SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Norfolk A County Flourishing & Populous Describes and Devided With The Armes of Such Noble Families as have Borne the Titles Therof. London:Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (slight browning to edge, creased centerfold, repaired tear left page bottom).
A highly attractive county map of Norfolk from John Speed's revered Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Engraved by Jodocus Hondius in his workshop in Amsterdam, this map is a prime example of the level of craft and detail found in Speed's Atlas.
The county of Norfolk touches its border with Cambridge, Suffolke, Mershland, and the Sea. Norfolk is presented to us as a rich county, filled with significant building, churches, and green nature. The inset town plan of Norwiche is handsomely portrayed as a bustling river town; full of building and boats and surrounded by green farmland. The Norwiche coat of arms decorate the plan.
A highly attractive element of Speed's map is the vignette depicting the battle scene and commentaries of the two rebellions: the Peasant's Revolt in 1381 and Ket's Rebellion in 1547. The map is further embellished down the left side with coats of arms of the Earls and Dukes of Norfolk. Notable men include Thomas of Brotherton, son of King Edward II, claiming earldom in 1312; and Thomas de Mowbray, a rebellious nobleman, whose execution was described by Shakespeare.
Speed drew on the map-work of Christopher Saxon for his map of Norfolk. "Described by Christopher Saxton Augmented by I. Speede […] "
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 Norfolk 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 Norfolk 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.