Rendered in meticulous detail and vibrant hand color, this "carte-a-figure" map of Spain and Portugal, "Spaine Newly described, with many adictions, both in the attires of the people & the Setuations of their cheifest Cityes," is an exemplary work of famed cartographer John Speed. Published in London by Bassett & Chiswell in 1676, though dating from Speed's 1626 cartographic output, the map underscores the confluence of geography, culture, and urban development during the early modern period.
John Speed, a renowned English cartographer, was known for his meticulous and decorative approach to mapmaking. His work provides a valuable insight into the geographic knowledge and aesthetic values of the 17th century. The map depicts not only the geographical features of Spain and Portugal but also showcases the attires of their people, providing a rich tapestry of cultural life in the Iberian Peninsula.
Bordering the map are two sets of five decorative costumes, offering a visual catalogue of the diverse attire of Spanish and Portuguese populations. Such inclusion of costumes in maps was a popular trend in the 17th century, serving to capture the rich cultural variety of the depicted regions, thereby extending the map's purpose beyond mere geography.
Moreover, the top border features views of nine prominent Iberian cities: Madrid, Sevilla, Lisbona, Valladolid, Granada, Toledo, Barcelona, Burgos, and Cadiz. This artistic choice to include cityscapes not only underscores the urban vitality of these locations but also provides a snapshot of architectural styles and urban planning in the 17th century.
John Speed's map is a valuable piece of cartographic history, offering an intriguing blend of geography, culture, and urbanism. As a cartographic record, it stands as a testament to the complexities of early modern mapmaking, embodying a comprehensive understanding of the Iberian Peninsula during the era.
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.