SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. The North and East Ridins of Yorkshire. London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (slight edge browning, light rubbing, spot left).
An elegantly uncolored map of the North and East Riding of Yorkshire; a highly sought after element of John Speed's Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. It was elaborated engraved by Jodocus Hondius in his workshop in Amsterdam in 1610. Hondius left no part of this map uncovered; filling it with waters and sea monsters; land and trees; and detailing.
A title cartouche introduces us to this map, accompanied by the coat of arms of Charles I. The North and East are divided by a thicker border; providing the viewer with markings of towns, parks, and significant buildings.
The inset plans depict the towns of Richmond and another of Hull. The latter is shown with its coat of arms; a guided listing of areas observed, corresponding to the numbered streets. The outskirts of Hull are a pastoral background with men working the fields and windmills grinding grain. The town plan of Richmond shows a larger metropolis. The Richmond Castle and its town square claiming most of the space. Speed adds a small curious addition of a tunnel running under a river into the castle.
A framed collection of coat of arms from the ruling Earls and Dukes over the ages covers the upper North portion of the map. The bottom section depicts an elegant Scale of Miles, adorned with winged cherubim and a pair of dividers.
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 uncolored editions of Speed's maps are classic and highly sought after; as they reflect the true quality of Speed's work unhindered by colorists. The examples of this map of the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire should always be left uncolored.
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 the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire is an excellent part of the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, and would make 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.