In 1611 John Speed (1551/2–1629), an English historian and renowned cartographer, published his ‘Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain’. This was the earliest English attempt at producing an atlas on a large scale. The 2nd of this work’s 4 volumes covered Wales and included a map of Wales along with individual maps of the 13 Welsh counties. Most of the maps in Speed’s work are dated 1610, though a few are earlier. Speed’s ‘Theatre’ was extremely successful and its maps became the basis for folio atlases produced up to the mid-18th century.
- Anglesey Reference: Map 5100
- Breknoke Reference: Map 5109
- Caernarvon Reference: Map 5128
- Cardigan shyre described Reference: Map 5151
- Caermarden Reference: Map 5186
- Denbighshire Reference: Map 5199
- Flint-shire Reference: Map 5216
- Glamorgan shyre Reference: Map 5232
- Merionethshire Reference: Map 5254
- The countye of Monmouth Reference: Map 5288
- Montgomery shire Reference: Map 5310
- Pembrokshyre described Reference: Map 5335
- The Countie of Radnor described Reference: Map 5375
Speed’s work improves on that of previous works by other cartographers e.g. Christopher Saxton (1542x4?–1610/11), by providing greater detail and also by including small inset plans of important towns on each map.
The National Library of Wales has multiple copies of these county maps by Speed, and in addition to the published versions we also have proof copies for 7 of the Welsh shires: Brecon, Cardigan, Carmarthen, Denbigh, Merioneth, Montgomery and Radnor, which were all purchased in 1998.