SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Shropshyre described the Sittuation of Shrowesbury Shewed With the Armes of thos Earles, and other Memorable things obsered. London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (slight browning to edge, crease upper left corner, watermark, top right page fray).
An appealing uncolored map of Shropshire County; an excellent part of John Speed's Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. The plate was engraved in Amsterdam by the great Dutch mapmaker Jodocus Hondius, exhibiting the highest level of craftsmanship and artistic embellishment.
The left-hand side of the map contains a large frame with an elaborate illustrative version of the Royal Arms. Highlighted below are the arms of Roger Montgomery, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury and William the Conqueror's principle counselor; as well as John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury and decorated military commander during the Hundred Year's War. An elegant compass rose and scale of miles finish the frame.
A particularly desirable part of this map belongs to the vignette of the Battle of Shrewsbury, fought between Henry IV and Sir Henry Percy (Harry Hotspur) in 1403. The Battle is described beneath the vignette as a framed text format.
Shrowesbery (i.e. Shrewsbury) is laid out as an enclosed town plan. The town is represented with its shield. Known as a bustling market town on the Severne River, Shrewsbury is filled with squares, homes, a residential castle and abbey. An extensive key guide is included for the letters marking the significant roads and buildings within Shrewsbury. It is noteworthy to mention this town plan was mapped by Speed himself, 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 Shropshire should always be left 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 Shropshire 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.