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John Speed: The Countye Palatine of Chester with that most ancient citie described.

Map: CHES350
Cartographer: John Speed
Title: The Countye Palatine of Chester with that most ancient citie described.
Date: 1614
Published: London
Width: 21 inches / 54 cm
Height: 15 inches / 39 cm
Map ref: CHES350
This splendid map of Cheshire by John Speed is unusual in several ways.

On the lower left, Speed claims authorship of the map as is often the case but he is also “assisted by Willim Smyth". Smith was also a well known cartographer of the time and has recently come into prominence as the person responsible for the series of “Anonymous Maps”, an incomplete series of county maps which had defied expert efforts to identify their author for centuries until further research in the mid 20th century credited them to Smith. Since Smith was actually an officer of the College of Arms, it is likely that cartography was only a sideline or something that he published on a bespoke basis. It is known that he revised several of Saxton’s county maps in the early 17th century, Cheshire among them and it is these revisions which served as a basis for the co-operation of the two men. Cheshire is not the only map which was a compilation of both their efforts.

The central city plan is unusually large and detailed. It was derived from a German view first issued in the “Civitates Orbis Terrarum”, the first atlas of city plans. It was issued in Frankfurt between 1572 and 1614 in six volumes by Georg Braun; the principal engraver working on these plans was Frans Hogenberg. The plan of Chester was first issued in 1575. Four medallions on its right attest to the importance of Chester and its roots as a Roman town.

The title is also of interest, making much of the fact that Chester was a County Palatine, an ancient distinction, stating that the nobleman in charge of the county had specific judiciary and military powers not granted to other aristocrats of a similar rank. Thus the title to Cheshire was usually granted to someone who was particularly trustworthy to the Royal House of the time.

As was usual with Speed’s maps, the left border is liberally adorned with the coats of arms of notable families and titles of the county but of much greater interest are the two angels on the lower left and right corners, supposedly portraying the coats of arms of William Smith and John Speed himself.

English text on verso. Image available on request.