Copper engraving, later hand colouring. Overall size : 52.6cms.x 41.6cms; image size: 504mm x 380mm Decorative cartouche containing county name at right. Plans of Caernarvon and Bangor at left and right, respectively. Both town plans have ,’A Scale of Pases’ below the mileage scale which is believed to indicate that Speed himself mapped them. Scale of distance at bottom centre. English text on verso pp 123 and 124 printed by John Dawson . Small repair top and bottom centrefold bottom centrefold on verso, the back backed in see through Japanese tissue else good condition.
One of the most decorative of Speed’s maps : a pitched naval battle is occurring in the Irish Sea, the figure of Neptune is watching the battle astride a monster whilst three more monsters frolick in the sea, Snowdon (the highest mountain in England and Wales) is shown as unnaturally large in comparison with the surrounding hills (’The heart of this shire is altogether mountainous, as if Nature had a purpose here, by rearing up these craggy hills so thick together, strongly to compact the joints of this our island, and to frame the inland part thereof for a fit place of refuge to the Britons against adversity...These mountains may not unfitly be termed the British Alps, as being the most vast in Britain and for their steepness and cragginess not unlike to those of of Italy, all of them towering into the air, and round encompassing one far higher than all the rest ...called Snowdon’. The decoration around the town plans and the title cartouche is also highly elaborate. The county was still very much dominated by its four main castles, at Caernaffon, Conwy, Criccieth and Dolbadarn, and by its fifty-eight stone-built parish churches. In the more important towns are timber-framed houses but much of the population at this time lived in small single-room cabins which were made from clay and turf and thatched with rushes, and which had neither windows nor chimney. Nigel Nicholson). Shot silk sea the signature engraving of Jodocus Hondius.
Until his late thirties, John Speed was a tailor by trade but his passion for history and map-making led him to gain a patron in Sir Fulke Greville, the poet and statesman, who found him a post in the customs and helped subsidize his map-making, giving him “full liberty to express the inclination of my mind”. He became aquainted with the publisher William Camden, whose descriptive text was used by Speed for most of the maps in his atlas “The Theatre of Empire of Great Britain” published most probably in 1612 although it bears the date 1611 on the main title page. The maps were engraved in Amsterdam by Jodocus Hondius, one of the foremost engravers of his time. Speed’s maps are unique historical documents of their time and the town plans featured on the maps are in most cases the first information we have of their early appearance. Their artistry has guaranteed the collectability of these maps in the centuries that have followed.