SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. "Suffolke described and divided into Hundreds, The situation of the fayre towne Ipswich shewed, with the armes of the most noble families that have bene either Dukes or Earles both of that Countie as also of Clare". London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (slight browning to edge, ink smear margin, top left corner torn)
A handsome uncolored county map of Suffolk; taken from the famous Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine by English cartographer John Speed. The plates were engraved by Jodocus Honius in 1610, in Amsterdam. This map of Suffolk is the best available of the county; and Speed's maps are highly sought after due to their high level of accuracy, detail, and craftsmanship.
Suffolk is an East Anglican county of great historic origin in England. It has borders with Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, and Essex. The North Sea lies to its east. The county is depicted as low-lying - with few hills and largely flat, arable land. The significance of this county is reflected in the admirable decorations on the map; such as the cartouches, sailing ship, figures, and a compass rose held by cherubim.
The inset town plan of Ipswich is elegantly bordered and flanked by the images of the Roman general, Petillius Cerealis, on the left and the Queen of the Iceni, Boadicea, on the right. Ipswich has been known to be an occupied land since the Saxon period; and its port has been one of Britain's most important for the whole of its history. The plan is annotated with letters to describe the significant roads and buildings of the town; guided by a legend. This intricate plan was mapped by John Speed himself, as indicated by his signature 'Scale of Pases'.
The left and right sides of the map are dictated to the coat of arms. The right bares the arms of the Dukes and Earles of Suffolk . Notable arms include those of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk (1551) and father to Lady Jane Grey; and Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk (1514) and brother-in-law to Henry VIII. The left side portrays the Dukes and Earls of Clare. Notable arms include those of Thomas Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence (1412) and second son of King Henry IV.
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 Suffolke 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 Suffolke 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.