The Agas map of 1560 is attributed to the cartographer Ralph Agas, but this has come under question in recent times. It is also known as the “Woodcut” map of London, but the official title is Civitas Londinium. It bears remarkable similarities to the copperplate map on which it is probably based, but it was printed from woodcut blocks, hence the name. It was comprised of eight sheets and measured 71cm by 180cm.
The map has been reproduced many times. There was a “pewter” copy published in 1849, and a facsimile edition in 1865 published by Cassells. The advent of digital technology has facilitated wider access to the AGAS Map for researchers and the general public. Digital reproductions and online platforms allow users to explore the map in detail, zooming in on specific buildings and areas to gain a deeper understanding of London’s past. The best one is on the University of Victoria’s website where you can select different types of buildings with colour codes interactively.
If you examine the map, the first impression of this illustration of Elizabethan London is how small and compact it is. The population at that time was around 100,000 and the city had 110 churches, all packed into an area of one square mile. The city wall was still intact, and provided a clear, dividing line between town and countryside, and the only way in was across the one bridge – London Bridge – or through one of the city gates. The river Fleet is still visible wending its way down to Blackfriars.