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John Speed: A New Mappe of the Romane Empire

Map: EUR1445
 
Cartographer: John Speed
Title: A New Mappe of the Romane Empire
Date: 1627
Published: London
Width: 20 inches / 51 cm
Height: 15 inches / 39 cm
Map ref: EUR1445
Description:
John Speed's exquisite map of the ancient Roman Empire embellished with miniature city views along the upper border and costumed figures on both sides. Rome, Genoa, Jerusalem, Venice, Constantinople, and Alexandria are depicted by miniature bird's-eye views, reduced from larger maps in Braun & Hogenberg's Civitates Orbis Terrarum. The costumed figures show men and women from Spain, Turkey, Morocco, Italy, and Egypt in 17th century apparel. A text panel at the bottom of the page gives a short overview of the rise of the Roman Empire to its height.

John Speed was the most prominent and respected English map maker of the 17th century. He produced the first ever atlas of the world in English. It was attached as a supplement to his British county atlas and collectively the whole work was known as A Theater of the Empire of Great Britaine and a Prospect of the Most Famous parts of the World. This map, therefore, is the first English atlas map of the Roman Empire.

Although his atlas was intended for the English market, the maps were engraved and prepared in Amsterdam as there were no engravers with sufficient skills to do the work in England at the time. As a result, the map is heavily influenced by the Dutch style, especially with the inclusion of the sumptuous illustrated borders, generally only found on Dutch maps. The quality of the engraving is stunning, far superior to any other English maps of the period and on par with the finest Dutch Golden Age maps.

One of the most endearing characteristics of this map is the charming 17th-century description of the Roman Empire printed on the reverse of the map in English [image available upon request]. It gives a detailed overview of the history, geography, politics, and customs of the Roman Empire, often in unintentionally humorous language.

John Speed’s striking maps are highly collectible, and continue to be as appealing to collectors today as they were to Speed’s contemporaries.

George Humble (1627) edition. Strong impression. English text on verso. Image available on request.

[EUR1445]