FIRST EDITION. The ‘Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine’ by John Speed is arguably the second most important English county atlas ever printed and quite probably the most famous. Speed was a tailor by trade who had a fascination for history. It is the earliest published atlas of the entire British Isles and the first series of county maps to uniformly depict the boundaries, “the Shires diuisions, into Lathes, Hundreds, Wapentakes and Cantreds … I have separated”. He goes on to tell us that the source for much of this information was the ‘Parlament Rowles’, roads are not identified. The wood-blocks cut for the verso text are the work of Christopher Schwytzer. The text itself is largely derived from that of William Camden’s ‘Britannia’. The engraving of the maps is the work of Jodocus Hondius (1563-1612). This example of the county of Oxfordshire is from the first edition. His maps are noted for introducing town plans, this has a detailed plan of Oxford and a key to 28 locations. The side panels feature the arms of the Colleges. One of the more decorated Speed county maps. Globe (1985) p. 99; Hind (1952-55) II pp. 67-95; Schilder (2007) pp. 481-2; Schilder (2008) pp. 165-70; Shirley (2004) T.Spe 1b; Skelton (1970) no. 7; Tooley ‘John Speed. A Personal View’, in ‘The Map Collector’ no. 1 pp. 4-9; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).