The Royal College of Physicians, established in 1518 by King Henry VIII (1491–1547), has had several homes over the centuries. This hand-coloured etching and aquatint depicts the great hall in the Warwick Lane building, close to St Paul’s Cathedral, designed by founding member of the Royal Society Robert Hooke (1635–1703) after the Great fire of London destroyed the College’s previous premises on Amen Corner. The RCP remained at Warwick Lane until 1825 when it relocated to fashionable Pall Mall East, before eventually settling next to Regent’s Park in 1964.
This plate, from the Microcosm of London series, shows licensed physicians at work, engaged in a lively debate about the correct diagnosis of a patient (probably the gentleman stood to the left of the head of the long table).
Background to the Microcosm of London collection of prints
The Microcosm of London was published in three volumes between 1808 and 1810 as a result of an ongoing collaboration between publisher Rudolph Ackermann, cartoonist and illustrator Thomas Rowlandson, architectural draughtsman Auguste Charles Pugin, engravers John Bluck, Joseph Constantine Stadler, Thomas Sunderland, John Hill and Richard Bankes Harraden, anonymous hand-colourists and authors William Henry Pyne and William Combe.
The Microcosm of London tapped into the demand for highly-coloured prints of real-life subjects that proved something of a publishing sensation during the Regency period. As such, the prints stand as a fascinating historical record of London life in the early years of the 19th century. While Pugin’s fine architectural drawings capture the size and shape of the capital’s principal buildings (both externally and from within) Thomas Rowlandson’s keenly observed figures depict the sheer colour and vitality of late Georgian society, rich and poor alike.
- Article by:
- Matthew Sangster
- Town and city, Transforming topography
Advances in print technologies, a growing consumer base and the interventions of clever entrepreneurs led to a burgeoning of prints of London in the 18th and 19th century. Matthew Sangster considers the ways in which these prints represented and organised the city, placing them onto a digital map of London to reveal the geographical and cultural patterns they trace.