Copper engraving by Jodocus Hondius. Overall sheet size: 53.4cms x 41.1cms; image size: 513mm x 381mm. Highly decorative map of the British Isles. Speed has compiled the map from various sources: Saxton for England & Wales, Hondius's map of 1591 for Ireland & Mercator for Scotland. The two views show London c.1600, with St Paul’s and the Tower on the North bank and the Globe and the Bear-baiting ring on the South; and Edinburgh, showing the city under siege c.1544. The map includes a compass rose, cherubs, ships, sea monsters, the Royal coats of arms above the view of London, ancient coins showing Britannia and Cunobelin - the latter known to Shakespeare as Cymbeline. English text on verso describing the history and geography of the isles: ‘ The Iland of Great Britaine..is of many accounted the greatest Island in the World Iustus Lypsius gives that praise to Cuba in America as the Orientall Navigators doe unto Sumatra or to Madagascar...’ Thin brown strip of tape at margin edge right and left on verso (see photos), not repairing anything so function unknown ; one pinhole in Berkshire (only visible when held up to the light) and pinprick to the left of Loch Tay (again visible only when held up to the light) else very good condition indeed. The sea is hatched is hatched in Hondius’ signature shot silk or herringbone fashion .Cherubs with geographical instruments support the mileage scale in the lower left corner. Superbly hand coloured and a very fine dark impression of a map that is considered to be the most decorative map of the British Isles to appear in a commercial atlas in the 17th Century. SHIRLEY: 316.
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. Most of 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 Speed’s maps are unique historical documents of their time and the town plans featured on the maps are in most cases the first information we have of their early apppearance. Their artistry has guaranteed the collectability of these maps in the centuries that have followed.
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