SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. The West Ridinge of Yorkshyre with the most faouns and fayre Citie Yorke describes. 1610. London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (slight browning to edge, foxing).
An attractive uncolored 1676 edition map of the West Riding of Yorkshire.
The map is a section of Speed's 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 Atlas. The West Riding of Yorkshire is elaborately detailed, touching its borders with Lancashire, Darbyshire, East Riding, Lincolneshire, and North Riding. A title cartouche and royal shield of James I dominate the presentation; further accented by seraphim presenting the scale of miles and the description belonging to the Earls coat of arms; as well as two hawks holding the shield of Yorkshire.
The town plan of Yorke fills the upper right corner. The town is depicted with a letter guide corresponding to the significant roads and building found within Yorke. It is noteworthy to mention this town plan was mapped by Speed himself, as indicated by the 'Scale of Pases".
The map is edged with the coat of arms of ruling Earls and Dukes of the West Riding. The arms belong to great royal men descend from Kings. Yorkshire was a noble county, and the rulers represented this most ardently. They include those of Charles, the second son of King James; and Henry, the second son of King Henry VII.
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 the West Riding of Yorkshire 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 West Riding of Yorkshire 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.