Cambridgeshire map 17th century engraving by John Speed


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John Speed (1551 or 1552 – 1629)

Map of Cambridgeshire


Engraving with later hand colouring

39 x 53 cm

A beautifully coloured map of Cambridgeshire, with an antique description of the county to the reverse. The map, along with many others, was published in Speed’s atlas, ‘The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine’, first published in 1611. The map is populated by four figures in academic dress, and bordered on all sides by college crests.

John Speed was an English cartographer, chronologer and historian. The son of a citizen and Merchant Taylor in London, he rose from his family occupation to accept the task of drawing together and revising the histories, topographies and maps of the Kingdoms of Great Britain as an exposition of the union of their monarchies in the person of King James I and VI. He accomplished this with remarkable success, with the support and assistance of the leading antiquarian scholars of his generation. He drew upon and improved the shire maps of Christopher Saxton, John Norden and others, being the first to incorporate the hundred-boundaries into them, and he was the surveyor and originator of many of the town or city plans inset within them. His work helped to define early modern concepts of British national identity. His Biblical genealogies were also formally associated with the first edition of the King James Bible. He is among the most famous of English mapmakers.

Condition: generally very good; one tiny hole to right side just beyond plate mark.

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Text to reverse reads:



CAMBRIDGE-SHIRE, lyeth bounded upon the North with Lincoln shire and North∣folk; upon the East with Northfolk and Suffolk; upon the South with Har•ford•shire and Essex; and upon the West with Bedford and Huntington-shires.

(2) This Province is not large, nor for air greatly to be liked, having the Fens so spread upon her North, that they infect the Air far into the rest: from whose furthest point unto Royston in the South, are thirty five miles, but in the broadest is not fully twenty: the whole in Circumference, traced by the compass of her many indents, one hundred twenty and eight miles.

(3) The Soil doth differ both in Air and Commodities, the Fenny surcharged with waters: the South is Champion, and yieldeth Cor• in abundance, with Meadowing Pastures upon both the sides of the River C•me, which divides that part of the Shire in the midst, upon whose East-bank the Muses have built their most sacred Seat, where with plenteous increase they have continued for these many hundred years.

(4) For from ancient Grantcester, Camboritum by Antonine, now famous Cambridge, the other brest and Nurse-mother of all pious literature, have flowed full streams of the learnt Sciences into all other parts of this Land, and else where: ancient indeed, if their story be rightly writ, that will have it built by Cantaber a Spaniard, three hundred seventy five years before the birth of our Saviour, who thither first brought and planted the Muses. This City Grantcester by the tyranny of time lost both her own beauty and her professed Athenian Students, so that in Beda’s days, seven hundred years after the word became flesh, it is described to lie a little desolate City, and as yet retaineth the name, without any memory of circuit by walls.


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