Cambridge University Library have digitised one of five surviving sets of proof maps created by John Speed for his publication Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, and made them available to view online or alternatively printed copies can be purchased.
These maps may not be as accurate or detailed as the Ordnance Survey maps that followed them a couple of hundred years, but the quality and craftmanship really comes through in these digital images. I have seen copies of these maps before (in particular the Sussex one), but I don’t think I have seen them in such high quality and in such vibrant colour.
English and Welsh counties are well covered, but Scotland and Ireland less so. Each map contains local coats of arms and a plan of the county town as well as other details. It is wonderful to see that the waters surrounding Great Britain were inhabited by sea monsters 400 years ago (this probably explains why none of my ancestors seem to have become fishermen).
So go ahead and lose yourself in 400 year old map, you never know what you might discover? Be sure to come back and tell us what you find.
Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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