S.D.U.K. (Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge)

In 1981 I presented my graduate thesis titled “Manhattan a Measure.” To write this thesis I searched for various historic city maps. Eventually I would use similar historic city plans in my book “The Genealogy of Cities.” On this website I previously wrote about my use of urban plans found in the Baedeker Travel Guides. Another major source for maps is found towards the end of a two volume Atlas that was published in 1844 by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK) was founded in London in 1826, mainly at the instigation of the Whig MP Henry Brougham, with the object of publishing information to people who were unable to obtain formal teaching or who preferred self-education. It was a largely Whig organization, and published inexpensive texts intended to adapt scientific and similarly high-minded material for the rapidly expanding reading public over twenty years until it was disbanded in 1846.

The plans are found in Vol. 2, on pages 162-212.  At times the plans are colored by hand, and a number of either facades of key buildings drawn towards the bottom of the prints, or in some cases perspectival views. Copies of the two-volume atlas periodically appear for sale, and it’s still common to also find the individual plates of the for sale.

Below are the images of each of the historic cites found in the atlas.  For greater detail the images can be found on David Rumsey’s Map Collection website.

Amsterdam 1835

Antwerp 1832

Athens 1832
Berlin 1833

Birmingham 1839

Bordeaux 1832

Boston 1842

Brussels 1837

Calcutta 1842

Constantinople 1840

Copenhagen 1837

Dresden 1833

Dublin 1836

Dublin Environs 1836

Edinburgh 1834

Edinburgh Environs 1834

Florence 1835

Frankfort 1837

Geneva 1841

Genova 1836

Hamburg 1841

Lisbon 1833

Liverpool 1836

London 1836

London Environs 1832

Madrid 1831

Marseille 1840

Milan 1832

Morocco 1836

Moscow 1836

Munich 1832

Naples 1835

New York 1840

Paris 1834

Paris Environs 1832

Parma 1840

Philadelphia 1840

Pompeii 1832

Porto 1833

Rome Ancient 1830

Rome Modern 1830

St. Petersburg 1834

Stockholm 1836

Syracuse Environs 1839

Toulon 1840

Turin 1833

Venice 1838

Vienna 1833

Warsaw 1831

From a historic point of view these plans allow an urban theorist to study how various urban designs were implemented.  Below is the 1833 plan of Vienna redrawn as a figure ground.

The plan illustrated below shows how the Vienna Ringstrasse design appeared in 1914.

 The area in black is what existed in the 1833 plan, while the area in pink is the added new design.

An aerial view of Vienna as it is today. (from Google Earth Pro)

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