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John Speed: Merionethshire

Map: WCTS1296
Cartographer: John Speed
Title: Merionethshire
Date: 1676
Published: London
Width: 20 inches / 51 cm
Height: 15 inches / 39 cm
Map ref: WCTS1296
Magnificent ornate county map with cherub cartouche, coats of arms and insets including Harlech.

Merionethshire is one of the oldest counties established in Wales. It is also one of the poorest, least arable and therefore least populated regions in the country. It is extremely hilly, with steep cliff drops to the sea. What farming and industry there is mainly consists of either livestock farming and fishing although during the early 17th century, these were mostly at subsistence level.

Speed accurately portrays the topography of the region, marking the country with continuous hills, and little else. All the settlements are shown as very small. Speed visited the county during his travels in Wales and remarked upon its poverty. This is further emphasized by the one inset of a settlement on the map.

Unusually situated on the centre right edge, Speed illustrates the county town, Harlech. The image is dominated by the 13th century castle, with a few small houses and a rather desolate chapel, which Speed described as “neglected and without use.”

Aesthetically, the map is quite strong, with the upper corners being adorned with coats of arms while the lower corners show an elaborate scale on the left and a compass rose together with a medallion stating Speed as the author of the map. The sea shows a ship and a couple of sea monsters.

English text on verso. Image available on request. Coloured.