Northamton Shire

Method Copper engraved with hand colour
Artist Speed, John
Published Performed by Iohn Speed and are to be Sold by Thomas Baßett in Fleet Street and Richard Chiswell in St Paul's Churchyard. [London, 1676]
Dimensions 385 x 510 mm
Notes Speed's map of Northamptonshire, from the 1676 Bassett and Chiswell printing of the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. The county is divided into its hundreds, with each outlined in hand colour, and principal towns are picked out in red. In the top left, an inset map of Northampton is included, while a similar town plan of Peterborough is featured at bottom right. The rest of the map's decorative border features the Royal Arms, boxed descriptions of the city of Northampton and the Battled of Edgecot, and the crests of the Earls of Northampton.

John Speed (1552 - 1629) is the most famous of all English cartographers primarily as a result of The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, the first atlas of the British Isles. The maps from this atlas are the best known and most sought-after of all county maps. The maps were derived mainly from the earlier prototypes of Christopher Saxton and Robert Morden but with notable improvements including parish "Hundreds" and county boundaries, town plans and embellishments such as the coats of arms of local Earls, Dukes, and the Royal Household. The maps are famed for their borders consisting of local inhabitants in national costume and panoramic vignette views of major cities and towns. An added feature is that regular atlas copies have English text printed on the reverse, giving a charming description of life in the early seventeenth century of the region. The overall effect produced very decorative, attractive and informative maps.

For the publication of this prestigious atlas Speed turned to the most successful London print-sellers of the day, John Sudbury and George Humble. William Camden introduced the leading Flemish engraver, Jodocus Hondius Sr. to John Speed in 1607 because first choice engraver William Rogers had died a few years earlier. Work commenced with the printed proofs being sent back and forth between London and Amsterdam for correction and was finally sent to London in 1611 for publication. The work was an immediate success and the maps themselves being printed for the next 150 years.

Speed was born in 1552 at Farndon, Cheshire. Like his father before him he was a tailor by trade, but around 1582 he moved to London. During his spare time Speed pursued his interests of history and cartography and in 1595 his first map of Canaan was published in the "Biblical Times". This raised his profile and he soon came to the attention of poet and dramatist Sir Fulke Greville a prominent figure in the court of Queen Elizabeth. Greville as Treasurer of the Royal Navy gave Speed an appointment in the Customs Service giving him a steady income and time to pursue cartography. Through his work he became a member of such learned societies as the Society of Antiquaries and associated with the likes of William Camden Robert Cotton and William Lambarde. He died in 1629 at the age of seventy-seven.

Condition: Central vertical fold as issued. Creasing and minor time toning to edges of sheet. Small repaired tear sto top of sheet. English descriptive text on verso.
Framing unmounted
Price £650.00
Stock ID 49111