A very decorative 17th century map of Caernarfonshire (now part of Gwynedd) which was published in John Speed’s famous Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine (London: J. Sudbury & G. Humble, 1611 / 1612 [William Hall & John Beale text edition]). The inset town plans of ‘Caernarvon’ and Bangor, probably surveyed by Speed himself, are the earliest known of these places.In the Irish Sea there are depictions of sea monsters, a merman and, interestingly, a naval battle between three ships. On the reverse of the map there is a complete set of text briefly describing the history and topography of the county.
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 51cms by 38.2cms.
- The map is in very good condition with decent margins; central fold, as issued. There is a very small ‘wormhole’ in the middle of the map and a minor repair to the top of the fold; otherwise this is fine example with a good dark impression. Click on image for a better view.
- Click on ‘Delivery Policy’ for postage costs.
- Guaranteed to be over 400 years old.