'RUTLANDSHIRE With OUKHAM and STANFORD...' by John Speed c.1620s

'RUTLANDSHIRE With OUKHAM and STANFORD...' by John Speed c.1620s
SKU: spee/rutl/001

A highly decorative 17th century map of Rutland, based on the survey by John Harrington, which was published in John Speed's Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine (London: Sudbury & Humble, 1620s [No text]). The inset town plans of Stamford and Oakham, probably surveyed by Speed himself, are the earliest known of these places. 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 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 old, possibly original hand colour.
  • Printed area is approximately 50.6cms by 38.1cms.
  • The map is in very good condition with decent margins. There is a minor split in the bottom centrefold plus couple of small holes in the middle centrefold. Click on image for a better view.
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  • Guaranteed to be over 375 years old.