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Description found in Archives
Place of creation
Language of material
Scope and content
Considerable detail is shown in South and Central America and the eastern parts of North America, including indications of the Chesapeake, Delaware and Hudson Bays. It is for its depiction of California as an island, however, that this map is particularly famous, for this is the first atlas map upon which this misconception appeared and Speed's depiction of the island was thus a major contributing factor in the longevity of this notorious myth. The final flourishes of the map are the myriad small etched ships, sea monsters and flying fish shown in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Conditions of access
Original can be viewed in the presence o
f an early cartographic archivist. Microfiche version is open
34 Item no. assigned by LAC 34
Credit: Library and Archives Canada.
Creator / Provenance
Biography / Administrative history
John Speed (1552-629) was an historian and cartographer, whose maps of English counties are often found framed in homes throughout the United Kingdom.He was born at Farndon, Cheshire, and went into his father's tailoring business where he worked until he was about 50. While working in London, his knowledge of history led him into learned circles and he joined the Society of Antiquaries where his interests came to the attention of Sir Fulke Greville, who subsequently made Speed an allowance to enable him to devote his whole attention to research. As a reward for his earlier efforts, Queen Elizabeth granted him the use of a room in the Custom House. It was with the encouragement of William Camden that he began his Historie of Great Britaine, which was published in 1611. Although Speed probably had access to historical sources that are now lost to us he certainly used the work of Saxton and Norden, his work as a historian is considered mediocre and secondary in importance to his map-making, of which his most important contribution is probably his town plans, many of which provide the first visual record of the British towns they depict.
His atlas The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine was published in 1610/11 and contained the first set of individual county maps of England and Wales besides maps of Ireland [5 in all] and a general map of Scotland. Most, but not all, of the county maps have town plans on them; those showing a Scale of Passes being the places he had mapped himself. Just before his death in 1627 Speed published A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World which was the first world atlas produced by an Englishman. There is a fascinating text describing the areas shown on the back of the maps in English although a rare edition of 1616 of the British maps has a Latin text - this is believed to have been produced for the Continental market. Much of the engraving was done in Amsterdam at the workshop of his friend Judocus Hondius.
In 1611, he also published The genealogies recorded in the Sacred Scriptures according to euery family and tribe with the line of Our Sauior Jesus Christ obserued from Adam to the Blessed Virgin Mary, a biblical genealogy, reprinted several times during the 17th century.
John Speed is buried with his wife in St Giles-without-Cripplegate church within the Barbican Estate in the City of London. A memorial to John Speed was also erected behind the altar of the church. According to the church's web site "[his was] one of the few memorials [in the church] that survived the bombing" of London during The Blitz of 1940-1941.... The web site also notes that "[t]he cast for the niche in which the bust is placed was provided by the Merchant Taylors' Company, of which John Speed was a member." (Source: Wikipedia)
The following text appears in a box in the lower left corner of the map: "Are to be sold in pops-head alley against the Exchange by G. Humble"
Includes inset map in upper left corner depicting Greenland. 8 x 8 cm.
Illustrated with ships and sea monsters, indigenous people and settlements.
Map includes a decorative border. The two sides are illustrated with the indigenous people from the two continents. The left border illustrates the natives of North America while the right border illustrates the natives of South America. Across the top border are deptictions of eight settlements on the continents including: Havan port --, S. Domingo -- Cartagena -- Mexico -- Cvsco -- Il. of Moco in Chile -- E. Ianeiro -- Olinda .
From: John Speed's "A prospect of the most famous parts of the world", London, 1627.
State I, from Burden, Enrty 217.
Cartographic math data
Citation / reference note
Wagner, Entry 301B
LeGear, Entry 5928, Map no. 
Phillips, Entry, 442, pt,1 , map no. 
Availability of other formats note
Canada on Maps 1564-1616: Stratford Festival Exhibition 1966.
1. North America - Maps - Early works to 1800.
2. South America - Maps - Early works to 1800.
3. Greenland - Maps - Early works to 1800.
4. Indians of North America - America - Discovery and Exploration - Early Works to 1800 .
Other system control no.
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