SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. County Map of Hampshire: Isle of Wight. London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (watermark at middle top, slight browning and foxing to edge).
A beautiful map showcasing the Isle of Wight, part of the county of Hampshire. The Isle is shown surrounded by the British Ocean, with a part of England at the map's left-hand corner. Engraved by Jodocus Hondius in his workshop in Amsterdam in 1610, this map is a prime example of the level of craft and detail found in the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Hondius leaves no part of this stunning map uncovered; the British Ocean can be seen decorated with waves, ships, and sea monsters to make the best use of space. The Isle of Wight is elaborately decorated and filled with rolling hills, trees, and windmills.
Most, but not all, of the county maps have town plans on them; those showing a 'Scale of Passes' being the places Speed had mapped himself. The map of Isle of Wight presents us with two such inset town plans of Newport and Southhampton. Both inset are letter labeled with significant streets and building; the letter guide is provided within the insets. Southampton's bustling town plan includes its coat of arms; while Newport provides us with a more provincial cue with a shepherd and horse.
The right-hand side of the map exhibits the crests of the Earls who reigned over the Isle of Wight since 1066. William FitzOsborne was given charge of Wight in 1066 by William the Conqueror. Richard [de Redvers] River, Earl of Devon, from 1155. Henry Beauchamp, King of Wight, is said to have been crowned King of the Isle of Wight in 1444 by Henry VI. The charge then passed to Richard Woodvill(e) in the late-1400s.
"Describes by William White Gent. Augmented and published by John Speed Citizen of London. And are to be solde in Popes head alley against the Exchange by John Sudbury and G. Humbell. Cum Privilegio".
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 and to incorporate a comprehensive list of their town plans into the maps. The 1676 edition of Speed's atlas never came with original color. The examples of this map of the Isle of Wight should always be uncolored and never 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 map of the Isle of Wight, a part of Hampshire County, 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 of our collection at 72nd Street NYC, please contact Natalie Zadrozna.