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A Mint Example of a Rare Issue

Great Britain. SPEED, John [London, 1610 [1616]]
The Kingdome of Great Britaine and Ireland. 15 x 20 1/8 inches
Fine example with a strong impression.


A mint example of the first state with very rare Latin verso text. This is one the most visually striking maps ever produced of the British Isles, and it is here enhanced by this example's very strong impression. The inset views of London and Edinburgh, often quite faded on this map, are here crisp and well defined. The rare presence of Latin verso text here is more than a publishing curiosity. The maps for Speed's atlas of Great Britain were engraved in the Netherlands by the great Jodocus Hondius, and from there, shipped to England for binding and publication. A few copies of the atlas were printed with Latin text presumably for the continental market, as Shirley points out. Perhaps as part of his compensation for his work, Hondius was allotted a certain number copies with Latin text to publish on his own account, though no such copy is known. Shirley states he is aware of only two copies of the atlas with Latin, dated 1621 and 1646, with the imprints of other Dutch publishers.
John Speed spent 15 years gathering materials for his atlas of the British Isles, in which this map was the first to appear. Moreover, Speed went to considerable lengths to secure a top engraving talent—a fascinating story in itself--to produce this and many of the other maps in this atlas. Speed sent the visual, raw materials for his maps—drafts of the map themselves and design sketches--to Amsterdam to be engraved, as mentioned, by Jodocus Hondius, who at the time was one of the most prominent and successful map publishers in all of Europe. Hondius, however, was well known to English map publishers, as he had worked as an engraver for hire in London in the 1580’s, where he had fled due to religious persecution in his homeland. Still, it is surprising that Speed was able to secure the services of Hondius at the height of his career, and, in fact, Hondius died shortly after completing this project. Hondius’ distinctive style can be seen in this map in its stippled seas and in its decorative detail that is rich without being disorganized or distracting.
The map itself of England was based on that of Saxton, who produced some years earlier the very first atlas of Great Britain. Ireland and Scotland were based on maps by Hondius and Mercator, respectively. The view of London was modeled after a c. 1600 drawing by C. J. Visscher, which was not published until 1616. The Edinburgh view is an adaptation of an earlier manuscript showing the city under siege in 1544.
Although Speed’s maps of Great Britain were far from perfect and to an extent derivative, they nevertheless “remained the basis of British cartography for a century and a half” (Nicholson, p. 18).

Shirley, R. W. Early Printed Maps of the British Isles, no. 352; Nicolson, N. The Counties of Britain, pp. 7-24.

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