'CAMBRIDGESHIRE described with the devision of the hundreds...' by John Speed c.1627/1631

'CAMBRIDGESHIRE described with the devision of the hundreds...' by John Speed c.1627/1631
SKU: spee/camb/002

A very attractive and detailed 17th century map of Cambridgeshire which was published in John Speed's famous Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine (London: J. Sudbury & G. Humble, 1627/1631 [John Dawson text]). The inset town plan of Cambridge is based on the one done by John Hammond in 1592. In the borders, tribute is paid to the various Cambridge Colleges in the form of heraldic shields, whilst on the reverse of the map, there is a complete set of text briefly describing the history and topography of the county. This is one of the most decorative of all Speed maps and is much sought after by collectors.

John Speed (1552-1629) was born in the Cheshire village of Farndon and from his youth pursued his father's profession of tailoring. He later moved to London to continue this trade, though Speed's real passions lay elsewhere, namely in the fields of antiquity and cartography. He joined the Society of Antiquaries where his enthusiasm soon attracted the attention of notables such as William Camden and Sir Fulke Greville. In 1596 Greville provided Speed with a full time allowance to write a 'Historie of Great Britaine'. It was during this project that Speed decided to add a cartographic supplement to the work and it was from this that his famous atlas, 'The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine', was born.

When published in 1611/12, his atlas was an immediate success, outdoing the one established by Christoper Saxton in 1579. There were a number reasons for this: Speed's atlas showed each county separately with its hundreds, was resplendent with heraldic shields but most significantly had one or two town plans. Displayed from a bird's eye view perspective, many of the towns were surveyed by Speed himself using a distinct 'scale of paces' and are the earliest known plans of these places. The aesthetic beauty of the maps were also down to the Dutch engraver, Jodocus Hondius, whose fine calligraphy and decorative strapwork are a feature throughout.

Speed's legacy was to live on long after his passing, the ' Theatre' itself was published in many editions until 1676. The maps were then re-published in the early 18th Century by Henry Overton and then finally in the 1780s by Dicey & co. giving them a life of 170 years.

  • This is an original copperplate engraving with old possibly original hand colour.
  • Printed area is approximately 52.8cms by 38.4cms.
  • The map is in very good condition. The margins are very close but still mountable. There has been some repair around the lower centrefold. Otherwise an excellent example. Click on image for a better view.
  • Click on 'Delivery Policy' for postage costs.
  • Guaranteed to be over 380 years old.

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