SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Surrey Described and Divided into Hundreds. London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (slight browning to edge, light watermark top centerfold).
An excellent county map of Surrey; as part of Speed's world acclaimed Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Engraved by Jodocus Hondius in his workshop in Amsterdam, this map is a prime example of the level of craft and detail found in the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. "Jodocus Honius caelavit Anno Domini 1666".
An elegant title cartouche presents Surrey. The county of Surrey is a wealthy, populous 'home county' situated near London. It is well known for having many noted nature spots, and woodlands; as marked shown elegantly in this map. It is particularly interesting to see Speed chose two royal palaces to engrave, rather than the more customary county town plan. The first engraving is Nonsuch palace. This palace was built by King Henry VIII in 1538, just after his son Edward was born. It is thought that Nonsuch palace got its name from the expression 'that no such palace could ever be its equal'. The other engraving is of Richmond Palace. This palace was built by Henry VIII's father, King Henry VII. The palace took its name from one of his many titles, in this case; the Earl of Richmond. Speed adorns his map with the arms of the county nobility from the Norman Conquest to the (then) present time. The last entry has been curiously left blank.
Speed drew on the work of John Norden for this map of Essex: "Described by the travills of John Norden. Augmented and performed by Iohn Speede".
"Are to be solde by Tho. Bassett in Fleetstret 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 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 Surrey 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 Surrey 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.