Topographies of Literature & Culture in Eighteenth-Century London

The Grub Street Project is a digital edition of eighteenth-century London. By mapping its print culture, literature, and trades, it aims to create both a historically accurate visualization of the city's commerce and communications, and a record of how its authors and artists portrayed it.

Grub Street (now Milton Street) was both a real place and an abstract idea. For authors such as Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift, it represented base commercialization, hack writing, and the prostitution of literary ideals. Its historical record, however obscure, presents a more complex scene, and one that is difficult to trace. Where, exactly, was "over against the lower Pump in Grub-street" (where one might find the printer John Clowes) or "in Grub-street neer the upper pump" (Bernard Alsop) or "near the Upper-Pump in Grubstreet" (Elizabeth Alsop)? What is left to us are the traces of this topography in maps (Strype, Horwood), in texts (The Dunciad Variorum), and in images (Bridewell, 1720).

Both location and metaphor, this now-vanished street represents what is largely invisible to us now, the print culture of eighteenth-century London (both high and low), and the construction of eighteenth-century London as a network of textual representations. The Grub Street Project will examine new possibilities that digital mapping provides to better understand the city as topography and as social text, and print culture as a distributed social network.

Maps and Views of London

Maps and views of London through the long eighteenth century, mostly 1660–1830, are works in progress, with links from the database of Places and from Works published and sold in London during the long eighteenth century. The map with the most content is currently Strype's 1720 Plan of the City of London, Westminster, and Southwark. Click on "Layers" to find streets and buildings on the map (they're not all there yet! Click on "Tours" to view a tour.

Works and Editions

A few examples of digital editions and texts of books sold/published in London 1660-1830 are now available:

Four editions are in progress (please note that they are not fully copyedited, nor are they annotated as of yet):

Older Experiments in Mapping

The old Flash-based Map and Image Gallery is here (click on "File" to open maps and illustrations):

Featured Student Work: Edison del Canto

Artist and Interdisciplinary doctoral student Edison del Canto reimagines digital editions with his version of The Four Kings of Canada: being a succint account of the four Indian princes lately arriv'd from North America (London: printed and sold by John Baker, at the Black Boy in Paternoster Row, 1710).

For the Grub Street project, del Canto designed an edition interface and conceptual diagrams of what a full edition might entail. This design subverts expectations for the necessity of linear reading and paginated order, of the forms of argument engendered by the printed page through the process of its production, authorship, and dissemination. Of this preliminary sketch, del Canto states:

The Four Kings of Canada explores an E-book visual and interactive interface concept of 1700's British colonial perception of Canada. Empire is a cultural artifact as well as a geopolitical entity; it belongs to a geography of the mind as well as a geography of power. In the context of this culture of Empire, four Native Americans with ties to the Iroquois confederacy traveled as a kind of diplomatic entourage to London in 1710. The cultural impact of this episode in Britain was unique, signifying the new cultural identity of the emerging empire beyond its shores.
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The Grub Street Project has received funding from Canada Foundation for Innovation, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the University of Saskatchewan, and the Saskatchewan Innovation and Science Fund.

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