New College of the Humanities

London 1000 Years

Letters patent of Edward I, confirming the liberties of England (Magna Carta). London 1000 Years: Treasures from the Collections of the City of London
David Pearson
Scala Publishers   160pp   £29.95

Buy this book

One of the most remarkable characteristics of English archives is their continuity. This is especially apparent in the collection of the City of London Corporation.

Older even than Parliament, the records of local government of the Square Mile date back to 1067. The cream of that collection is the subject of this beautifully produced volume compiled by David Pearson. It begins with the ‘William Charter’, a tiny piece of vellum presented by the Conqueror to the City in the wake of the Battle of Hastings, complete with the new king’s seal. Two centuries later Edward I presented the City with its own Magna Carta, still in pristine condition and reproduced here. The City has also collected works originating elsewhere, including Hartmann Schedel’s Liber Cronicarum. Known as the Nuremburg Chronicle, it was produced in the German city in 1493, a masterpiece of early hand-colouring, rich and vibrant.

This excellent overview of London’s development and expansion over the last millennia also includes a property deed signed by Shakespeare (arguably the most valuable object in the City’s collections); a love letter written by the dying John Keats; plus more mundane but no less telling posters, paintings, architectural plans and photographs that reveal the great City in all its complexity. A valuable and unusual addition to the many volumes on London.             

Get Miscellanies, our free weekly long read, in your inbox every week

The world's finest history magazine 3 for £5