'NORTHAMTON SHIRE' (Northamptonshire) by John Speed c.1685-c.1716
A highly decorative John Speed map of Northamptonshire which was published either by Christopher Browne in c.1685 or Henry Overton in c.1716. The inset town plans of Peterborough and Northampton, probably surveyed by the eminent cartographer, John Norden (c.1547-1625), are the earliest known of these places.
Though the map bears the 'Bassett and Chiswell'  imprint this particular example was not issued by them as there is no text on the reverse. The plate passed firstly to Christopher Browne in c.1685 and then to Henry Overton in c.1716 without any alteration being made to the map (including the imprint). Overton only added his name and made alterations in c.1720. The Browne / early Overton issues are nevertheless much rarer to find than any of the earlier Speed maps.
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 Christopher 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 later hand colour.
- Printed area is approximately 50.8cms by 38.3cms.
- The map is in very good condition with large margins; fold down the centre. Click on image for a better view.
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- Guaranteed to be between 320 and 295 years old.