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John Speed: The Province of Mounster

Map: IRE1957
Cartographer: John Speed
Title: The Province of Mounster
Date: 1614
Published: London
Width: 20 inches / 51 cm
Height: 15 inches / 39 cm
Map ref: IRE1957
The first printed map of the Kingdom of Munster with insets of the first printed plans of Cork and Limerick.

This map of the Province of Munster is the first to concentrate on the Southwest of Ireland and the first to focus on the Kingdom or Province of the ancient region of Munster. Geographically, the map draws on an amalgam of sources, including Ortelius, Mercator, Saxton and Camden but it does have a great deal of new information; this is particularly true of its portrayal of the towns of Limerick and Cork on the upper left and lower right corners of the map respectively. These are often cited as the first printed city plans of these towns. Both of them are portrayed as large walled settlements with a small key noting important buildings.

As well as the towns, the map also shows a wealth of detail in the regions, including the names of prominent families, a multitude of settlements and aristocratic estates, such as the Earldom of Desmond, the Earldom of Ghyldar (Kildare) and the Knight of the Valley (more commonly known as the Knight of Glin).

Aesthetically, the map is very characteristic to both the period and John Speed. He had his maps engraved in Amsterdam as they were the master map engravers of the time and that is apparent on the “silk pattern” of the sea; this was an attempt to show the undulations of the water. A large figure is mounted on a sea monster, holding a harp and swimming west, probably a reference to the legend of St. Brendan and the whale. There is also a large figure on the lower left corner, holding callipers and instructing his audience on the scale of Irish Miles.

Finally, Jodocus Hondius, the Dutch engraver of the map, signs his name next to the scale and Speed himself signs his name together with the publishers on the left of the city plan of Cork.

Second edition. English text on verso. Image available on request. Strong impression with almost no plate wear.