SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine: Buckingham Both Shyre, and Shire: towne Describ. . London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (very slight browning to edge).
A phenomenal uncolored map of Buckingham from John Speed's Theatre of the Empire of great Britaine; in excellent condition. This map was engraved on copper plates by Jodocus Hondius in his workshop in Amsterdam in 1610 - it is truly a prime example of the level of craft and detail found in Speed's Atlas.
Looking at the layout of the map, Hondius appears to show a play of symmetry with his design. The town plans match up, as do the architectural frames. Detailed aesthetics include an elegant compass rose and a scale of miles.
Inset plans of the town of Buckingham and Redding. The plans show us details to their settings with a pastoral background; featuring horses, shepherds, field workers, and windmills. The significant streets and buildings are marked with a letter; with a guide to match their names. It is also noteworthy to mention this town plan was mapped by Speed himself, as indicated by the 'Scale of Pases' found on the bottom.
Lower left side of this map pays symbolic homage to Queen Elizabeth I. A cartouche flanked by two cherubim holds the phrase most commonly found on coins in Elizabeth's time. It extends into an architectural element containing the Queen's royal coat-of-arms in the upper compartment and a crest symbolizing the later unification of England and Scotland in the lower compartment.
Lower right side of this map shows an additional cartouche with attention to the ruling Earls and Duke of Buckingham; starting with Walter Giffard who became Earl of Buckingham in 1097 and ending with Humphrey Stafford the first Duke of Buckingham from 1444.
The county maps found in the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine were the first consistent attempt to show territorial divisions, but it was mainly Speed's town plans that were the major innovation and probably his greatest contribution to British cartography. Together, they formed the first printed collection of town plans of the British Isles and, for at least 50 of the 73 included in the Theatre, it was the first time these towns had been mapped. While being the first English atlas of the British Isles, Speed's Atlas was also one of the first attempts to accurately survey Ireland. The 1676 edition of Speed's atlas never came with original color. The uncolored editions of Speed's maps are classic and highly sought after, as they reflect the true quality of Speed's work unhindered by possibly amateur colorists. Thus, the examples of this map of Buckingham should never be colored.
Born in Cheshire, John Speed developed his interest in maps in the 1580s, after moving to London to pursue his passions outside of tailoring. He there joined the Society of Antiquaries, where his enthusiasm for cartography won him the attention of William Camden, Robert Cotton, and Sir Fulke Greville. By working with these figures, Speed was able to do a large amount of research for his own work. In 1596, Greville bequeathed Speed with an unlimited allowance to research, and then later write, the Historie of Great Britaine. It was during this project which Speed had the encouragement to add a cartographic supplement to the work - what we today know as his most famous atlas. After being first published in 1611-1612, the 'Theatre of Great Britain' dominated the seventeenth-century English map market, going through many reprints and editions.
Thanks to the Atlas' success, Speed earned the title of England's most well-known Stuart period cartographer and his work became the blueprint for folio atlases until the mid-18th century. Historically, Speed is also noted for placing England into the mainstream of map publishing, which had been dominated by the Dutch since the late sixteenth century.
This county map of the Buckingham is an excellent element of the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, and would be an outstanding addition to all map collections.
For more information on this map, or a warm welcome to see other maps and books from our collection at 72nd Street NYC, please contact Natalie Zadrozna.