Friday 16 December 2011

Finding A Way To The Past by Catherine Johnson

There! See that? It's a lovely spread page of one of my all time favourite books. I hope it's big enough for you to realise how lovely it is. It's one in a series of London A-Zs from Elizabethan up to Victorian edited by Ralph Hyde and published by Harry Margary. That one there is Georgian, the John Rocque map reproduced in facsimile and, I must admit, my favourite. The books are all big, A4 size when closed, and I can happily spend ages exploring my characters' neighbourhoods. This book has been invaluable to the last few history books I have written. It lets me follow my characters as they go about their lives. Tracing their routes as they hare around the city and of course, the wonderful thing about London is that an awful lot of the streets are still there. I do love a map it's so much more than just a picture, there are whole ways of life there, markets, churches, prisons, schools, fields, reservoirs, burials grounds, slums and manor houses. And the names of the streets; Liquorpond Street, Coldbath Fields, Bleeding Heart Yard, Seven Star Court, Little Bear Key, Adam-a-digging Yard.
I'm there already.The books are pricey but if you're looking for a useful tax deductible present for yourself any of them would be ideal.

This post isn't just a plug though. I've written six historical novels now - three published, two in the (very long) pipeline with various publishers and one that lives in the drawer - and all have been set in London.

And this is where you, dear readers may be able to help. I am about to start the second in a series and this time my protagonist is out of the door and on a boat before the thing's started. What am I going to do? How can I possibly manage without a map?
Anyone know any good ones of pre- revolutionary Paris? I need all the help I can get,

Season's Greetings to one and all!


Alex said...

I get my maps, and some of them have been truly wonderful, from the map department at the New York Public Library, research branch at 42nd and 5th Ave, room 117 - one of my favorite places to be.

Carol McGrath said...

Thank you for posting this. I shall look for these. Lovely post.

Eve Edwards said...

The Bodleian library, Oxford, has a brilliant map room and knowledgeable staff. It is where I found all my 1790s maps for Cat Royal which included sailing trips to the Caribbean (there are volumes of navigational aids - sketches of profiles of islands etc - put together for sea goers so they could recognise where they were). Also, at the other end of the technological scale, have you seen the free app from the Museum of London that overlays historical images on the location you are in using your GPS signal?

Catherine Johnson said...

The Bodleian map room sounds lush Julia, and did not know about the Museum of London thingy. Wonderful, thanks

H.M. Castor said...

Sorry I can't help with Paris, but I love this post, as I have loved using old maps of London (16th century ones in my case) while writing too. As you say, some of the still-existing names are so evocative... They give me a thrilled shiver when I see them.

Barbara Mitchelhill said...

This is so useful, Catherine. I need a 19th century map of London for my next book and the ones I've got so far are not detailed enough. I love using the names of the streets - so different from 20/21st century names.

Christine Donovan said...

Barbara this will hopefully help
but you used to be able to get Victorian Ordance Survey street maps, which I adore. You can carry them around all day in your bag and glance at them when you should be doing something more 'useful'.