SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. "The Counti of Warwick The Shire Towne and Citie of Coventre described". London: Baseet & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (slight browning to edge, light foxing, offsetting, ink wear)
An excellent uncolored map of Warwickshire; taken from the renowned Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine by John Speed. The copper plates used for this Atlas were engraved in 1610 by talented Dutch mapmaker Jodocus Hondius. These uncolored county maps are highly sought after for their stunning level of accuracy, detail, and craftsmanship. They are considered the best maps available of its kind on the market.
The map shows Warwickshire as a seemingly flat land, filled with trees and gated parks for hunting. The county borders Staffordshire, Worchestershire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, and Leicestershire. Hondius took careful effort to fill all parts of the map, leaving no blank spaces and embellishing it with pure elegance. The map's right side presents a fretwork frame showcasing the coat of arms belonging to the ruling Dukes and Earls of Warwishshire over the centuries.
Warwickshire first came into being as a part of the Kingdom of Merica, as early as the 11th century. The first reference was made in 1001. During the major part of the Middle Ages, Warwickshire was core dominated by Coventry (town plan inset), one of the most important cities in England thanks to its textile trade. The county played may important roles over the centuries; however, it is probably most well-known for being the birthplace of playwright, William Shakespeare.
This map holds two town plan insets. Warwick is considered the main county town of the Shire, and has been in habitation since the 6th century. The highlight of the plan is certainly the Warwick Castle, built in 1068 as part of the Norman conquest of England. The remaining significant buildings and roads are marked with a letter; with a key provided. This plan was mapped by John Sped himself as indicated by the signature 'Scale of Pases'. The plan of Coventry shows a large bustling town, full of buildings and squares. The town hails its importance in English history for being the heart of the textile trade during the Middle Ages. It is also rumored that Shakespeare, as a young man, frequented the playhouses within Coventry; which may have influenced how his plays were shaped in later years. The remaining significant buildings and roads are marked with a letter; with a key provided.
An eye-catching detail, added to a select few of Speed's county maps, are his vignettes depicting English battle scenes. Depicted here is a moment from the main part of the King Edward IV's army was defeated at the Battle of Edgecote Moor in 1469 and Edward was subsequently captured at Olney by Richard, Earl of Warwick.
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 Warwickshire 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 Warwickshire 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.