Published in 1598, John Stow’s Survey of London was the first attempt to provide a full-scale history of what he described as ‘the chiefe and principall citie of the land’. Stow showed humility in acknowledging that such a subject called ‘for the pen of some excellent Artisen’ and deprecating the ‘playne manner’ in which he wrote. But the success of his endeavour was immediate and sustained. New editions were issued in 1603, 1618, 1633, 1720 and 1754.
Stow’s book was reprinted several times in the 19th century and inspired an important imitation in 1894, when the new Survey of London was established by the Arts and Crafts architect C R Ashbee. Initially supported by the embryonic London County Council, it aimed to give a complete description