PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
John Speed (1551/2-1629) claimed his fame as a cartographer with the production of two atlases, The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine (first published in 1612), and the Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World (produced in 1627). While the Theatre started exclusively as a county atlas it evolved into a world atlas with the inclusion of the Prospect in 1627. The present posthumous edition is recognised as the best, published by Thomas Bassett and Richard Chiswell, and with significant maps added for the first time.
The Theatre is a landmark in the history of British topography. It was the first English attempt to produce a grand scale atlas, with the first detailed maps of the provinces of Ireland, the first set of county maps attempting to show territorial divisions, and the first comprehensive set of English town plans. This edition of the Prospect includes eight maps (on seven mapsheets) appearing for the first time: Virginia and Maryland, New England, Carolina, Jamaica and Barbados, East India, Russia and Canaan.
“Speed’s world map ... was widely reprinted as part of an atlas. Accompanying text is printed on the reverse. Its circulation was not however international in the same sense as the multi-lingual atlases of Mercator-Hondius, Jansson, or Blaeu and copies of the Prospect are relatively infrequently found outside the UK. In consequence, demand for the world map – long recognised as a very desirable collector’s item – has enhanced its rarity value“(Shirley).
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