SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. "The Countie of Radnor described and they Shyretownes Sittuatione Anno". London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (slight browning to edge, light foxing, offsetting, margin ink smear)
This handsome uncolored map of Radnorshire is one of the finest examples available of the county. Taken from the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine by English cartographer John Speed. The copper plates were engraved by renowned Dutch mapmaker, Jodocus Honius in 1610, Amsterdam. The maps from this famous Atlas are highly sought after for their stunning accuracy, detailing, and decorations. Radnorshire is a prime example of these claims. The historic county is bounded to the north by Montgomeryshire and Shropshire, to the east by Herefordshire, to the south by Brecknockshire and to the west by Cardiganshire.Hondius’ engraving takes careful care in depicting the hilly landscape of the county, filled with flowing rivers, bright blue lakes, and fenced parks.
The map exhibits several coat of arms relating to the Shire. The grandest being the royal arms of King Charles II, beautifully embellished and framed. The arms of Wales are represented below, with the heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales centered.
The town plan of Radnor is inset at the left corner. Though the town itself of smaller size, it’s shield, Castle and Abbey appear to tower over the homes engraved below. It is worth noting that this plan was mapped out by John Speed himself, as indicated by this signature ‘Scale of Pases’.
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 Radnorshire 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 Radnorshire 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.