The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. as also A Prospect of the most famous Parts of the World SPEED, John (1552-1629). Published by London: Thomas Bassett and Richard Chiswell, 1676., 1676

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The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. as also A Prospect of the most famous Parts of the World

SPEED, John (1552-1629).


Published by London: Thomas Bassett and Richard Chiswell, 1676., 1676
5 parts, making 2 volumes, in one. Folio (17 x 12 2/8 inches). Letterpress general title-page printed in red and black, 4 sectional title-pages. Engraved additional title-page and arms of Charles II, the "Theatre" with 68 double-page engraved maps of the Counties of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland most by Jodocus Hondius after Christopher Saxton; the "Prospect" with 28 double-page engraved maps of various parts of the world (some light, mostly marginal browning throughout). FINE modern black morocco, gilt to an 17th-century style by Trevor Lloyd. Provenance: With the near contemporary signature of Don Murray at the head of the title-page "The 1676 edition of John Speed's famous atlas marked the high point of its publishing history" (Burden). "'The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine' followed the model of Ortelius's 'Theatrum orbis terrarum'-first published in English in 1606-in its title and its format, with map sheets backed by historical and geographical texts and gazetteers of place names. This was the earliest English attempt at producing an atlas on a grand scale, with the first detailed maps of the provinces of Ireland, the first set of county maps consistently attempting to show the boundaries of territorial divisions, and the first truly comprehensive set of English town plans-a notable contribution to British topography. Perhaps as many as fifty of the seventy-three towns had not previously been mapped, and about fifty-one of the plans were probably Speed's own work. In 1606 Speed might have been helped by his son John in surveying towns. A balance is struck between the modern and historical, with information placed on the edges of the maps about antiquarian remains, and sites and vignettes of famous battles, together with arms of princes and nobles. This additional information is one of the 'Theatre''s most significant contributions. Scotland is covered in less detail, as Timothy Pont was surveying there. Individual maps for the Theatre were prepared from about 1602, plates were engraved by Jodocus Hondius-noted for his skills in decoration-from 1607, George Humble was granted a privilege to print the 'Theatre' for twenty-one years from 1608, and the 'Theatre' and 'History' were published together in 1611-12. They were an immediate success: three new editions and issues of each appeared during Speed's lifetime, and a miniature version was first published about 1619-20. The maps in the 'Theatre' became the basis for subsequent folio atlases until the mid-eighteenth century. By 1625 Speed had lost his sight. Nevertheless, in 1627 he published A Prospect of the most Famous Parts of the World, which shared a title-page with the 1627 edition of the Theatre. 'THE PROSEPCT', THE EARLIEST WORLD ATLAS BY AN ENGLISHMAN (though not the first to be published in England)" (Sarah Bendall for DNB). 'The Prospect' includes the World map showing California as an Island, Continents and 6 maps of America, 4 of which appear for the first time including: "A Map of New England and New York" (Burden 455); "A Map of Virginia and Maryland" (Burden 456) "A new Description of Carolina" (Burden 457). Chubb XXVII; Wing S4886; Skel Catalogued by Kate Hunter. Bookseller Inventory # 72lib618