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Havell's Aeronautical View of London

SKU: 9545

Havell's Aeronautical View of London

Date of publication:

Printed Measurement:
33 x 103 cm (panorama sheet size)



  • Robert Havell
  • This panorama of London is modelled on a much larger piece, today known as the Rheinbeck panorama, which was drawn about 20 years previously and probably taken to America by Havell when he emigrated in 1839. It was discovered lining the barrel of pistols in Rheinbeck, NY, in 1940 and is now displayed in the Museum of London.  Havell was the principal engraver of Audubon's 'Birds of America', and it was at Audubon's invitation that he settled in America; he is buried in Sleepy Hollow. 

    A Ballooning City

    Robert Havell revised his material so that recent developments such as Thomas Telford’s St Katharine’s Dock (opened 1828) and Rennie’s New London Bridge (1831) are shown; Old London Bridge, which was only demolished after the new bridge was completed, has been prematurely omitted. St Michael Crooked Lane (demolished) still stands, but in the distance are the Zoological Gardens, established in 1826. In the foreground are the Margate steam packets Dart and Columbine, both launched long after the Rheinbeck panorama was drawn.

    Havell had aeronauts on his mind in 1831: balloons were crowd pleasers, and his aquatint showing the opening of New London bridge features the balloon piloted by Charles Green at the ceremony. The given height of 402 feet is so precise, however, that one is tempted to assume that a balloon ascent may genuinely have been involved in the creation of our panorama, but that might be the genius of Havell’s promotional ploy. It is the earliest aeronautical view mentioned by Hyde, and Havell appears to have been a pioneer of the genre. 

    Condition & Materials 

    Aquatint, sheets size 33 x 103 cm, original hand colour, refreshed, some surface abrasion in the lower margin, a couple of closed tears, lined on paper and linen; imprint, with date, trimmed from lower margin. With scarce printed key, 38.5 x 57 cm, old folds, some surface abrasion and restoration, variant with imprint of R. Havell, and Messrs Treuttel, Wurz & Co (rather than Havell alone; see Hyde). The key explains that the margins ‘contain on the two sides a scale of distances from the seat of the eye... and with the bottom the compass showing the longitudinal direction of the view’. The height of the eye above the Thames is given as 402 feet. Published in London.


    Abbey, Life in England, 523; Hyde, Gilded scenes, 72.