SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Penbrokshyre described and the sittuations both of Penbroke and St Davids Shewed in due form as they were taken by John Speed. London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (slight browning to edge)
A handsome uncolored 1676 edition county map of Penbrokshyre [Pembrokeshire]; taken from John Speed's illustrious Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Engraved by Dutch mapmaker Jodocus Hondius in 1610, the map is a prime example of the level of craftsmanship and detail which went into the making of this Atlas. The map boasts elaborate elements to delight our eyes.
A decorative title cartouche with the royal arms introduces this mountainous county to the viewer. Percelye Hill, the highest point of the county, especially stands out thanks to its beautiful shadows engraved Hondius.
Two town plan insets belong to this map: Penbroke and St. Davids. The fairly symmetrical plans exhibit a compass rose and appropriate shield. Pembroke is principally highlighted for its royal significance as the birthplace of Henry Tudor, the future King Henry VII. St Davids was final resting place of Wales' namesake patron saint; making it the de facto ecclesiastical capital of Wales.
The exceptional point to these two cities is that they were mapped out by John Speed himself, as indicated by the signature 'Scale of Pases'.
The edge of the map sets up a selection of eleven Earls and Dukes, which ruled over Pembokeshire over the centuries. The most notable shield belongs to Anne Boleyn, who received this title from her future spouse King Henry VIII. This was the first hereditary peerage title granted to a woman in England.
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 Penbrokshyre 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 Penbrokshyre 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.