Michael A. Vuksta
She is grown so great I am almost afraid to meddle with her. She’s certainly a great world, there are so many little worlds in her. She is the great beehive of Chistendom, I am sure of England. . . .She is the countrymen’s labyrinth; he can find many things in it, but many times loseth himself. He thinks her to be bigger than heaven, for there are but twelve celestial signs there, and he knows them all very well, but here there are thousands that he wonders at. Well, she is glory to her prince, a common gain to all her inhabitants, a wonder to strangers, an head to the kingdom, the nursery of sciences, and I wish her to be as good as great.
(Donald Lupton, 1632)
from Lawrence Manley, ed.
London in the Age of Shakespeare
From the simple coincidence of two marks, to the myriad of details in Hollar’s drawing, the means for representing the city has become complex. And yet, the essence of that symbol is not lost in the vista of Hollar. Imagine that symbol tilted up and slightly toward the viewer and the arc of Hollar’s curved panorama is but an arc of that enclosing circle. Not as a sealed vessel, but open, as a cup receiving the communication and change that the city is certain to offer. And the roads that cross here are bridge and river, connecting the city and its inhabitants to the nation and the world.
From convention to invention the graphic means for representing the city have apparently changed, but they have always framed a vision that is necessarily unique and expressive. As in a child’s game of “telephone”*, when a word is quietly and slowly altered as it is passed from ear to ear, so too, will that vision (passing from eye to eye, and) thoughtfully shared, become just as necessarily changed.
* I must acknowledge the contemporary poet John Ashbery for the invention of this metaphor in regards to Renaissance imagery. See
SelfPortrait—in a Convex Mirror
(figure available in print form)
I have selected a composite planview made by John Speed in 1611 as ah example for this activity. I have also included two Dutch maps which incorporate perspective views into their borders. I will leave the discussion of these maps for another part of this course,* noting only what Svetlana Alpers concluded in
The Art of Describing
: “Astronomy, world history, city views, costumes, flora, and fauna, come to be clustered in images and words around the center offered by the map. The reach of mapping extended along with the role of pictures, time and again the distinctions between measuring, recording, and picturing were blurred.”
The map by Speed contains nine separate areas of information. Two of these areas are plan views of London and Westminster, appearing much like the planviews that have already been discussed. Two other areas display oblique perpectival views of St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s. Another rectangle contains the image of an open book with verbal histories of these two landmarks. Another large rectangular area is reserved for the title. The largest portion of the picture is taken up by a map of the entire county of Middlesex with symbolic drawings in the countryside. Large towns appear as walled enclosures. London is marked by its familiar concentration of built form. The smallest space is reserved for an ornate cartouche bearing the artist’s image and name. The last space to consider contains an open book that includes the following inscription discussing some of the artistic problems of mapping and picturing (I have transcribed the peculiar English into a more familiar spelling):
The large circuit with multitude of streets besides the beautiful and stately buildings in this fair and most famous city LONDON: can no wise be demonstrated in so little compass, as here I am enforced to show. But as Hercules his body might be measured by his one foot, and the universal globe drawn in a small circle: So in this rather conceit the magnificence thereof in mind (?), then curiously seek satisfaction, beauty, and rich blessing both for soil and sea equals (if not exceeds) any city under Heaven. The true plot whereof I purposely reserve to a further leisure and larger scale.
* See list of topics at the back of this essay.
I began this essay by acknowledging that the city was a complex artifact. Furthermore, I had suggested that the representation of it is necessarily unique, abstract, and potentially selfexpressive. With this in mind, the final activity will combine those images and graphic elements and techniques studied in earlier parts of this unit to produce a composite, collage map of the city of New Haven. In place of perspective drawings one can substitute original photographs. The selection of particular maps to use as the central element of the composition will be left to the teachers own discretion and resources. (A list of some historical maps appears in the back of this essay under New Haven.) Keep it in mind that the maps can be copied or traced and additional features and graphic elements can be added to them. This project lends itself to group work in which students are given responsibility for specific elements and types of information. A partial list follows:
buildings and landmarks;
particular views, of (or from) East and West Rock;
city agencies’ or corporate and commercial logos;
personal, class, family and school coats of arms;
a scale bar;
written descriptions, both prose and poetry;
place name inscriptions;
pictures of people;
costume, dress, or other consumer products;
insets of areas and neighborhoods;
mythical figures and animals, check architectural ornament, too;
inset of downtown and the Green;
for other ideas see
by Southworth and Southworth listed in the bibliography at the back of this essay. Have fun; and in closing I advise that:
It is significant that the final product is seldom aesthetically unified. The obvious visual disjuncture between the map and its accompanying imagery is the result of a conceptual confusion stemming from the Renaissance tradition of cartographic world maps. Originally, no distinction had been made between the map and the historical commentary included within its boundaries. Rather they were combined in a single image of comprehensive import, and this composite map was also intended to supplement an encyclopedic text. In other words, these early “maps” were considered to be pictures, or visual summations of knowledge about the universe contained in the text.