1737 George Vertue Elizabethan Map of London - The "Woodcut" or Ralph Agas Map, 1560

Cartographer :George Vertue

  • Title : Civitas Londinum Ano Dni M D L X. Londonium Antiqua
  • Ref:  35663
  • Size: 78in x 26in (1.93m x 710mm)
  • Date : 1737 (1560)
  • Condition: (B+) Good Condition

This large rare original 8 sheet map of Elizabethan London by George Vertue was published in 1737, dated, after an original 8 sheet map first published in 1561, only 2 years after Elizabeth I ascended the throne. 
This George Vertue map together with the Braun & Hogenberg map are among the only depictions of Tudor London still available today to collectors. The Braun & Hogenberg map is readily available to collectors. This map rarely appears on the market, with only a small handful sold.
Both maps are derived from surveys of Elizabethan London completed in the mid 16th century. 

The Braun & Hogenberg single plate map is derived from a very large 15 plate map, referred to as the "Copper-Plate" map produced between 1553 & 1559 whereas this George Vertue map is referred to as the "Woodcut" or "Agas" map and is derived from an 8 sheet map published in 1561. The two maps are referred to as the, "Copperplate" & "Woodcut" maps, because no complete examples of either original 16th century maps have survived and the names of the original surveyors or cartographer are uncertain. There was early speculation by George Vertue, that the "Woodcut" map was compiled by the 16th century Elizabethan surveyor Ralph Agas, but this has since been debunked. But even so, the woodcut map is still referred to as the "Woodcut" "Agas" map.
The 15 plate "Copperplate" map was the first map of the two to be completed, between 1553 and 1559. The 8 plate "Woodcut" map was published shortly afterwards in 1561. In 1962 a single plate of the "Copperplate" was discovered along with two more additional plates, discovered later. No examples of 1561 "Woodcut" map have survived but luckily three later 1633 examples have. They now sit in institutional collections. 

The map covers the cities of London and Westminster from the Tower of London in the east to Westminster Abbey in the west. South of the Thames River there are a number of landmarks of Tudor Southwark, including the bull and bear baiting pits and Winchester Palace. London Bridge is shown crossing the river into the City of London. Old St. Paul's Cathedral is depicted in its pre-fire state. The built up suburbs to the north only extend as far as Holborn and Spitalfields, although the hills of Hampstead and Highgate are notionally described in the background.

This map was rescued as 8 separate maps, and professionally restored & joined using contemporary paper, materials and methods. We received the maps in 8 individual frames unprotected by glass. Unfortunately there was some bug damage to a few of the maps, but only to parts of the unprinted areas of the paper, the bugs unwilling to eat the ink. So luckily the vast majority of the printed parts of the maps were saved, with damage minimised to only blank parts of the map, which were restored and filled with dated contemporary paper.
I have included an image of the maps in their 8 original frames prior to removing the maps and restoration, so you can see as they were prior to restoration and joining.
I have found 8 official dealer sales of this map between 1999 and 2017 with a top price of $12,500 in 2017. I know of no copies of this map, currently on the market.

General Definitions:
Paper thickness and quality: - Heavy and stable
Paper color : - off white
Age of map color: -
Colors used: -
General color appearance: -
Paper size: - 78in x 26in (1.93m x 710mm)
Plate size: - 78in x 26in (1.93m x 710mm)
Margins: - Min 1/2in (12mm)

Imperfections: (Starting from the top left plate working clockwise)
Plate 1. Some paper loss to the L&T margins, sky paper loss but with no loss to actual ink.
Plate 2. Paper loss to bottom of plate with small loss to actual ink. Left side of plate light loss to paper surface, very slight loss to actual ink. Age toning
Plate 3. Slight loss to paper surface to top and margin, no loss to actual ink
Plate 4. Paper loss to top margin and paper with loss to paper area in the plate, very minimal loss to actual ink surface
Plate 5. None
Plate 6. Loss of paper to top & bottom of plate with some loss to actual ink
Plate 7. Very small localised 2cm diameter loss to top of plate 
Plate 8. Paper loss to top & right margin of plate, very minimal loss to ink.
This scarce map has been rescued and restored and although not perfect is a very desirable map.

The "Woodcut" map of London, formally titled Civitas Londinum, and often referred to as the "Agas" map of London, is one of the earliest true maps (as opposed to panoramic views, such as those of Anton van den Wyngaerde) of the City of London and its environs. The original map probably dated from the early 1560s, but it survives only in later and slightly modified copies. It was printed from woodcut blocks on eight sheets, and in its present state measures approximately 2 feet 4 inches (71 cm) high by 6 feet (180 cm) wide. There has been some damage to the blocks, and it was probably originally fractionally larger.
The Woodcut map is a slightly smaller-scale lightly modified copy of the so-called "Copperplate" map, surveyed between 1553 and 1559, which, however, survives only in part. It also bears a close resemblance to the map of London included in Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg's Civitates Orbis Terrarum, published in Cologne and Amsterdam in 1572, although this is on a greatly reduced one plate scale.
The Woodcut map was traditionally attributed to the surveyor and cartographer Ralph Agas, but this attribution is now considered to be erroneous.
Three impressions of the Woodcut map survive in its earliest known state of c. 1633. They are held in London Metropolitan Archives, the Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and The National Archives at Kew. The three early copies of the map are dated by an inscription to c. 1633. However, it is evident that the map in this form has been updated from an earlier state. The royal arms in the upper left corner are those of the House of Stuart (1603–49), but are clearly an insertion, almost certainly replacing the earlier Tudor arms, which do appear (at a very small scale) on the royal barge, pictured on the Thames. Similarly, the Royal Exchange (erected 1566–70; opened 1571) appears on the map, but is again clearly an insertion. The map is now known to be a close – though slightly less detailed – copy of the "Copperplate" map, surveyed between 1553 and 1559; but one difference between the two maps is that St Paul's Cathedral appears on the Woodcut version without its spire. The spire was lost in a fire in 1561, and so the map cannot be earlier than that date. The Woodcut map is therefore now dated with a reasonable degree of probability to the 1560s. A reference in the Stationers' Register for 1562–3 to the "Carde of London" may possibly refer to it.
The map has also been slightly modified from the Copperplate map by the introduction of a higher degree of perspective to the projection: this is particularly obvious in the northern and western areas (beyond Bishopsgate towards Shoreditch, and in the Westminster and Whitehall area). It is therefore closer to a bird's-eye view of the City, seen from an imaginary viewpoint above the south bank of the Thames, as opposed to the "bird's-flight view" projection of the Copperplate map. Stephen Powys Marks suggests that this adjustment "may be an indication of an appeal to a less sophisticated public than that which would buy the fine copper engraving"
The Woodcut map was traditionally attributed to the surveyor and cartographer Ralph Agas (c. 1540–1621). This attribution has its roots in a claim made by Agas in 1588 to the effect that for ten years past he had been hoping to undertake a survey of London. On the basis of this statement, the late 17th-century engraver of a copy of the map on pewter sheets associated Agas's name with it; and the attribution was then asserted more firmly by the antiquary George Vertue in 1737–8. However, the probable date of the Woodcut map and its relationship to the Copperplate map make it extremely unlikely that Agas – who began practising as a surveyor in about 1566 – played any part in its creation, and the attribution is now treated as highly dubious. Nevertheless, the map is still often referred to as the "Agas" map. (Ref: M&B;Tooley)

George Vertue (1684-1756)
Vertue was a prominent early 18th century engraver and antiquarian. His eclectic and artistic tastes drew him into the tastemaking circles in London during his time. He was a contemporary of William Hogarth and together they were members of the Rose and Crown Club. He was also the official engraver for the London Society of Antiquaries. The latter of which was a learned society "charged by its Royal Charter of 1751 with 'the encouragement, advancement and furtherance of the study and knowledge of the antiquities and history of this and other countries'."
As part of his responsibilities, he provided many of the illustrations for the Society's projects, foremost among these was Vetusta Monumenta, an series of publications documenting ancient buildings, arts, and artefacts. Additionally, Vertue undertook his project to re-engrave the "Woodcut" map under the aegis of the Antiquarian Society. This should come as no surprise, as the project was well within the interests of the Society.
In the 1730s and '40s Vertue showed a special interest in Tudor history and printmaking. This is obviously reflected in his copy of the "Woodcut" map. His interest can also be seen in the Historic Prints series of 1740, in which he imitated 16th century images of Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth, and other royals. Much of his work for Vetusta Monumenta also revolves around Tudor architecture.

Ralph Agas
Ralph Agas (or Radulph Agas) (c. 1540 – 26 November 1621) was an English land surveyor and cartographer. He was born at Stoke-by-Nayland, Suffolk, in about 1540, and lived there throughout his life, although he travelled regularly to London. He began to practise as a surveyor in about 1566, and has been described as "one of the leaders of the emerging body of skilled land surveyors".
Agas is particularly known for his large-scale town map of Oxford (surveyed 1578, published 1588). Early maps of London and Cambridge were also formerly attributed to him, but these attributions are no longer upheld.
Agas was born in Stoke-by-Nayland, in Suffolk, probably between 1540 and 1545. By his own account, he began to practise as a land surveyor in about 1566. He is described at several points in his life as "deformed", "impotent", "lame" and a "cripple", but the precise nature of his disability is not known.
He was ordained, and served from 1578 to 1583 as rector of Gressenhall, Norfolk. He probably abandoned the church after this date in favour of his surveying career.
He appears always to have lived in Suffolk, but travelled regularly to London in term time to obtain orders for surveying work. During his visits he is known to have lodged at inns: in 1596 at the "Flower de Luce", next to the "Sun" near Fleet Bridge; and in 1606 at the sign of the "Helmet" in Holborn, at the end of Fetter Lane.
He died at Stoke-by-Nayland on 26 November 1621, and was buried there the next day.
Agas's regular work consisted of drawing up local estate maps and surveys for a variety of clients. He was one of the first estate surveyors to move beyond the traditional practice of compiling purely written descriptions of landed property, and to consider supplementing these with measured maps.[6] The earliest map that can be attributed to him is one of lands at West Lexham, Norfolk, dated 1575. He subsequently undertook commissions in Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Gloucestershire, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Suffolk and Surrey. An estate map he drew of Toddington, Bedfordshire, dated 1581, includes what Paul Harvey has described as "the best picture we have of a small Elizabethan country market-town". He appears to have been patronised by William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley. Another client was Corpus Christi College, Oxford, although the college commissioned only written surveys rather than maps.
Agas is perhaps principally remembered for Oxonia Antiqua Restaurata, a detailed plan – really a "bird's-flight view" – of Oxford. It was drawn in 1578 and engraved and printed in 1588: a copy is held in the Bodleian Library, bequeathed by Richard Rawlinson. The plan was re-engraved by Robert Whittlesey in 1728, at the expense of the university, but this plate was destroyed in the fire at John Nichol's printing-works in 1808.
A town plan of Dunwich in Suffolk is also attributed to Agas. This was engraved for Thomas Gardner's history of the town (1744). The original later came into the possession of the Suffolk antiquary David Elisha Davy
The important early map of London now conventionally known as the "Woodcut" map has traditionally been attributed to Agas. A verse inscribed on the 1588 engraving of Agas's map of Oxford included a claim to the effect that for ten years past he had been hoping to undertake a survey of London, but had not done so. On the dubious evidence of this statement, a link with the Woodcut map was first made by the late 17th-century engraver of a copy of it on pewter sheets; and in 1737–8 George Vertue attributed it confidently and unambiguously to Agas. However, the claim is no longer sustained: the Woodcut map is now dated to the early 1560s, and is known to be based on the slightly earlier "Copperplate" map of the 1550s, making it highly unlikely that Agas played any part in its creation. Nevertheless, the Woodcut map is still often referred to as the "Agas" map.
A map of Cambridge printed in 1592 (of which a unique copy survives in the Bodleian Library) has also been attributed to Agas, but is now thought more likely to be by John Hamond.

Please note all items auctioned are genuine, we do not sell reproductions. A Certificate of Authenticity (COA) can be issued on request.