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John Speed: Wight Island

Map: HANTS685
Cartographer: John Speed
Title: Wight Island
Date: 1611
Published: London
Width: 21 inches / 54 cm
Height: 15 inches / 39 cm
Map ref: HANTS685
John Speed's celebrated map of the Isle of Wight from the first edition of his seminal atlas, 'The Theatre of Great Britaine'. Includes city plans of Newport and Southampton. English text on verso.

The Isle of Wight held particular prominence during the Tudor period as it was thought to be one of the most likely points for an invasion by Spain. The attempted invasion by the Spanish Armada in 1588 was still in the mind of Elizabeth I when she granted the governorship of the island to her trusted kinsman, Sir George Carey.

One of his first actions was to hire the Italian engineer, Frederico Grenebelli, to remodel Carisbrooke Castle in the event of another Spanish attempt to invade England. Simultaneously, due to its proximity to the important harbours of both Portsmouth and Southampton, accurate mapping was essential and the well-known English map publisher William White was tasked with producing an accurate chart of the island.

Speed states in the text panel on the lower centre that his map is based on White’s map although, as usual, he added the twol city plans himself. The right corner shows Southampton, most likely included as being the port which was most important to the island, while the left corner shows Newport, situated on the north coast, very close to Carisbrooke Castle.

The shape of the island makes for a pleasing aesthetic and several ships and sea monsters are present on the sea scape.

English text on verso. Image available on request. [HANTS685]