The theme of this Centenary volume of the Sussex Record Society is the systematic depiction of Sussex, past and present, in words and pictures, over some 250 years before the publication of the first full 'county history' in 1835. Here are reproduced some 150 views of Sussex made in the last quarter of the 18th century - many of buildings then already old. The majority of the pictures are by S. H. Grimm and James Lambert, senior and junior, painted for their client, Sir William Burrell, the most eminent antiquary of Sussex before the 20th century. They complement the 192 pictures by Grimm and the Lamberts printed in the Society's Jubilee volume, Sussex views (Godfrey and Salzman 1951). The present volume also reproduces views taken by 40 other artists in the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries; it gives a substantial commentary on each View; it prints the texts of two antiquarian tours and several documents relating to published pictures and to antiquarian research; and it includes a long introductory Essay on the lives of the writers and artists and on their working methods.
The texts and pictures embraced are those where the motive of the author or artist was to depict a locality or some aspect of it. In the 16th and 17th centuries such depiction, as a branch of intellectual activity, was called 'chorography', 'the art or practice of describing, or delineating on a map or chart, particular regions or districts.' Until the 1760s, the authors and artists were overwhelmingly visitors to Sussex, for the descriptions and pictures were products of a curiosity about the past and the present of the travellers' native land. Some travelled purely for pleasure or at least edification, others hoping to profit by publishing books to inform local residents, visitors and fireside travellers. From the later 17th century, travel in England (and not only the Grand Tour) was part of a gentleman's education. The visitors were indeed almost exclusively, by the standards of their time, of gentlemanly or higher status, either by birth or by office (for example, as an Anglican cleric or a herald). But some local authors, particularly non-clerical schoolmasters, would not have been so acknowledged, and the originators of the pictures included 'artisan' painters employed by gentlefolk to make portraits of their houses.
Sussex's proximity to London, and its landscape, with the backbone of the South Downs between the clay of the Weald to the north and the English Channel to the south, established an east-west route, from Rye to Chichester, or vice versa, which many early tourists took. Some writers were primarily interested in contemporary conditions, particularly from the later 18th century, and others in antiquities, the relics of medieval and earlier eras. In practice there was a continuum, with even the most devoted antiquary, for example, comparing the bathing machines at Brighton with those at Margate. But there is undoubtedly a bias in the production of pictures, particularly in those which were engraved, towards the medieval castles, churches and religious houses. And there is little evidence of the interest in natural history (the term embracing both the biological and the earth sciences) which was apparent in other parts of Britain in the later 17th century.