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A Splendid Map of Middlesex County
With Plans of London and Westminster
Middlesex/ London/ England..
SPEED, J./ HUMBLE, G. [London, 1610/1616]
Midle-Sex described with the most famous cities of London and Westminster.
15 ¼ x 20 inches.
Fine hand color; lightly toned, centerfold reinforced, few printer’s creases, very good.
A strong example with very rare Latin verso text of one of the most sought-after of Speed’s county maps, with inset plans of London and Westminster. The map itself is dominated by London’s sprawl – the biggest city in the region by far. It also highlights the parkland set aside as a hunting preserve for the Crown. The city’s great churches, Saint Peter’s and Saint Paul’s, are depicted in the bottom corners of the engraving with historical descriptions.
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 appeared. Moreover, Speed went to considerable lengths to secure 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 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. It is not clear if the one glaring error in the Westeminster inset (the incorrect orientation of the compass rose) is attributable to Speed’s manuscript or to Hondius’s interpretation of it.
Nicolson, N. The Counties of Britain, pp. 45-48.