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Saturday, October 1, 2022

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The map is a major scholarly resource used by professors and professionals. The map is a major scholarly resource used by professors and professionals.

Mapping the London that Shakespeare Knew

Students at SDSU are working to make a historical contribution to a well-known 16th century map.
By Clarissa Slagle

This semester, SDSU NewsCenter will focus on the arts with stories of the creative endeavors of our students, faculty, staff and alumni.     

San Diego State University offers a variety of unique classes that encourage students to make connections between the past and present. This semester an upper division Shakespeare research class offers English majors the chance to conduct research on the well-known Map of Early Modern London.

“This class allows undergraduate students the chance to conduct research and digitize Shakespeare’s historical map of London from the 1500s,” said Peter Herman, professor of English and comparative literature who leads the course.

The Map of Early Modern London

The project is inspired by the Agas map, a 6-foot-2-inch woodcut of London from the 1560s that maps out streets, sites and significant boundaries. During this time, Shakespeare’s theatre was starting to gain attention and in turn it influenced the town and shaped it into the London we know.

A Map of Early Modern London

The map is divided into sections that create a grid. Each section of the grid is then magnified to include things such as churches, schools, ports and towns. There is a star that marks places of distinction and an article that includes information such as how things were first built, jobs that people held at the time, history of diseases and the role all of these things played in the town during that time and beyond.


The Map of Early Modern London had never before been digitized. The University of Victoria in Canada is leading this project along with SDSU and are now conducting research to fill in information about the city during that time.

“Digitization opens the gates for a new way to learn,” Herman said. “My students will be aiding in allowing the masses to access this new information."

Exploring Black Friars

Professor Herman’s class is conducting research on Black Friars, a town for which there is currently no information recorded on the Map of Early Modern London. Black Friars is just one of more than 200 significant locations on the map.  

SDSU undergraduate students are in charge of all the research of the town and will be looking at print documents, personal accounts of the town and various documents in order to compose their article.

The map is frequently looked at by academia, professionals and consultants and is a major scholarly resource that is heavily funded. Contributors to the map have traditionally been graduate students and professors.

This class has been given a unique opportunity for SDSU undergraduate students to research and share the scholarship of the map.

"This class offered a chance for me to do something unprecedented: to work on a collaborative project with an overall goal of publication," said Ashley Gumienny, one of the students taking the course.