Friday, April 3, 2015: Washington Area Group for Print Studies

March 23, 2015

 Vanessa Harding will present "Bibliography, Autobiography, and History: Richard Smyth of London (1590-1675)" in the Rosenwald Room (LJ 205), 2nd floor, Jeefferson Building of the Library of Congress.


Early modern London was a highly literate and communicative society, the centre of a lively publishing industry, flooded with information circulating in manuscript and print, especially during the civil wars of the seventeenth century. Among other things this promoted interest in the history of the city and its inhabitants, and a sense that Londoners could be authors of their own history. John Stow (c. 1525-1605) was a self-educated tailor who collected historical records, compiled annals and chronicles, and in 1598 published A Survey of London, a highly personal historical and topographical description of the city in which he spent his long life. Immediately popular, revised and republished several times in the seventeenth century, Stow's Survey disseminated an idea of London and its moral identity in which citizenship and the lineage of worthy and charitable Londoners played a large part. Humphrey Dyson (d. 1633), notary public, collaborated on the 1633 revision of the Survey, drawing on his own large collection of historical documents, especially printed state papers and proclamations. Richard Smyth (1590-1675), a city law-officer, acquired many of Dyson's books and papers, and built up an impressive library of historical and contemporary materials; though he himself published little he was an acknowledged resource for other scholars, and contributed historical data on London to John Strype, the editor of the 1720 revision of Stow's Survey. This paper aims to connect Smyth's interest in history with his bibliographical activities and with his personal writings, to illuminate his sense of identity, family, and social connection in the seventeenth-century metropolis.
Vanessa Harding is Professor of London History at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research focuses on early modern London, the family, disease and death; she published The Dead and the Living in Paris and London, 1500-1670 in 2002. She has co-directed research projects focusing on family, housing, and health in early modern London, and collaborated on editing and publishing historical records including The London and Middlesex Hearth Tax Returns (British Academy, 2014). She is currently working on a book provisionally entitled Richard Smyth: a life in seventeenth-century London, and developing a project with the Historic Towns Trust to map London on the eve of the Great Fire of 1666. She was Honorary Secretary of the Royal Historical Society, 2007-11.

For further information, consult the Washington Area Group for Print Culture Studies website at, or contact Sabrina Baron and Eleanor Shevlin at washagpcs "AT"