SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Glamorgan Shyre With the situations of the cheife towne Cardyff and ancient Landaffe described. London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (slight browning to edge)
This stunningly detailed, uncolored edition of Glamorgen Shyre; taken from John Speed's world famous Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. These 17th century plates were engraved in Amsterdam by the great Dutch mapmaker Jodocus Hondius and exhibit the highest level of craftsmanship and artistic embellishment.
Although an initially rural and pastoral county, Glamorgen soon became defined as a land highly concentrated with castles and abbeys - demonstrated by example of Landaffe and Cardyfe in this map. The historic county stretches its borders with Carmardenshire, Breknokshire, and Mounmethshire. The bottom portion of the map represents the Bristol Channel.
A striking title hangs gallantly over the map, but there are certain details to this map which make it especially shine over other counties. Elegant cartouches with young seraphim hold the cardinal direction of West and East; while the royal coats of arms are presented in the Bristol Channel by a young nymph riding a sea creature. These curious details set this map apart.
The town plans of Cardyfe and Landaffe are inset nearly symmetrically on opposing corners of the map. They both house the appropriate coat of arms and compass roses. Cardyfe is marked with more details, such as the significant roads and buildings. A key corresponds to the letters. Landaffe, a nobler city, is illustrated with its castle, walls, and township. In the case of this map, the town plan of Cardyfe was also mapped out by John Speed himself, as indicated by his 'Scale of Pases'.
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 Glamorgen 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 Glamorgen 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.