First Edition. Long title: Harford Shire Described. The sittuations of Hartford and the most ancient towne S Albons with such memorable actions as have happened. Copper engraving. ORIGINAL hand colouring. Overall size : 52cms x 39.7cms. Image size; 509mm x 383mm. English text on verso. Town plan of Hartford top left with two armorial shields beneath. There is a bird's eye view of the ancient Roman town of Verolanium, now St Albans top right with a commentary on the Roman occupation. Below are illustrations of three battles fought in St Albans, two during the Wars of the Roses in 1455 and 1461. Underneath is a description on these battles. The text describes the history and states: The aire is temperate, sweet, and healthfull, as seated in a Climate neither too hot, nor too cole: the soile is rich, plenteous, and delightfull, yeelding abundance of Corne, Cattle, Wood and Grasse, destitute of nothing that ministreth profit or pleasures for life, which are more augmented by the many Rivers that arise and run thorow this Shire, watering her owne and others, till they empty themselves into the Sea'. 21 cms strip on verso, could be remnants of backstrip or, more likely , a strengthening as there is evidence of separation at the centrefold if one looks closely, browning and spotting around the map divider centre bottom; a publisher’s crease possibly to the right of the centrefold at Throcking , old crease at left to the right of Luton; thin remnant of tape right and left hand side of map else a rare map in good condition and rare with contemporary colour.
Unfortunately, there are no surviving records of how many examples of the First Edition (or indeed of any edition) were printed. One might speculate that the First Edition could have numbered between about five hundred and one thousand examples. It should be remembered that market for maps was not well developed in England in 1612. This, together with the cost of the atlas, the need for a second edition soon afterwards, and the high quality of impressions from the third, Latin text, edition of 1616, suggests that the first print-run may have been closer to five hundred copies or so. Unfortunately, until an attempt is made at a census of surviving examples, these figures can be regarded as only the roughest of estimates. Ashley Baynton-Williams see http://www.mapforum.com/02/speed.htm
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 subsidise his map-making, giving him “full liberty to express the inclination of my mind”. He became acquainted 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; it was the first atlas of the British Isles. The maps were engraved in Amsterdam by Jodocus Hondius, one of the foremost engravers of his time. Speed’s maps are unique historical documents 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.
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