LONDON BRIDGE IS GOING UP!

Views of the old and new London bridges…

London, Brown & Syrett, 1833.

Folio, pp. vi, 26, 12 engraved plates in proof state with tissue guards; a few small marks, else a very good clean copy in contemporary calf gilt, outer decorative border, inner panel with corner ornaments and decorative geometric gilt-ruled boxes, joints lightly worn, a few small scuffs, small repair to foot of spine, upper joint cracked at foot.

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First edition of this narrative account, providing a detailed scientific and historical record of both the old and new London bridges, and making observations on the tides of the river Thames as a consequence of developments on the river, accompanied by some more general remarks on bridge construction. The engraved plates detail all stages of the construction and demolition processes, with views of both bridges from a variety of viewpoints, providing interesting both architectural and socio-historical insight into one of the world’s busiest river crossings.

The construction of the ‘old’ London bridge had begun in 1176, taking 33 years to complete. As was the custom for large medieval bridges, the bridge was home to a vast array of houses and shops, reaching almost 200 in number by the Tudor era, as well as providing a gruesome yet prominent home for the heads of traitors, which were boiled in tar and impaled on stakes at the Southern side of the bridge. Irregularly constructed, the medieval bridge was a significant impediment both to tidal flow and river traffic, and caused a notable disparity in water level on both sides. By 1799, the difficulties of the ‘old’ bridge could no longer be ignored, and so a competition was held to find a design for a new bridge. John Rennie’s design, of granite with a five arch structure, was successful, and construction began in 1824, 30 metres upstream from the old bridge. On completion in 1831, the old structure was demolished.

In 1967, the ‘New’ London bridge was sold to an American entrepreneur, Robert P. McCulloch, who had it rebuilt as a tourist attraction in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

Adams, London Illustrated, 172.

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