SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. "Huntington both Shire and Shire towne with the ancient citie ely described". London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (slight browning to edge, light foxing, offsetting, ink spot centre crease)
A handsome map of Huntingtonshire; taken from the famous Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine by English cartographer John Speed. Engraved by Jodocus Hondius in 1610, this county map is the best of its kind. It is highly sought after for it level of accuracy, detail, and craftsmanship. There are no finer county maps on the market.
Huntingtonshire is beautifully introduced to us in a title cartouche, flanked by two hunters and a stag; representing the hunting county which it is known for. The map further shows the series of fenced parks, tress, forests, and lakes.
Two open books sit on opposite sides, telling the story of Huntington's noble history; the other recounts the significance of including the Isle of Ely in this map (despite being a part of Cambridgeshire).
The most important ruling Dukes and Earls are represented here by a series of coat of arms; notably including those of George Hastings and Henry, Prince of Scotland. The King's coat of arms is shown above the Scale of Miles.
The town plans of Huntington and Ely are inset within in map, mirroring one another.
Huntington, a market and county town of Huntingtonshire, dates back to the Anglo-Saxons and Danes. It is a frequent hunting and trading ground for the people, and well-represented in this map thanks to the pastoral activity in the landscape. Ely, better known as Isle of Ely, is a famous cathedral city in Cambridgeshire, due to the epic Ely Catherdal. The city has always been supported by royal families; such as King Henry VIII who granted a boarding school charter. Both of these plan were mapped by John Speed, as indicated by the '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 Huntingtonshire 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 Huntingtonshire 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.