Auctions | March 8, 2023

John Speed 17th Century Atlas Makes Auction Debut

Chiswick Auctions

John Speed's atlas

A market-fresh copy of the first world atlas compiled by an Englishman comes for sale at Chiswick Auctions on March 16.

John Speed’s A Prospect of the most famous Parts of the World bound together with The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine comes for sale by family descent with expectations of £12,000 - £15,000.

John Speed (1552-1629) is perhaps the most famous English mapmakers of the early modern period. The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, the first English attempt to produce a grand scale atlas of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, was first published in 1611-12, and A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World, first published in 1627. Both are renowned for the beauty of the engravings.

This 1676 edition incorporates the two great works in one volume. It was published posthumously with the addition of eight new maps showing New England, Virginia and Maryland, Carolina, Jamaica and Barbados, East India, Russia and Canaan. The world map shows California as an island with Australasia as yet unchartered.

Chiswick Auctions specialist Clive Moss describes it as “the best edition of the most influential atlas by England’s greatest cartographer – and remarkable because it has never been offered for sale before”.