John Speed (1551/2-1629), English historian and cartographer of the Stuart-period, is arguably the most famous of the early English mapmakers. It was with the encouragement of William Camden, writer of Britannia, that Speed began hisHistorie of Great Britaine and its accompanying atlas volume, The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, which was first published in 1611. This was the earliest English attempt at producing an atlas on a grand scale and it closely followed the model of Ortelius's Theatrum Orbis Terrarium, both in its title and in its format.

Detail of Speed’s Map of Brecknockshire “Breknoke, both Shyre and Town described, Ann. Domini 1610”. Speed, John, 1627. The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine: Presenting an Exact Geography of the Kingdomes of England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Iles Adioyning: with the Shires, Hundreds, Cities and Shire-Townes, within ye Kingdome of England, Divided and Described by John Speed

Detail of Speed’s Map of Brecknockshire

‌This particular volume of maps, donated by Thomas Phillips, is made-up of sheets from the preface of The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine and fifty-four maps which were originally sold individually. Presented at shire-level, each map depicts the boundaries, rivers, forests and settlements of the county in addition to illustrations of coats of arms, town plans and historical details. 

“Breknoke, both Shyre and Town described, Ann. Domini 1610”. Speed, John, 1627. In: The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine: Presenting an Exact Geography of the Kingdomes of England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Iles Adioyning: with the Shires, Hundreds, Cities and Shire-Townes, within ye Kingdome of England, Divided and Described by John Speed. London: sold byGeorge Humble at the White Horse in Popes-head Alley. (PHI 00234). 
Presented to St. David’s College by Thomas Phillips in 1840.

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