SPEED, John (1552 - 1629). Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. "Worcestershire described". London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Single sheet (15 x 20 inches) Full margins showing the plate mark (slight browning to edge, light foxing, offsetting, light ink rubbing)
An elegant map of the county Worcestershire; taken from John Speed's famous Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. The plates used to make this Atlas were engraved by Dutch mapmaker Jodocus Hondius at his Amsterdam workshop in 1610. These uncolored maps are highly sought after for their level of accuracy, detail, and craftsmanship.
This map of Worcestershire is one of the best county maps available of its kind. Bordering with several other counties, such as Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, and Oxforshire; the landscape is showcased as being rich with trees, hills, and parks.
Worcestershire was once the heartland of an early English kingdom, before becoming a part of the unified Kingdom of England in 927. This county is known for being heavily supported by the Church; dominated by the Cathderal, Evesham Abbey, Pershore Abbey, and other religious institutions surrounding the area.
The town plan is inset in the upper right corner of the map, included are the coat of arms and an elegant compass rose. Worcester began as a Roman settlement, fortified by the Britons around 400 BC. It did not get its proper name until the late 7th century, when a version of the Old English name 'Weorgoran ceaster' was adapted. It is considered a Cathedral city and county town of Worcestershire. The River Severn flanked the town's western edge, which is overlooked by the stunning 12th century Worcester Cathedral. The plan's pastoral background lends an all-around idea of life within the Town. It is noteworthy to mention that this plan was mapped out by John Speed himself, as indicated by the dividers and 'Scale of Pases'.
An especially desirable aspect of Speed's county maps is his addition of illustrative vignettes depicting important English battles and events. Here, we see the Battle of Evesham. This was one of the two main battles of 13th century England's Second Barons' War. It marked the defeat of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, and the rebellious barons by Prince Edward - later King Edward I - who led the forces of his father, King Henry III. It took place on 4 August 1265, near the town of Evesham, Worcestershire.
The map is further decorated with elaborate cartouches separately containing the title of the county, name of Jodocus Hondius, and an elegant compass rose. A side panel provides the coat of arms of the ruling Earls and Dukes of Worcestershire. Notably including Waleren (de Beaumont), 1st Earl of Worchester (1104); and Thomas Percy, 1st Earl of Worcester (1397).
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 Worcestershire 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 Worcestershire 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.