'DARBIESHIRE described' [Derbyshire] by John Speed c.1620s
A highly decorative 17th century map of Derbyshire which was 'performed' by John Speed and published in his Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine (London: Sudbury & Humble, 1620s [No text]). The inset plan of Derby, probably surveyed by Speed himself, is the earliest known of this city. This particular example comes from an unusual and undated atlas (probably 1620s) where the maps have been pasted onto sturdy paper without text on the reverse. The hand colouring is probably original.
John Speed (1552-1629) was born in the Cheshire village of Farndon and from his youth pursued his father's profession of tailoring. He later moved to London to continue this trade, though Speed's real passions lay elsewhere, namely in the fields of antiquity and cartography. He joined the Society of Antiquaries where his enthusiasm soon attracted the attention of notables such as William Camden and Sir Fulke Greville. In 1596 Greville provided Speed with a full time allowance to write a 'Historie of Great Britaine'. It was during this project that Speed decided to add a cartographic supplement to the work and it was from this that his famous atlas, 'The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine', was born.
When published in 1611/12, his atlas was an immediate success, outdoing the one established by Christoper Saxton in 1579. There were a number reasons for this: Speed's atlas showed each county separately with its hundreds, was resplendent with heraldic shields but most significantly had one or two town plans. Displayed from a bird's eye view perspective, many of the towns were surveyed by Speed himself using a distinct 'scale of paces' and are the earliest known plans of these places. The aesthetic beauty of the maps were also down to the Dutch engraver, Jodocus Hondius, whose fine calligraphy and decorative strapwork are a feature throughout.
Speed's legacy was to live on long after his passing, the ' Theatre' itself was published in many editions until 1676. The maps were then re-published in the early 18th Century by Henry Overton and then finally in the 1780s by Dicey & co. giving them a life of 170 years.
- This is an original copperplate engraving with old, possibly original hand colour.
- Printed area is approximately 50.4cms by 38.1cms.
- The map is in very good condition with decent margins; centrefolded, as issued. When held to the light, there are a few areas along the centrefold where the paper is slightly thinner. There are, interestingly, some light stains to the bottom left of the centrefold where the previous 17th century owner of the map spilt some ink! Click on image for a better view.
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- Guaranteed to be over 375 years old.