London: Bassett & Chiswell, 1676.
Map. Engraving. Image 15 1/2" x 20 1/2". Page 17 1/2" x 22".
This outstanding double-hemisphere map sets world geography in the context of astronomy and mythology. Published in 1651 and building on the insight and practices of Dutch Golden Age cartography, it is one of the earliest and most impressive English-language world maps. It illustrates both the known and the unknown: the detailed coasts of New England and New France are offset by scattered knowledge of North America's west coast, and the in-depth rendering of Africa and Asia is balanced by the little-explored "almost third part of the world" labelled here as "the Southerne Unknowne Land," not to mention the Arctic north. Scattered texts tell the history of important discoveries by Columbus, Magellan, Sir Francis Drake, and others, and they are complemented by small portraits of some of these important figures around the border of the map. All of this impressive terrestrial information is surrounded by images and ideas of the heavens. Constellation maps of the northern and southern hemispheres are flanked by illustrations of the four elements: water, earth, fire and air. Diagrams in the corners of the map describe solar and lunar eclipses and other astronomical knowledge. In this hard-to-find uncolored state, the map reveals its fineness of its engraving and design.
The map is in very good condition with no chips or tears. Discoloration at margin edges, not affecting the image. State 4 English text verso.
John Speed (1552-1629), born in Cheshire and a tailor by profession until he was 50, is widely considered to be the most famous English cartographer of the 17th century. He is noted for placing England in the mainstream of map publishing, an industry which was at the time dominated by the Dutch. From his seminal atlas called A Prospect of the most Famous Parts of the World.