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Copper engraving, later hand colouring. Overall size : 53.8cms.x 41.9cms; image size: 504mm x 380mm Decorative cartouche containing county name at right. Plans of Caernarvon and Bangor at left and right, respectively.Scale of distance at bottom centre. English text on verso pp 123 and 124 printed by John Legatt see Skelton county Atlases of the British Isles. 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 decoration around the town plans and the title cartouche is also highly elaborate. A pair of matching wormholes in bottom margin either side of the centrefold, repaired and barely noticeable else very good condition indeed.
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 Speed’s maps are unique historical documents and the town plans featured on the maps are in most cases the first information we have of their early apppearance.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.