Students Staff

26 March 2013

Project to recreate the heart of London publishing in the 18th century

Paternoster Row in London had the highest concentration of bookshops in Europe by the end of the 18th century and Professor James Raven from the Department of History at the University of Essex is leading a project to digitally recreate the vibrant publishing hub.

Professor Raven is working on the ambitious scheme with Dr Adrian Clark and Dr Christine Clark from the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering after receiving the 2013 Antiquarian Booksellers' Association Award overseen by the Bibliographical Society.

The digital recreation of Paternoster Row will allow users to travel down the street to see the bookshops and publishing houses as they would have appeared in 1800 and see inside some of the most significant properties. They will also be able to click on properties to reveal how they were used, who were the tenants, what books and magazines were produced, and other details. The project will also map the location of printers from 1600 through to 1800. The two parts of the project will offer valuable insights into the dramatic expansion of the book trade over two centuries.

Paternoster Row was destroyed in the Second World War and Paternoster Square, the home of the London Stock Exchange, now sits on the site.

Professor Raven said: “The Paternoster Row model will let the user walk down the street, viewing the facades of the buildings and, where evidence allows us they will be able to enter the property and gain a better understanding of how printing houses would have been organised, who would have worked there, what would have been produced and how their operations were linked to other closely connected trades such as binders.”

The number of booksellers and printers active in London at any one time more than doubled during the seventeenth century and then quadrupled again during the eighteenth century.

The map of printers will support on-going research into the development of the book trade in early modern London and is a culmination of work on the series of ‘censuses’ undertaken by the Stationers’ Company and others from the early seventeenth century.

The digital model of Paternoster Row will help researchers understand more fully how printing houses really operated – the size and dimensions of their premises, the tenants and the publications.

A great deal of research has been undertaken into the growth of the book trade during this period. This project will help develop understanding of where the printers and booksellers worked and also offer insights into issues such as production processes and the development of the bookshop.

Dr Adrian Clark and Dr Christine Clark are pioneers in digital modelling techniques and have previously worked on digital recreations of the Temple of Claudius, which once stood on the site of Colchester Castle, and the Gosbecks archaeological site on the outskirts of Colchester.

Dr Adrian Clark said: “Most of our previous modelling work has been of Roman buildings, so there will be some interesting challenges in constructing believable recreations of those in Paternoster Row. As well as producing a web version of the model, we intend to use this work to showcase the interaction capabilities of the new super-high-definition stereo display system in our research laboratory. People will be able to come into the laboratory and view the three-dimensional model we are creating on a screen which takes up an entire wall and hopefully physically interact with it in the same way they might use something like Kinect on the Xbox 360."

Professor Raven said: “This will be the first digital model of its kind and will complement my Panizzi Lectures on London book sites, shortly to be the subject of a major publication by the British Library. Together they will provide new insights into historical questions of place, space and book trade activity in the eighteenth century.”


For more information contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 874377 or e-mail:

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