Highly decorative title page from the 1650 edition of John Speed's Theatre of Great Britaine, perhaps the most famous and enduring atlas of Great Britain published in the 17th Century.
The map includes allegorical figures showing a Britaine, Roman, Saxon, Dane and Norman, the "ethnic composition" of the people of 17th Century Britain. Engraved by R. White, for Thomas Bassett and Richard Chiswell, the last major updated edition of Speed's atlas.
John Speed (1551 or '52 - 28 July 1629) was the best known English mapmaker of the Stuart period. Speed came to mapmaking late in life, producing his first maps in the 1590s and entering the trade in earnest when he was almost 60 years old.
John Speed's fame, which continues to this day, lies with two atlases, The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine (first published 1612), and the Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World (1627). While The Theatre ... started as solely a county atlas, it grew into an impressive world atlas with the inclusion of the Prospect in 1627. The plates for the atlas passed through many hands in the 17th century, and the book finally reached its apotheosis in 1676 when it was published by Thomas Bassett and Richard Chiswell, with a number of important maps added for the first time.