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John Speed: Suffolke

Map: SUFFLK334
Cartographer: John Speed
Title: Suffolke
Date: 1611
Published: London
Width: 20 inches / 51 cm
Height: 15 inches / 39 cm
Map ref: SUFFLK334
A magnificent, ornate county map of Suffolk with coats of arms, Roman figures and an inset town plan of Ipswich.

Suffolk is one of Speed’s more interesting county maps historically speaking. The geography was based on that of Saxton, as was often the case in East Anglia. The county was always wealthy due to its success as an agricultural centre as well as having several important population centres. Its coastline on the North Sea ensured a thriving fishing industry and its proximity to the mainland of Europe provided many of the coastal towns with other avenues for trade.

However, the most prominent feature on the map is the large city plan of Ipswich given pride of place on the upper centre. It is larger than most of Speed town plans and it is also another of the plans known to have been surveyed by Speed himself. The detail and elaboration indicate its importance. It was both one of the oldest settlements in the country, established in Roman times as well as being an important port. This does explain the size that Speed devotes to this plan. This depiction is also believed to be the first printed image of the town.

The map is also particularly ornate, even by Speed’s standards. Two figures flank the town of Ipswich: one is that of “Boadicia” or Boadicea, an ancient British queen from the Romano British period, who rose against the Romans and briefly threatened to end Roman rule in the country and who has since become a figure of legend. The other figure is the Roman general Quintus Petillius Cerialis who served in Britain during Boadicea's revolt, and was later appointed Governor of Britain.

The two side panels are dedicated to the coats of arms of the Earls of Suffolk on the right, a title in the British peerage going back to Norman times and held by the Howard family for centuries and on the left, an even more illustrious set armorial shields, this time dedicated to the Earls and Dukes of Clare, named after another major town in the county. This is a slightly more peculiar title in that it was created during the Norman period in the 11th century and held by the powerful de Clare family.

However, it appears to have been self-styled and was not officially created until 1624. Despite this, Speed seems to have no hesitation in styling the de Clare family as Earls of Clare and then that was combined with the title of the Duke of Clarence, another medieval title which is more often associated with the British royal family.

English text on verso. Image available on request.