John Speed (1552-1629) is the most famous of all the English map-makers. His two most celebrated publications are ‘The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain’ covering the British Isles, first published in 1611 and the ‘Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World’, first published in 1627. Speed was a tailor by profession with a great interest in history and maps. He wanted to produce an English atlas of the same high standards and quality as those published on the continent.
The ‘Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World’ was published in 1627, two years before the death of Speed. Ownership of the atlas passed through various hands until sometime after 1668 when Roger Rea sold the rights to Thomas Bassett and Richard Chiswell. Bassett was a specialist in legal books and Chiswell was the publisher for the Royal Society. The final 1676 edition of the ‘Prospect’ includes eight further maps on seven sheets appearing for the first and only time. Baer (1949) no. 86; Burden (1996) no. 164; Morison, Papenfuse, Bramucci & Janson-La Palme (1983) pp. 17-19; Papenfuse & Coale (1982) pp. 16-18; Phillips ‘Atlases’ 488; Shirley (2004) T.Spe 1j; Skelton (1970) 92; Verner (1968) pp. 170.