SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Denbighhire. London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (slight browning to edge, foxing, crease centerfold).
A highly decorative map of Denbighshire by one of the greatest English cartographers, John Speed. This map is an element from Speed's famous Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Engraved on copper plates in Amsterdam by renowned Jodocus Hondius, this is one of the finest maps of the county.
Denbighshire, clearly a mountainous region, was surveyed by Christopher Saxton and Speed's source for this map. The county stretches its borders with Flintshire, Carnavanshire, Meryonethshire, Cheshire, and Shrotshire. The Sea is also beautifully depicted and decorated with Poseidon, sea monsters, and a ship.
The town plan of Denbigh sits in the right corner of the map and illustrates the castle and the vibrant, small settlement that grew up around it. The highlighted buildings, churches, and squares are guided by a letter to use with the corresponding key. This is one of the selections of towns which was mapped by John Speed himself, as indicated by the 'Scale of Pases'. A small circular inset displaying a castle built by King Edward I in 1282, and abandoned to ruin in 1660.
The map hosts several coat of arms. The royal coat of arms of the King sit gallantly over the map's Scale of Miles; alongside those arms we also find those of Robert Dudley, Lord of Denbigh and Earl of Leicester, a favorite friend of Queen Elizabeth; and of William Feilding, Earl of Denbigh, Master of the Great Wardrobe under King James I.
The shield of Denbigh is royally framed
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 Denbighshire 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 Denbighshire 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.