A VERY RARE STATE of John Speed’s map of the Holy Land originally published in the most prestigious English world atlas of the seventeenth century by John Speed (1552-1629). This map displays the route of the exodus and all its encampments including the crossing of the Red Sea. Also found are the twelve tribes, their coats-of-arms and numerous place names. Upper left is a fine plan of Jerusalem, surrounded by depictions of sacred objects used in the Temple. Several small vignettes throughout the map depict biblical scenes. The title is supported by images of Moses and Aaron. A table to the right details fifty biblical sites shown on the map. The map was first published in 1611 for Speed’s ‘Geneologies of the Holy Scriptures’ and Robert Barker’s edition of the King James Bible. It was engraved by Renolde Elstrake but here his imprint is removed.
Speed 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. This was the first and only inclusion of this plate. There is tentative evidence that the copperplates for the Speed atlases came into the possession of Robert Walton who would have been more likely to issue the plates loose than publish an atlas. This would have happened most likely after 1686 when the ten-year Privilege for the work ran out. They then passed to Christopher Browne upon Walton’s death in 1688. Issues of the English county part of the atlas are known by Browne, and three of the foreign plates are found with his imprint including one offered here. Laor, E. 737; Nebenzahl, K. (Holy Land) 39; Phillips ‘Atlases’ 488; Shirley BL T.Spe 1j; Skelton 92; Wing S4886.