415 x 550 mm., double page leaf with engraved portrait of John Speed and letterpress title to the ‘Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World’, verso blank, with manuscript ownership inscription of Ben Jonson lower right and his motto upper right. Some light folding to the title, otherwise in good condition.
The title page to BEN JONSON’S COPY OF THE SPEED ATLAS WITH HIS SIGNATURE AND MOTTO. Ben Jonson autographs are very rare on the market. The title page to ‘A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World’ bearing his signature ‘Sum Ben: Jonsonij’ and motto ‘tanquam explorator’ above partly shaved by early rebinding at some point. With opposing portrait of John Speed in its first edition.
Ben Jonson’s (1572- 1637) library is celebrated as being the first of a major literary figure to survive in any great quantity. David McPherson in his 1974 work identifies 206 books, mostly in institutions. The Speed was his only atlas and was ‘unquestionably the most luxurious and valuable book he is known to have owned’ (Quaritch). Speed and Jonson may well have known each other. Jonson’s patron for much of his life and schoolmaster at Westminster was William Camden, fellow antiquarian and close friend of John Speed.
Speed’s work was the first folio atlas of the world printed in England although the plates were engraved in the Netherlands. It is arguably the most prestigious English atlas of the seventeenth century. The author John Speed (1552-1629) was a historian and is the most famous of all the English map makers. John Speed died 28 July 1629 and in the same year the publisher George Humble’s original copyright for the work ended. Shortly after this Humble began work on some revisions for another edition. To accompany this second edition of the ‘Prospect’ and mark the life of Speed, Humble commissioned Salomon Savery (1594-1678) to engrave a portrait of him. He is depicted seated at a table holding a divider over a map. It is engraved following a painting of him by Michiel Miereveldt which at the time belonged to his grandson Samuel. Provenance: Lord Egerton of Tatton Park, Cheshire; Sotheby’s London 14 December 1953 lot 650 (the atlas) for £200 to Gledhill; Bernard Quaritch Ltd., c.1985. ESTC S122258; Hind (1952-64) vol. 3 p. 220 no. 3; Map Collectors Circle (1975) ‘Portraits of Geographers’ 105; McPherson, David (1974) ‘Ben Jonson’s Library and Marginalia: An Annotated Catalogue’, in ‘Studies in Philology, 71 no. 176; Shirley ‘Atlases in the British Library’, T.Spe 1f & 2b; Skelton (1970) 18; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).