary and instructive Companion Both for the Foreigner and Native, in their tour through the Cities of Westminster and London (1729) was the most direct and popular successor to Colsoni. It was a pocket book which went through a number of editions up until the 1750s and was the first to employ a facing page dual language format in English and French. The author, who is unknown, lamented in the ‘Preface’ that there had been a previous attempt to introduce visitors to the city ‘but in every respect so imperfect, that as I have heard it express’d by many, It does Shame to the Title it bears’ [62]. This must be a reference to Colsoni as the Foreigner’s Guide is a far more sober and measured account than Colsoni’s whistlestop tour. However, the facing page format could have been inspired by the Trismagister or other linguistics works which employed mirror pages. The book begins with ‘A Description of London in general’ which is largely dedicated to outlining the growth of the city and the new buildings which had gone up in the past fifty years or so. The author writes of the ‘many thousand Houses, large and beautiful Streets, Squares &’. But eschewing the usual chauvinism of the genre goes on to say that ‘and did not the publick Buildings, such as great Houses, Churches, Hospitals, Halls, Inns of Court and stand as they do in bye Places, this City would make as good a Shew as any in the World’ ([62], p. 10). The clamour for improved public buildings was to become an increasing refrain throughout the century echoed most immediately and notably in James Ralph’s A Critical Review of the Publick Buildings … about London and Westminster, 1734. In its relativity the Foreigner’s Guide displays an even greater sense of the fluidity and mutability of the city than Colsoni and Hatton, whose texts are very much snapshots taken at a particular moment in time. The opening general Description is followed by the now familiar format of perambulations arranged by neighbourhood, pointing out the principal sights. The Foreigners Guide, like Colsoni, provided practical information and dealt with both high and low culture. There is much less of a sense of personal knowledge and immediacy than in Colsoni, although some recommendations and tips are still included. Indeed the more remote tone stems from the fact that much of it is culled from Daniel Defoe’s A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724–1726) [36]. London in the Foreigners Guide appears as a much bigger and more anonymous entity than Colsoni’s and Hatton’s city reflecting the intervening thirty-plus years of physical and social change. The author ranges as far afield as Oxford, Bath and Newmarket; the rhapsodic account of the racing at the latter seemingly the highlight of the entire account. The constant expansion of what might be constituted as London and the emphasis on peregrination continued in later works, such as the Ambulator and London In Miniature of 1755 ([60], Chp. 2).
The sub-title of London In Miniature, given below, might stand as a conclusion to this article. It nicely encapsulates the novel features that guidebooks pioneered in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in Paris and London. These were firstly, a fine balance between the need for a concise format in conjunction with the provision of as great an amount of information as possible, the difficult juggling act of every tourist guide ever since. Secondly, there was an emphasis on the sensory and the experiential as opposed to knowledge and improvement which embraced high, low and middling culture. Guidebooks were one of the ways through which architecture and the city were commodified as a touristic experience; as Carole Fabricant writes: ‘we can see in eighteenth-century tourism the distinct beginnings of what it has developed into today: a collective, institutional force, a profoundly social and socializing ritual’ ([63], p. 256). Thirdly, they presented their ever-expanding cities as highly malleable both physically and conceptually. Along with maps, topographical prints and other literature they were ones of the ways in which the new spatiality of the city was both represented and produced. As the sub-title of London In Miniature stated such books provided: ‘A Concise and Comprehensive Description of the Cities of London and Westminster, and Parts adjacent, for forty Miles round … Intended as A Complete Guide to Foreigners, And All others who come to view this City, or travel for Pleasure to any of its circumjacent Parts’. From this very particular mix there developed a new type of guide which rejected antiquarianism as being irrelevant for its more generalised audiences. These guides grew out of the position of the European capitals as epicentres of a new consumer culture but in themselves also contributed to the creation of the two cities as objects of consumption in their own right. The tradition of reciprocity between London and Parisian guides continued into the nineteenth century as flow of guidebooks by French and English authors on each other’s capitals demonstrates ([64], pp. 323–26, 330–31). Thus a genre of urban guidebooks emerged which, in parallel with various literary strands, developed new approaches to writing about the city that stressed its architectonic form, visual consumption, geographical diversity, and multifarious and protean character. They were part of an integrative and immersive touristic presentation of the urban grounded in its physical geography and structures. In so doing they created a new image of the city as a modern and dynamic series of diverse buildings and spaces which incorporated the old as well as the new the periphery as well as the centre.


I am grateful to Dana Arnold for suggesting this article and to Anthony Gerbino for his help in introducing me to Parisian guidebooks.

Conflict of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.

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McKellar, E. Tales of Two Cities: Architecture, Print and Early Guidebooks to Paris and London. Humanities 2013, 2, 328-350.

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McKellar, Elizabeth. 2013. "Tales of Two Cities: Architecture, Print and Early Guidebooks to Paris and London" Humanities 2, no. 3: 328-350.

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