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Stock# 93080

The First English Atlas of the Entire British Isles.

A fine example of Speed's cornerstone Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, the most famous and quite possibly the most decorative atlas of Britain and Ireland ever published.

While the atlas is sometimes said to be cartographically derived from Saxton's 1579 Atlas of England and Wales, Speed in fact adds thousands of new towns and features as well as coverage of Scotland and Ireland. In addition, Speed's maps show his distinctive city views and plans, as well as a host of other decorative features to each of his maps. Most maps depict the county seats and one other city, and historical monuments engraved include Stonehenge, St. Paul's, and Henry VIII's famous Nonsuch palace.

Speed's Theatre includes two maps of the British Isles, as well as regional maps of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. In addition, there are forty-four county maps of England, thirteen county maps of Wales, and four county maps of Ireland.

This is the 1646 edition of Speed's atlas (with a title page from the 1627 edition), which was first published in 1612 as an accompaniment to his History of Great Britaine (1611). The first map engraved for the atlas had been completed in 1604 (The County Palatine of Chester), although the death of the engraver William Rogers delayed publication. Jodocus Hondius, whose name is signed on many of the maps, took over and completed the project. 


[Engraved Title]; [xiv]; [47 double-page engraved maps]; [iv]; [14 double-page engraved maps]; [iv]; [1 double-page engraved map]; [iv]; [5 double-page engraved maps]; [10].

Condition Description
Folio. 19th-century three-quarters calf with marbled boards, rehinged. 66 engraved double-page maps. Complete. (Minor wear and rubbing to spine and corners. Small repaired tear on I2 and lower corner of Lll strengthened. Upper corner of K torn, away from image. Minor dampstaining in the lower margin from Ccc-Ddd2.) A-E2, E-E2, G-Z2, Aa-Zz2, Aaa-Zzz2, Aaaa-Gggg2, Hhhh.
John Speed Biography

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.