SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine: Somerset_Shire Described ad into Hundreds devided, with the plott of the most famous and most wholsom waters and citie of the Bathe. London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (browning to edge, foxing, 1 ½ inch tear lower centerfold).
An elegant uncolored map of Somerset from the Theater of the Empire of Great Britaine by renowned cartographer John Speed. This map was engraved on copper plates by Jodocus Hondius in his workshop in Amsterdam in 1610 - it is truly a prime example of the level of craft and detail found in Speed's Atlas.
Somerset is defined by its borders, stretching out to parts of Glocestershire, Witshire, Dorsetshire, Devonshire, and the Sea. The map is decorated with an escutcheon of the royal armes of Charles I; a unique scale of miles created by the cardinal directions placed within the triangle of a hand-compass. It is further decorated with two full mast ships sailing the zigzag waves of the Sea.
The town plan inset is of the royal town of Bathe. The plan is adorned with its Armes, vignettes of the baths, and a letter guide for the significant streets or buildings found within the Town.
Left-hand shows the coat of arms of the most significant ruling Earls, Dukes, and Lords of Somersetshire - includes Reynold de Mohun from 1204; John Beauford, whose armes can also be seen on the maps of Dorset; Henry FitzRoy, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII, who claimed the title of Duke in 1525; and Philibert de Chandee, the first Earl of Bath. This 1676 edition of the map also includes the arms of John Greenville, Earl of Bath; not previously printed.
"Cum privilegio Are to be sold by Thomas Bassett in Fleerstreet and Richard Chiswell in St Pauls Churchyard."
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. The 1676 edition of Speed's atlas never came with original color. The uncolored editions of Speed's maps are classic and highly sought after, as they reflect the true quality of Speed's work unhindered by colorists. Thus, the examples of this map of Buckingham should never be 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 county map of the Buckingham is an excellent element 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 from our collection at 72nd Street NYC, please contact Natalie Zadrozna.