Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections

Books on London

bridseye view from James Howell's Londinopolis



The eighteenth-century English author, Samuel Johnson, once said: "When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." As this statement suggests, London is a city of multiple identities--historical, architectural, political, commercial, literary, social, and many more. Over time, these identities have been formed, reformed, and transformed, allowing authors and illustrators alike to portray in print the many different Londons of the different periods in the city's history. In the collection of books on London housed in Bryn Mawr College Library's Special Collections, these various identities and periods are remarkably well represented. From John Stow's Svrvay of London--of which the library holds seven editions, including the first of 1598--to John Britton and Augustus Pugin's Illustrations of the Public Buildings of London; from the pictorial account in The Queen's London to the personal account in Pierre Jean Grosley's A Tour to London, or, New Observations on England and Its Inhabitants; from An Account of the Societies for Reformation of Manners, in London and Westminster by Josiah Woodward to the anonymous Bachelor's Guide to Life in London; from John Evelyn's Fumifugium: or, the Inconvenience of the Aer and Smoake of London Dissipated to Thomas Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor to The Cries of London; from Pain's Great Fire of London to Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year: or, Memorials of the Great Pestilence in London in 1665; from King James I to Henry James; from Mr. Punch to Mother Bunch; a colorful cross-section of all aspects of life in this fascinating city are vividly captured on the pages of the collection's some seven hundred volumes, ranging in date from the fifteenth to the twentieth century.

The beginning of an avid interest in London goes back almost to the beginning of the College itself, with the acquisition of Augustus Hare's Walks in London. Since the inauguration of Bryn Mawr's Special Collections department, this interest continued to develop and the collection of rare and valuable works on London has grown substantially over the years through purchases as well as significant gifts, including those of Anglophile scholar-collectors J. Hampton Barnes, Seymour Adelman, and Elizabeth Reed Foster, to name just a few.

While not the definitive collection of books on London, Bryn Mawr College's collection is, nevertheless, quite remarkable in its own right. This guide to the collection--the product of a fellowship funded by an NEH grant to Bryn Mawr College's Graduate Group in Archaeology, Classics and History of Art--is intended as an introduction for scholars and researchers, both here in our academic community and worldwide, pointing out the collection's strengths and highlights and providing a comprehensive bibliography.

The books on London have been grouped under fourteen headings, not intended as definitive designations, but merely a means of organizing the vast amount of material. Some of the larger categories have been further divided with subheadings. Certainly there are many books that could be placed in more than one category--for example, a history of the city that also deals with its architecture and illustrates general views, a book on the social life and customs that is humorous, or one on the political life that is written as satire--however, the designation has been determined here by a consideration of the book's primary purpose, focus or contribution, in other words, each book has been classified where it seemed to make the most sense and would be most logical and helpful to the reader. These fourteen categories are listed below, each one with an introductory essay of its own, as well as a bibliography with call numbers.


Works Consulted

Fox, Celina. Londoners. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc., 1987.

Inwood, Stephen. A History of London. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1998.

Picard, Liza. Dr. Johnson's London: Life in London 1740-1770. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000.

Saunders, Ann. The Art and Architecture of London: An Illustrated Guide. 2nd ed. Oxford: Phaidon Press Limited, 1988.

Sheppard, Francis. London: A History. London, New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.


Historical / Physical / Natural
Social / Cultural / Political


By Linda Leeuwrik
Currently a doctoral candidate in History of Art at Bryn Mawr College, Linda holds a B.S. from Virginia Tech University, M.A. degrees from Georgia State University and Bryn Mawr College, and will complete her Ph.D. in the spring of 2006. This guide was created while Linda was a Summer Curatorial Fellow funded by a Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to the Graduate Group in Archaeology, Classics and History of Art.