1676 John Speed County Map of Wiltshire, Depicting Stonehenge

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1676 John Speed County Map of Wiltshire, Depicting Stonehenge


Richly Decorative County Map with an Early Depiction of Stonehenge


  1676 (undated)     15 x 20 in (38.1 x 50.8 cm)     1 : 170000


This is John Speed's map of the county of Wiltshire in southwestern England. It was included in Speed's The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, which was the first collection of maps of the counties of the British Isles. The map is richly detailed, showing towns, abbeys, castles, forests and parklands. The countryside's hilly terrain is shown pictorially. An inset plan in the upper left details the cathedral city of Salisbury: a key labels the important streets, locations of the town hall, cathedral and other important churches, and the town market. Below the inset are fourteen coats-of-arms, belonging to the Earls of Wilshire and Salisbury.
Hewn Into the Living Rock
As wondrous in the 17th century as it is now, Stonehenge figures prominently on Speed's map. It is named and shown pictorially on the map itself, west of Amesbury (Ambersbury on the map,) but the a view of the site is included on the upper right of the engraving, complete with figures to show the size of the stone columns. Below this, Speed includes a pseudohistory of the monument, claiming Stonehenge to have been raised in 475 CE by the legendary uncle of King Arthur, Ambrosius Aurelianus, who would then be buried amongst the stones in the year 500 CE. (Radiocarbon dating suggests that the first stones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BCE, but alas, Speed had only Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae to go by.) He describes the impressive monument:
The matter thereof are stones of great bignes, containing twenty eight foot and more in length and ten in breadth, these are set in ye ground by towers 2 and a thrid (sic) laid gatewise over thwart fastened with tenons and mortises wrought in the same which seems very dangerous to all that passes thereunder. The forme is round, and as it semeth hath bene circulated with three rankes of these stones, many whereof are fallen downe, and the uttermost standing conteyneth in compass three hundred foot by measure of assise. They all are roughe and of a graye colour standing with in a trench that hath bene much deeper.
The superb engraving is the work of Jodocus Hondius, who engraved many of the plates of Speed's atlases.
Publication History and Census
This map was engraved by Jodocus Hondius in 1610 for inclusion in John Speed's The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine published in London by Sudbury and Humble in 1614 It continued in publication in the atlas in all its editions, including those that were bound together with Speed's A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World. This example bears the imprint of Basset and Chiswell, whose edition of Speed's atlases was published in 1676. Perhaps a dozen examples of the separate map, in various editions, appear in institutional collections.


John Speed (1542 - 1629) was an important English historian and cartographer active in the early 17th century. Speed was born in Fardon, Cheshire and apprenticed under his father as a tailor. Though his heart was never in tailoring, Speed dedicated himself to this profession until he was about 50 years old. During all the time, Speed dedicated his spare time to research as amateur historian and mapmaker - even preparing several maps for Queen Elizabeth. In London, Speed's interest in history lead him to join the Society of Antiquaries. Eventually he befriended the wealthy Sir Fulke Greville, who sponsored his researches and eventually freed him from the haberdashery profession. Working with William Camden, Speed eventually published his 1611 Historie of Great Britaine. Though this history itself was amateurish and of minimal importance, Speed's inclusion of numerous maps of British Cities and town was seminal. In many cases these plans were the first maps ever issued of their respective subjects. Later, turning his attention more fully to Geography, Speed published the magnificent atlas Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine and, just prior to his death, the 1627 A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World. These were the first British world atlases and have a landmark position in the history of cartography. These atlases continued to be published well after Speed's death. More by this mapmaker...

Jodocus Hondius (October, 14 1563 - February 12, 1612) was an important Dutch cartographer active in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. His common name, Jodocus Hondius is actually a Latinized version of his Dutch name, Joost de Hondt. He is also sometimes referred to as Jodocus Hondius the Elder to distinguish him from his sons. Hondius was a Flemish artist, engraver, and cartographer. He is best known for his early maps of the New World and Europe, for re-establishing the reputation of the work of Gerard Mercator, and for his portraits of Francis Drake. Hondius was born and raised in Ghent. In his early years he established himself as an engraver, instrument maker and globe maker. In 1584 he moved to London to escape religious difficulties in Flanders. During his stay in England, Hondius was instrumental in publicizing the work of Francis Drake, who had made a circumnavigation of the world in the late 1570s. In particular, in 1589 Hondius produced a now famous map of the cove of New Albion, where Drake briefly established a settlement on the west coast of North America. Hondius' map was based on journal and eyewitness accounts of the trip and has long fueled speculation about the precise location of Drake's landing, which has not yet been firmly established by historians. Hondius is also thought to be the artist of several well-known portraits of Drake that are now in the National Portrait Gallery in London. In 1593, Hondius returned to Amsterdam, where he remained until the end of his life. In 1604, he purchased the plates of Gerard Mercator's Atlas from Mercator's grandson. Mercator's work had languished in comparison to the rival atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum by Ortelius. Hondius republished Mercator's work with 36 additional maps, including several which he himself produced. Despite the addition of his own contributions, Hondius recognizing the prestige of Mercator's name, gave Mercator full credit as the author of the work, listing himself as the publisher. Hondius' new edition of Mercator revived the great cartographer's reputation and was a great success, selling out after a year. Hondius later published a second edition, as well as a pocket version called the Atlas Minor. The maps have since become known as the "Mercator/Hondius series". Between 1605 and 1610 Hondius was employed by John Speed to engrave the plates for Speed's The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Following Hondius' death in 1612, his publishing work in Amsterdam was continued by his widow and two sons, Jodocus II and Henricus. Later his family formed a partnership with Jan Jansson, whose name appears on the Atlasas co-publisher after 1633. Eventually, starting with the first 1606 edition in Latin, about 50 editions of the Atlas were released in the main European languages. In the Islamic world, the atlas was partially translated by the Turkish scholar Katip Çelebi. The series is sometimes called the 'Mercator/Hondius/Jansson' series because of Jansson's later contributions. Hondius' is also credited with a number of important cartographic innovations including the introduction of decorative map borders and contributions to the evolution of 17th century Dutch wall maps. The work of Hondius was essential to the establishment Amsterdam as the center of cartography in Europe in the 17th century. Learn More...


Speed, John. An Atlas of England and Wales. By J. Speed (Basset and Chiswell, London) 1676    


Good condition. Marginal mends with minimal impact on border.


Rumsey 12058.038. OCLC 1119844460.