Skip to content

Speed's Map of Huntingdonshire

SKU: 9847
See more:

Speed's Map of Huntingdonshire

Date of publication:

  • 1623
  • Place of publication:


  • George Humble
  • Colour:

  • original
  • Mapmaker:

  • John Speed
  • Huntington, both shire and shire towne with the ancient citie Ely described

    This is an unusual example of John Speed’s map of Huntingdonshire – it was coloured, trimmed to the edge of the printed image and mounted on thick paper in the 17th century, perhaps as part of a special commission from a wealthy patron.  Read more

    Typically, surviving Speed maps have been extracted from atlases and have descriptive text on the verso. There are some maps that were originally sold as loose sheets with blank versos, sometimes with the text supplied in panels on either side of the map image itself. Occasionally these loose sheets were bound into atlases when supplies of a particular map had run out, and these ‘broadsheets’ were the only copies to hand. It is also possible that an entire atlas was created in this fashion. 

    John Speed (1552-1629) is unquestionably the most significant English map-maker of the seventeenth-century. The first edition of Speed's "Theatre" was published in 1612. It was the first atlas of the British Isles, and the first attempt made by an Englishman to match the achievements of the great continental publishing houses – although much of the engraving of the copper plates was performed in Amsterdam by Jodocus Hondius. 

    Speed was an antiquary, and intended that his atlas should be read in conjunction with his history of Britain. He managed to include a great deal of historical detail on his 'modern' county maps and the inset town plans, some surveyed by himself, together comprise the first collection of town plans of the British Isles, all in all making the Theatre a highly decorative as well as a useful volume. It was a great success and there were editions printed throughout the seventeenth-century.

    Condition & Materials

    Copper engraving, printed area measurement 38 x 50.5 cm, sheet size 41.5 x 53 cm, fine original hand colour, blank verso. 


    A brief note from Granger's Bibliographical History of England (1779) contains most of the information we have about Speed's life: "John Speed, who was bred a Tailor, was by the generosity of Sir Fulk Grevil, his patron, set free from a manual employment and enabled to pursue his studies, to which he was strongly inclined by the bent of his genius. The fruits of them were his Theatre of Great Britain, containing an entire set of maps of the counties drawn by himself, his History of Great Britain, richly adorned with seals, coins & medals, from the Cotton collection; and his Genealogies of Scripture, first bound up with the Bible, in 1611 which was the first edition of the present English translation. His maps were very justly esteemed & his History of Great Britain, was, in its kind incomparably more complete, than all the histories of his predecessors put together ..."  Read less