A lovely example of the first edition. John Speed (1552-1629) is the most famous of all the English map-makers. His two most famous publications are ‘The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain’, 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 for history and maps. He wanted to produce an English atlas of the same high standards and quality as those published on the continent. First he prepared a series of maps of the British Isles and personally travelled to acquire the information for all the town plans to be included as separate insets. Between 1605 and 1610 he prepared these manuscripts and sent them to Jodocus Hondius in Amsterdam to engrave most of the plates. The atlas when first published in 1611 and was intended as a companion volume to his ‘History of Great Britain’. The descriptive text on the back of each map is mostly abridged versions from Camden’s ‘Britannia’.
The maps are attractive because of the border illustrations and insets with the arms of the country and the nobility, figures in national costume, city views, town plans, views of castles and cathedrals, and other interesting features. Unlike all the other regions of the British Isles Speed only produced the one general map of Scotland, none of its regions. It is however one of the most desirable maps from the atlas and offered here in its most desirable issue, the first. Cartographically it draws upon the Gerard Mercator map of 1595 and details the clan divisions within the country. The map focuses the eye on the rugged coastline and the Highlands in particular display the numerous lochs and rivers with their tributaries. An inset above features the Orkneys.
This early issue is desirable for its depiction of the Royal family. It was published at a contentious time in British politics when a Scottish King attained the English throne with much resentment in England. There are full length portraits of King James I and Queen Anne of Denmark. Beneath them are the two royal princes, on the left Henry Prince of Wales who would tragically die soon after publication in 1612. On the right Prince Charles, the Duke of York and later Charles I with his own tragic future. During the English Revolution it was thought this display of Royal affection was too much and in 1652 they were replaced with more proletarian Scottish people. In both the Irish and German Seas ships can be seen either sailing or engaged in a gun battle. Sea creatures are displayed and a compass rose adorns the map.
The text on the verso describes the nation in detail describing it as being divided in two by the River Tay. South of it lies the Lowlands which are “more beautified in manners, riches and civilitie” and the Highlands to the north whose people are “retaining the customs of the rude Irish”! He does however have some good things to say about them “people of good feature, strong of body and of courageous mind, and in wars so venturous, that scarce any service of note hath been performed but that they were first and last in the field: their nobility and gentry are very studious of learning and all civil knowledge”. Chubb 27; Moir, D.G. vol.1, p.168; Phillips Atlases 488; Shirley BL T.Spe 1b; Skelton 7; Wing S4886.