London - A City Through Time launches on iPad

We are very excited today about the launch of London - A City Through Time, an iPad app of The London Encyclopaedia, by Christopher Hibbert, Ben Weinreb, John Keay, and Julia Keay, which is the definitive book of London, published by Pan Macmillan.

The app has been developed in partnership with Heuristic Media, makers of the wonderful Cyclepedia and Monty Python Bytes apps. They have been the perfect partners for this project, bringing boundless energy and an extraordinary array of complementary content to the project. They also have a gift for creating attractive, usable, absorbing, entertaining apps.

The iPad brings the opportunity to not just repackage reference as entertainment but to truly change the experience of a work like The London Encyclopaedia and bring it to an entirely new audience. Our strategy with apps is to only do them where there is an opportunity to create a new reader experience and truly fit the work to the medium. Simple adaptations are not sufficient. London - A City Through Time was conceived as a multi-layered, multimedia experience of the history of London, from its beginning to today, with The London Encyclopaedia as the core upon which the whole is built.

For a few years the buzzword in digital publishing was 'convergence' and this was used to talk about our expectations for reading devices. Device convergence has happened but content is still largely in silos - ebooks, music, games, film etc. What we are seeing now is content convergence. London - A City Through Time is a new kind of book, drawing together a multitude of content across time and media, to give you a single, coherent, enthralling experience of the greatest city on earth.

The app includes the full text of The London Encyclopaedia with almost 6000 entries covering every street, square, building, person and event of interest in over 2000 years of London history. London – A City Through Time takes this seminal encyclopaedia to a new level with maps, a wealth of imagery, interactive timelines and a My London section.

Heuristic's user experience design for the app is key, enabling you to read the 6000 entry encyclopaedia by following your interest more fluidly than you could in print, flipping back and forth between text and index. Instead you read, look, tap, watch, listen and explore - it's immersive but directed by the reader.

Our thanks and congratulations go to Toby, Richard, Simon and Patrick at Heuristic - we first talked about this app in 2010, and it's even more delightful now in reality than it was when we just imagined it.

London – A City Through Time will provide a fascinating insight into one of the world’s greatest cities with appeal for Londoners and visitors alike. Key features include:

Lavish imagery

  • 2000 still images including works of art, portraits, etchings and watercolours, rare colour stills of London during the Second World War, early Victorian photographs and paintings and etchings of streets and iconic buildings – many of which have remained unseen, now unearthed by the Heuristic team.
  • Spinning shots of 20 Museum of London artefacts, including objects not on public display. Users can view them from all angles and get closer than in the Museum itself.
  • 40 detailed, zoom-able maps and panoramas of London from the Tudor period to the present day.
  • 71 x high-definition 360? panoramas of London controlled by the iPad gyroscopes give a three-dimensional window onto the streets and buildings of the capital.
  • Original British Pathé News footage reveals the wonderful period atmosphere that only movies can give.
  • Detailed computer-generated reconstructions of iconic London buildings that can be spun and explored from all sides.


  • Dynamic timelines enable users to scroll through history visually, running through centuries, dates, periods, events and reigns of England’s monarchs from the Roman invasion to the present day. An intriguing shortcut to understanding London’s legacy, giving users a compelling overview of the city’s historical thrust through its times, trials and tribulations marked by the crowning of kings and queens; their rise, their fall and for some a grim execution.


  • Users in London can find out what’s nearby using the iPad GPS, or have fun exploring manually through any of the older maps. And for those not in London pins on the maps are categorised allowing users to quickly identify the different places of interest. Maps can also be explored by period to show how London expanded and changed throughout its history. They can also search and filter the entries to reveal only what they want to find whether churches, bridges monuments or murders. And passengers on the London Underground will be able to explore history by tube stop. As passengers travel through the famous stations deep below London’s streets – Temple, Waterloo, Embankment, Notting Hill, Piccadilly, Bank and many others – there will be able to see nearby locations of interest pinpointed.

My London

  • Already putting their names to the face of London are best-selling novelists (Jeffrey Archer), comedians and writers (the Gentle Author and Michael Palin), film stars (Renée Zellweger) and musicians (Michael Nyman). Each has pinpointed a place in London they love. Users can do the same: upload a location that has special memories and your name and the special spot could join the growing list of contributors.

Audio Tours

  • Included are three interesting and varied audio tours of London from the Blue Badge Tourist Guides: noted authority on London. Each stop on a tour is shown on the map and while users listen to the audio description they can explore the area with the 360? panoramas of the exact spot. Or if a user wishes to walk the tour simply follow the directions on the map and listen to the tour as they walk the streets.
London - A City Through Time