Books Maps Manuscripts Objects Periodicals Sketches


London's face has changed many times: from a walled settlement in Roman times, a centre of bustling activity in the Elizabethan period, a Regency city reflecting parts old and new, to a spreading metropolis in the modern era. In 1500, the City's population was estimated at 50,000; in 1603, 140,000 lived within and without the ancient walls, with some 40,000 in its suburbs; in 1801, the population for Inner London and the Outer Boroughs was just over 1 million; in 2001, it stood at 7.1 million. However, no matter what the numbers are, London has always been the envy of foreigners and the pride of Londoners. Indeed, it is always the place to go to - and be in.

The roads, the bridges, the buildings such as St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, and the Thames, the life-blood of London's development, combine with the City's rich past, including those well-known events and associations with Kings, Queens, and famous and not so famous other folk, to make it what it is today. Indeed, London is history living.

This exhibition offers a glimpse of London's past through a wide selection of books and manuscripts chosen from within Special Collections. Much of the materials are from Esmond de Beer's fine collection of 16th to 18th century books; one is from the Medical Library, University of Otago. It is by no means a comprehensive account.

And on this great City, it is fitting that the great Dr Johnson should have the last word:

'When a man is tired of London he is tired of life;
for there is in London all that life can afford'
(Johnson, 1777)