SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Sussex, Described and divided into Rapes with the situation of the Chichester the cheife citie thereof. London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (slight browning to edge).
A stunning map depicting the royal county of Sussex; stretching its border with the counties of Surrey, Kent, and Hantshire. The British Sea can seen alive with sea monsters, firing ships, and waves. Engraved by Jodocus Hondius in his workshop in Amsterdam, this map is a prime example of the level of craft and detail found in the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine.
"Jodocus Honius caelavit Anno Domini 1666"
Inset plan of Chichester with its coat of arms accurate presentation of the town, with a lettered guide to position significant streets and buildings. The significance of singling out Chichester on the map comes from its history. The city was founded by the Romans at a point where two of their major roads crossed - a point marked by the lovely 16th century buttercross. The prize of Chichester is its superb medieval cathedral, the only English cathedral visible from the sea, marked dominantly within the inset.
There is a story that when Queen Elizabeth visited Chichester she said: "It is a little London"' and one of the streets in the town has been called that ever since. It isn't entirely true as Little London already appears on 15th century maps, it may have got its name because merchants from London lived and worked there - however, the story adds to the imagination.
The upper right-hand corner of this map bares a detailed coat of arms used by King Charles the First. As King, Charles bore the royal arms undifferenced.
Just beneath the coat of arms, Hondius appropriately depicted the famous Battle of Hastings of 1066 in action. The two coat of arms of the William Duke of Normandy (left) and Harold Godwinson Saxon King of England (right) can be seen soaring above the battle scene. An insert on the lower right corner of the map recounts the historical event of the Battle and its consequence.
Far bottom of the map, displays the four significant Earls and their crests: William de Albania Earle of Chicester and Arundell; John Fitz Allan Earle of Sussex et Arundell; Phillip Howard Earle of Arundell; Robert Radcliffe Earle of Sussex. Also noteworthy is the addition of Leonard L. Dacree Earl of Sussex and his crest, which was not previously printed on map editions before 1666.
"Sussex described and divided into Rapes with the situation of Chichester the cheife citie thereof. And the armes of such Nobles as have bene dignified with the title of Earles since the conquest and other accidents therein observed."
"Described by JOHN NORDEN. Augmented by John Speede And are to be sold in popes head Alley against the Exchange by I.S. and George Humble 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 Sussex 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 Sussex is an excellent part 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.