SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Stafford Countie And Towne with the ancient Citie Lichfield described. London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (slight browning to edge, watermark, light spots in centerfold).
This stunning uncolored map of Stafford is a 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. Hondius played with elements of symmetry in engraving this map; as seen by the aligning framed town insets, descriptions, and cartouches.
This map boasts two town plans, Stafford and Lichfield. The latter was mapped out by John Speed himself, as indicated by the 'Pases' banner. Each town plan comes complete with their arms, a compass rose, and letter key to guide our understanding of the significant roads and buildings in each.
A highly sought after detail of Speed's maps are his vignettes depicting great English battles. This map offers us the Battle of Blore Heath, one of the first major battles in the Wars of the Roses. It was fought on 23 September 1459 in Staffordshire. The story behind the Blore Heath is neatly framed.
The final strapwork frame holds the first royal arms of Stafford. "This baronye of Staffor is very anciet and hath bene Earldom, the Nobles wherefod hath borne the title of Dukes of Buckingham".
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 Stafford 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 Stafford 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.