'KENT WITH HER CITIES AND EARLES Described and Observed.' by John Speed c.1743

'KENT WITH HER CITIES AND EARLES Described and Observed.' by John Speed c.1743
SKU: spee/kent/001

A highly decorative and truly stunning map of Kent, by the renowned John Speed, which appeared in England Described... (London: Overton c.1743).

First published in 1611/12, this particular example comes from one of the comparatively rarer 18th century atlases issued by Henry Overton. Noticeable improvements were made to the maps including extensive retouching and the inclusion of roads based on Ogilby. The original inset town plans of Canterbury and Rochester, surveyed by Speed himself, are the earliest known of these places.

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 (with roads added) and then finally in the 1780s by Dicey & co. giving them a life of 170 years.

  • This is an original copperplate engraving with later hand colour.
  • Printed area is approximately 49.2cms by 37.4cms.
  • The map is in very good condition with decent margins. There are clean repairs to the top and bottom centrefold and to a 5cm split running through the middle of the map -- otherwise a fine example of a rare Overton edition Speed. Click on image for a better view.
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  • Guaranteed to be over 250 years old.