SPEED, John (1552-1629). The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain: Britain As It Was Devided in the tyme of the Englishe Saxons especially during their Heptarchy. London: Sudbury & Humble: 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches, full margins showing the plate mark).
A fine uncolored engraved map of Great Britain, stretching from the Scottish outer Hebrides in the north west to the coast of France in the south east. Each of the seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms each decorated with its coat-of-arms are clearly shown on the map. The map was engraved by Jodocus Hondius who is noted for his skills in decoration as demonstrated by the elaborate cartouche and compass rose this map bares. Two columns of vignettes flank the map on each side: the left shows the first king of each Saxon region; the right shows the conversion or their successors to Christianity - through violence, inspiration, debate and sermons. This map strikes a pleasing balance between the scientific techniques of the time and a historical artistic license.
The map was part of the earliest English attempt at producing an atlas on a grand scale as part of Speeds 'The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain'. This well-known Atlas contained the first detailed maps of the provinces of Ireland, the first set of county maps consistently attempting to show the boundaries of territorial divisions, and the first truly comprehensive set of English town plans-a notable contribution to British topography. They were an immediate success: three new editions and issues of each appeared during Speed's lifetime, and a miniature version was first published about 1619-20.
This particular map is a fine example of the array of illustrative features and cartographic detail for which Speed, a well-known legend of English cartography, is so famous. This map is one of the most desired and recognizable maps on Britain and was later revised and copied by Blaeu and Jansson becoming the basis for subsequent folio atlases until the mid-eighteenth century.
Description prepared for Arader Galleries by Jack Rogers (Eton College, Oxford University Geography Undergraduate)