A great example of John Speed's map of Devonshire, from his Theatre of Great Britain. Highly decorative in a style typical of Speed, this map shows this west-country county in magnificent detail.
The biggest topographical detail on the map is the region of Dartmoor, high moorland with a desolate atmosphere. The three main north-south rivers of the county are all shown, these are the Rivers Plym, Ex, and Dart, which outflow at Plymouth, Exeter, and Dartmouth. Forests and walled gardens are shown pictorially. Towns are colored in red. Parts of Somerset (which reaches both the north and the south coasts) and Cornwall are shown.
The map includes a detailed plan of Exeter that names 48 churches, streets, gates, and residences, though the university does not appear yet. Eight regional coats of arms appear to the left of the map, including the royal coat of arms of the Beaufort family, whose most famous member, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was mother to King Henry VII. The coat of arms of the United Kingdom appears above this.
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.