The Maps of John Speed

Today’s fragments are from the Elizabethan map-maker John Speed (1551-1629).  Speed was an historian and cartographer. In 1595 he published a wall map of biblical Canaan. By 1598 he had presented several maps to Elizabeth 1, and in 1606 he published his The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, the earliest English attempt at producing a large-scale Atlas. Speed’s maps were reprinted many times, and served as the basis for most subsequent world maps until at least the mid-eighteenth century.  To view a larger image of each map, right click and open in a new tab.

Source for Speed’s life: Sarah Bendall, DNB.


  • August 4, 2010 - 3:09 pm | Permalink

    At least two thirds of the English towns were surveyed by Speed himself, perhaps assisted by his son. The later inclusion of the overseas maps may not have been something Speed oversaw personally; maps drawn from engravings in Antwerp were probably reproduced alongside Speed’s own surveys. Still, his enormous undertaking in surveying the UK was remarkable, and a major contribution to the history of British topography.

  • August 4, 2010 - 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Speed was an historian and cartographer, but did he do his own sailing and surveying? If not, he must have used the notes, drawings and measurements of other explorer/surveyors. What a clever, productive man!

  • August 4, 2010 - 11:10 am | Permalink

    And very pretty they are too :0)

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