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John Speed: A Map of Russia

Map: RUS2509
Cartographer: John Speed
Title: A Map of Russia
Date: 1676
Published: London
Width: 20 inches / 51 cm
Height: 15 inches / 39 cm
Map ref: RUS2509
The first English atlas map of Russia added posthumously to Speed's atlas in 1676. Broadly covering the region known as European Russia, it is derived from contemporary Dutch maps.

Although John Speed’s name is used as a marketing tool for this edition of the “Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine and A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World”, Speed had died almost fifty years previously. Yet such was his fame and reputation that his atlas was still considered commercially viable for publishers. In addition, this posthumous 1676 edition was augmented with five new maps, including this map of Russia. Thus, although uncredited, and engraved by Francis Lamb as marked on the lower right, this is still perceived as the first and only edition of Speed’s map of Russia due to its inclusion in the atlas.

Geographically, it is based on a map first issued by Hessel Gerritz in 1612-13. Gerritz in turn was given a manuscript by Isaac Massa, a Dutch wheat merchant with extensive contacts in Eastern Europe. He had obtained a manuscript copy of the original map from the archives of King Sigismund of Poland, who supposedly sourced it from the court of Boris Godunov. One of the most interesting features of the map is the theory that the city plan of Moscow on the upper left was based on a survey supervised by Feodor Godunov, son of Boris and supposedly a prodigy with a great interest in geography.

Gerritz published the map in a commercial prospectus for trading opportunities in Eastern Europe but it was quickly appropriated and used by the Blaeu family in their Atlas Novus from the 1630s onwards and from then on by the major Dutch publishing houses during the Golden Age of the 17th century.

It was the standard template for Russian maps throughout this period and the engravers employed by Bassett and Chiswell follow the geographical model carefully, including the city plan of Moscow on the upper left and several vignettes on the centre right, including Narva Castle and the Kremlin.

Of particular note is the contemporary English description of Russia in the 17th century printed on the reverse of the map.

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