John Speed's The Kingdome of Scotland (1610) is an early and visually compelling representation of the United Kingdom's northernmost country.
While Speed's The Kingdome of Scotland takes inspiration from Gerard Mercator's map of 1595, it adds a layer of distinction with an inset of the Orkneys positioned in the top right. This particular addition expanded the viewer's grasp of the Scottish terrain, extending beyond the mainland to include these northern isles, and thus offering a more complete picture of the Scottish geographical context during the early 17th century.
The map is particularly notable for its display of royal portraits: James I (the Sixth of Scotland), Queen Anna, and their sons, Henry Prince of Wales & Ireland and Charles Duke of York and Albany. The youngest son, Charles, would later ascend to the throne as Charles I, ushering in an era of tumultuous relations with Parliament that culminated in the English Civil War and his own execution in 1649. This tumultuous period in history underscores the socio-political dynamics implicit in the map, and the transition from these royal portraits to "commoners" in later versions reflects the profound changes that were to come in the mid-17th century British society.
Published in Speed's Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain (1611), this first-state map forms an integral part of the broader narrative of the British Empire's expansive geographic and political reach. As a visual document, it encapsulates the then-current understanding of Scotland's geographical features, while also reflecting the intricate dynamics of British royal and political life.
The Kingdome of Scotland stands as an important artifact of its time. Its illustrative design, historical value, and cartographic innovation make it a noteworthy piece in the study and appreciation of antiquarian maps.
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.