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John Speed: Cornwall

Map: CORN586
Cartographer: John Speed
Title: Cornwall
Date: 1627
Published: London
Width: 20 inches / 51 cm
Height: 16 inches / 41 cm
Map ref: CORN586
County map of Cornwall. Stunning map with elaborate cartouche, heraldry and vignettes as well as an inset of Launceston on the upper left.

With its distinctive shape and coastline providing ample opportunity to embellish the map with a variety of ships and sea creatures of various sizes, Cornwall is one of the most spectacular and recognizable maps present in Speed’s “Theater of the Empire of Great Britaine”.

Geographically, a medallion on the upper left states that the map was “described by the travills of John Norden and augmented and published by John Speed.” Norden was a well-known mapmaker and surveyor in the early 17th century with a strong connection to the powerful Cecil family. This was instrumental in obtaining several royal appointments, including being named the “Surveyor to the Duchy of Cornwall” in 1605. Speed used several surveys by Norden, suggesting a strong business relationship between the two men.

Simultaneously, this is one of the few cases where the inset of the town, in this case Launceston on the upper left was not from a survey by Speed but taken from another source. The town is situated in the middle of the Eastern border of the county and thus often perceived as the gateway to Cornwall. Its first use as a vignette was by William Kip, in the 1607 edition of William Camden’s “Britannia.” There is a suggestion that he may have also used a survey of the town by Norden, which is now only known in manuscript form in the British Library.

The right border illustrates several pre-historic monuments situated in Cornwall, including “The Hurlers”, a stone circle on Bodmin Moor. The lower border is embellished with a row of heraldic shields connected to the county and the upper centre is dominated by a huge cartouche of the royal coats of arms, emphasizing the royal connection of the county as the Duchy of Cornwall, which is traditionally a title given to the Prince of Wales.

English text on verso. Image available on request.

William Humble edition. Coloured. [CORN545]