Autograph report in Hooke’s hand, and signed by him, as surveyor of the City of London following the Great Fire, concerning a disagreement arising from the rebuilding of a structure on Ludgate Hill in the burnt district. Countersigned by Hooke’s fellow City Surveyor John Oliver. Dated 4 July 1670. [MATTED WITH:] HOLLAR, Wenceslaus. A Map or Groundplot of the Citty of London and the Suburbes thereof, that is to say all which is within the iurisdiction of the Lord Mayor or properlie calld't London: by which is exactly demonstrated the present condition thereof since the last sad accident of fire. The blanke space signifeing the burnt part & where the houses are exprest, those places yet standig [sic]. London: Sold by John Overton at the White House in little Brittaine, next door to S. Bartholomew gate, 1666.

[London: 1670; 1666].

A very rare document related to the Great Fire of London written and signed by the great polymath Robert Hooke (1635-1703), with an equally rare separately-issued map showing the destruction caused by the fire. Starting at a bakery on Pudding Lane sometime after midnight on September 2, 1666, The Great Fire of London consumed over 13,000 houses, as well as numerous churches (including St. Paul’s cathedral) and other buildings. Charles II sought to rebuild as soon as possible to limit unrest and possible rebellion and called for plans from Robert Hooke, John Evelyn, Christopher Wren, and others. Hooke was appointed Surveyor of the City of London and, with Wren, was the chief architect for its rebuilding. As Surveyor Hooke was the arbiter of disputes erupting out of the staking-out process whereby party walls had been altered or streets widened. The present document is a report on such a dispute, between William Sanders (or Saunders) Draper and John Rowly Skinner over the rebuilding of their shop and residence on Ludgate Hill within the burnt district. Autograph documents by Hooke are extremely rare, with only two examples on the market in the last quarter century: Hooke’s manuscript notebook recording proceedings of the Royal Society (sold by private treaty to the Royal Society by Bonham's in 2006 for a reported £1,000,000) and a signed document being a King's Warrant for a patent for Hooke's watches with springs (sold by Bloomsbury Auctions for £23,100 in 1991). The present autograph document is accompanied by an important map of London following the fire, published in December 1666, and described by John Evelyn as ‘the most accurate hitherto extant’ (see Letterbooks, epistle CCLXXXI). “Hollar was to be employed in the preparation of surveys for rebuilding the city and was in close touch with the cartographic elite of his day, the quality of his work is apparent” (Glanville). The present map is an example of the first state, with Overton's ‘White horse in little Brittaine’ address. We find no examples of this map appearing on the market, and only three institutional holdings (British Library, Harvard and the Bibliothèque Nationale).

“In the early morning of Sunday, September 2, 1666, embers in the oven of Thomas Farriner’s bakery set fire to the wharves along the Thames. Despite the dry summer beforehand, the city administration reacted without much concern; Lord Mayor Thomas Bludworth, London’s chief official, infamously quipped that ‘a woman might piss it out.’ As if in a Greek tragedy, hubris in the face of a mightier power became the city’s downfall. Whipped up by the wind and enabled by a lack of adequate firebreaks, the fire spread rapidly, engulfing the city for three more days. Forced onto a boat on the Thames, diarist Samuel Pepys watched the flames from nearly the same view as the creators of the city’s maps and prints. Instead of an idyllic medieval town, Pepys saw ‘one entire arch of fire from this to the other side of the bridge, and in a bow up the hill.’ Only when the winds died down on Wednesday the 5th did the blaze subside, revealing the extent of the devastation. Evelyn’s diary entry from the 10th reads in full: ‘I went again to the ruines, for it was now no longer a Citty.’ Indeed, while only eight people perished in the flames, London was left fundamentally changed. Over four-fifths of the walled city lay in ashes, with at least 13,000 houses and hundreds of shops, halls, and churches destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of people wandered without shelter, displaced from their now charred homes. Beyond the human cost, London’s former cityscape, upon which the city had long been mapped and conceived, lay ruined. The conflagration ‘obliterated at a stroke virtually every trace of a medieval city that had been six centuries in the making,’ observed historian Neil Hanson. Whether tragedy or opportunity, the Great Fire burnt down one London and left open the possibility of creating another. Evelyn did not exaggerate in concluding, ‘London was, but is no more.’

“Still staggering from the scale of the losses, King Charles II and the city government acted swiftly but without a coherent plan. Five days after the fire, the Court of Common Council forbid property owners from immediate reconstruction. Charles himself then issued a proclamation on the matter three days later. On the surface, he promised an idealistic vision of ‘a much more beautiful city’ that would become ‘the most convenient and noble for the advancement of trade of any city in Europe.’ He prohibited hasty and unplanned rebuilding, authorizing the removal of any unapproved construction. Nonetheless, Charles denied that ‘any particular person’s right and interest [would] be sacrificed to the public benefit or convenience.’ As such, his grand ideas, like widening the main streets and building a city wharf, lacked any specific locational detail. Instead, he pledged a comprehensive survey of the destroyed properties before any plan was finalized and promised ‘a plot or model … for the whole building through those ruined places.’ Regardless of the specifics, Charles recognized the necessity of cartography and surveys in order to realize his vision. Mapping would no longer be a years-long pursuit for travel guides and artists. Charles needed a map—a new kind of map—and he needed it fast.

“The king’s plan required two elements: a detailed survey of land ownership and a map of which areas had been burnt down. For the latter, Charles turned to the man most experienced at depicting London: Wenceslaus Hollar. Within days, Hollar’s request to map the fire’s results received an enthusiastic response from a government desperate to use cartography to reshape the city. On September 10, Hollar and associate Francis Sandford were tasked ‘to take an exact plan and survey of the city, as it now stands after the calamity of the late fire.’ They set to work immediately, surveying the damage and creating a map at an unprecedented speed …

“Hollar’s map shows a London hollowed to its very core—but ripe for transformation. The drawing strikingly depicts the old city as an empty swath. ‘The blanke space,’ as Hollar captioned it, lies raggedly demarcated from the unaffected outer districts beyond. Hollar included few buildings within the fire zone, all drawn as simple rectangles viewed from above, suggesting their ashen foundations. Streets and the blocks they surround receive little contrast, as if to say that they could be shifted around without any obstacle. Of course, Hollar may have been forced by approaching deadlines to leave out details and use blank space. But Hollar borrowed from his unfinished pre-fire map for much of the non-affected area—meaning he was not as rushed as it might seem …

“Hollar’s maps influenced the thinking of the key players in the rebuilding of London. His work impressed King Charles, who named Hollar His Majesty’s Scenographer, a position affording some financial and anti-piracy protection. Hollar’s maps, though, were no mere trifle of the king. As historian Ralph Hyde relates, all the major committees and organs of rebuilding utilized Hollar’s plots” (Wasserman).

“At a meeting with the Privy Council in early October 1666, representatives of the City were told that the King had already appointed Hugh May, Roger Pratt and Christopher Wren as his Commissioners for Rebuilding, to work with three men to be nominated by the City. May and Pratt were experienced architects and administrators of large building works, but Wren was by far the youngest and least experienced of the three. The City responded by nominating two experienced master craftsmen – the carpenter Edward Jerman, and the City Surveyor, the bricklayer Peter Mills …

“The King showed foresight in appointing Christopher Wren – a clever and ambitious young man – as his third Commissioner … The City had to respond with a nominee who had intellectual abilities and ambitions similar to Wren’s and who could work harmoniously with him. They knew that Hooke and Wren – distant cousins, and friends for many years – were successfully working together in experimental science. Hooke’s Micrographia (1665) had begun as a cooperative venture with Wren … the City might have been accused of taking an undue risk in nominating Hooke as their third Surveyor of New Buildings. But it was a wise choice …

“Regulations had to be devised which would lead to significant improvements in the appearance and convenience of the city. Hooke’s first surveying work took place in the exceptionally cold winter of 1666-67, when he represented the City in drafting the building regulations for the parliamentary rebuilding acts … The Rebuilding Acts went as far as was feasible to ensure that the new city would be a healthier and more pleasant place in which to live. The Acts classified new buildings according to their locations, and specified the form and maximum height of each class. All walls were to be made of brick or stone, and were to be built vertically from the ground up. The old timber-framed buildings with upper stories that jutted out above crooked, narrow lanes leading only into small, enclosed yards were all forbidden …

“The Rebuilding Acts set up Fire Courts specifically to deal with disputes about tenancies, leases, rents and disagreements about who should pay the costs of private rebuilding. Although under the Acts the City had the authority and obligation to carry out public works, … they delegated to the Surveyors the responsibility and obligation to do what was necessary. More often than not, Hooke was involved, and from the outset he took on the leading role. The City had nominated Mills, Hooke and Jerman as Surveyors, but Jerman preferred to work for private clients, … and when Mills died soon after rebuilding had begun, the City appointed the glazier John Oliver in his place. Hooke was the only City Surveyor who worked throughout the rebuilding programme. He did as much routine surveying in private rebuilding as Mills and Oliver together, and took on nearly all the surveying for public rebuilding …

“When private rebuilding began, complaints inevitably arose between neighbours Allegations were made of infringements of rights to light, or drainage, or access. Party walls were a common source of complaint. The cost of rebuilding a party wall had to be paid initially by the person rebuilding first, but finally had to be shared equally. Sometimes the second neighbour refused to pay because no holes had been left in the brickwork for his joists. In many cases the new vertical party walls resulted in all or part of an upper room which formerly extended over a neighbour’s lower room being lost to the advantage of the neighbour. The intermixtures of interest had to be investigated and settled by payment of appropriate compensation by one neighbour to the other … All of these complaints had to be investigated by the Surveyors, who reported in writing to the City the evidence they had found and what settlement they had arranged, subject to the City’s approval. The complexity of the allegations and counter-allegations, and the general intransigence of the parties involved, made views (reports) far more demanding on the Surveyors’ time and patience than certifying lost ground and new foundations, but in fewer than 1% of about a thousand views did the matter go beyond the jurisdiction of the City, acting on the Surveyors’ recommendations. Hooke produced at least 550 views on infringements” (Cooper, pp. 166-175).

The autograph document offered here is one such ‘view’. It reads:

We whose names are underwritten, two of the Surveyors of the City of London, by the Directions of the Right honble. the Lord Mayor and for pursuance of the Additional Act of Par[liamen]t. for Rebuilding the City. Having viewed the houses of Mr. Will. Sanders Draper & Mr. John Rowly Skinner situated on Ludgate Hill, and being informed by both the said partys that before the Late dreadful fire the said Rowly had from the 2d story upward the Room of seaventeen foot from north to south and ten foot in bredth from East to West over the passage and part of the shop of the said Sanders. We therefore find the said Mr. Sanders hath in Rebuilding his said house carryd the Party wall upright and Intire and inclosed the said Rome of Mr. Rowly to his own house. Now to the ends the said Party wall may remain Intire and upright we doe order and award that the said Mr. Saunders shall Injoy all these Rooms of 10 foot in bredth and 17 foot in Length wholy to himself and that the said Rowly shall make such Legall conveyancing of the same unto him as councill Learned in the Law shall advise if it be necessary, and that the said Mr. Sanders shall make the like conveyance to him, the said Rowell [sic], a parcill of Groun[d] lying next behind the house of the said Rowly which said parcill shall continue fourteen foot in bredth from East to West and twelve foot in depth from North to South. In testimony whereof we have herewith set our hands, this 4th Day of July 1670.

Rob: Hooke; Jo: Oliver.

“In his work as City Surveyor, Hooke came face-to-face with literally thousands of individual Londoners when he certified their lost ground, staked out their foundations, and took views of their complaints and allegations. The citizens, eager to resume normal domestic and business life, demanded a speedy and efficient service from the City and from its Surveyors in particular. Hooke’s services to private citizens were in demand throughout the seven years from mid-1667, during which period he spent most of his mornings (except Sundays) on his duties as Surveyor … Much of his time during those mornings was spent either in the City’s streets taking measurements, looking for evidence of earlier foundations in the rubble, taking note of oral and written evidence in a dispute, or in coffee houses and inns, writing his reports” (ibid., pp. 175-6).

Hollar’s first map of post-fire London was produced in November 1666 (Pennington 1003). About a month later he published the second, more extensive, map offered here (Pennington 1004). Both maps provided a bird’s-eye-view of London, showing the burnt area. Our larger map covers the area from Lincoln’s Inn Fields in the west to the Tower in the east, and from Southwark and the River Thames north to ‘Clerkenwell Greene’ and ‘Fynsbury Fields’ (the smaller map did not go so far east or west, omitting Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Bankside). In the lower right corner of the map is a compartment containing refs. 1-100, and headed ‘Annotations of the Churches, and other remarkable places in the Map.’ Inset is a small compartment of refs. A-Z, a-o, indicating the locations of various churches and landmarks, respectively. Along the bottom of the larger compartment is a scale marked ‘This length is one English mile from one end to the other.’ In the bottom left corner of the main map is a small-scale map of the City of London, Westminster and Southwark (this was not included in the first version of the map): A GENERALL MAP of the whole Citty of London with Westminster & all the Suburbs, by which may bee computed the proportion of that which is burnt, with other parts standing. W. Hollar fecit 1666. In the upper left corner of this small-scale map are two columns of refs. A-K, and beneath the title two columns of refs. a-s.

One of the greatest etchers and engravers, Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-77) was born in Prague, but lived a peripatetic life, mostly spent in London, but with periods in Stuttgart, Strasbourg, Frankfurt, Cologne and Antwerp. In London he was employed as ‘Serviteur domesticque’ to Prince James, perhaps as a drawing master to Prince Charles (later King Charles I) and Prince James, and in 1660 appointed as King’s Iconographer, or Designer of Prospects to the King. From 1652 Hollar became increasingly preoccupied with the creation of a 5 feet by 10 feet, 24 sheet, bird’s-eye style wall map depicting every important building in London, which he seems to have intended to survey himself. Although only one trial sheet of the proposed map, showing the streets around Covent Garden, now survives, he seems to have made good progress, and this map undoubtedly served as the basis for his quickly produced post-fire maps of London, including the map offered here. He partnered with John Leake and other surveyors to engrave two updated versions of the present map, in 1667 and 1669.

For the map: Howgego, Printed Maps of London circa 1553-1850 (1964), 19.1; Glanville, London in Maps (1972), plate 11; Pennington, A descriptive catalogue of the etched work of Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) (2002), 1004. Cooper, ‘The civic virtue of Robert Hooke,’ pp. 161-186 in Robert Hooke and the English Renaissance, Kent & Chapman (eds.), 2005. Wasserman, In the heat of the moment: cartography, rebuilding, and reconceptualization after the Great Fire of London (historicalreview.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Wasserman.pdf).



Autograph document: one page, single foolscap sheet of laid paper (290 x 190 mm), 28 lines in Hooke’s hand with several contemporaneous corrections and additions. Map: Sheet size 302 x 368 mm.

Item #4570

Price: $95,000.00