The idea of making a general view of London from a raised viewpoint originated with a visitor from the Low Countries. It was, after all, a good way of showing the whole City and its key features to those who could not travel to see it. Early uses of topographical information were mainly diplomatic or military, but it was antiquarianism, tourism and entertainment that caused the production of views to flourish.
The first London view was by Flemish Anthony van Wyngaerde, who in the 1540s drew London from an imagined high point on the south bank of the Thames. From here the most impressive spires in the City and Westminster could be featured, as well as the river and London Bridge.
Braun and Hogenberg, John Norden, Mathew Merian, Cornelis Visscher and, most famously, Wenceslaus Hollar produced engraved views in the century that followed, adopting the same south to north format from Southwark. They were very popular with armchair travellers and for wall decoration - and they still are. A smaller number of views show London from raised ground to the north of the city, or from the larger hills such as Highgate and Greenwich.
London views are frequently called 'panoramas', though strictly speaking the term should be reserved for the full 360 degree views which Robert Barker introduced into London in the 1790s. These and others like them became an entertainment phenomenon, and were painted on huge (now lost) canvases and shown in purpose built buildings at major sites like Leicester Square, as well as being engraved for publication.
Enthusiasm was unabated in the 19th century when engraved panoramas were a favourite souvenir or gift, sometimes being published by major newspapers and journals as souvenir give-aways. Photography opened up new possibilities in view making (smog permitting), as indeed did the development of hot air ballooning and aviation. All of these visual treats can be explored through Collage
It is worth remembering that the often very wide, but very shallow format of these images makes them problematic if required for reproduction in a print in our standard sizes. Many of them were published as separate sheets, for joining together, and it is sometimes most effective to select for use just one sheet or one specific portion. However, if you require a full width print of a panorama or map, please contact us. We are able to provide large format prints and can arrange prints on a wide variety of media. See our Help and Support page for more information.