Title page of Theatrum Imperii Magnae Britanniae

by John Speed


Date of first edition: 1612 (made in 1610)

Date of this edition: 1616

Dimensions (not including margins): 38,2 x 24,2 cm

Dimensions (including margins): 40,5 x 26,6 cm

Condition: very good. Sharp copper engraving. Good margins. Slightly age-toned.

Condition rating: A

Verso: blank

Reference: R. Shirley, map 32, page 100

From: Theatrum Imperii Magnae Britanniae

Item number:
British Isles
Portraits & Titlepages
Recent Additions
Price (without VAT, possibly to be added): 475,00 (FYI +/- $527,25 / £422,75)
Unless otherwise specifically stated on this map page, we charge the following expedition costs in euro (unfortunatelly, gone up with Covid, but still too low in reality!): 
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– Rest of the World: 100 euro

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The title page

The architectural frame for the Theatrum Imperii Magnae Britanniae has been derived from the title page of the Theatrum of Ortelius.

John Speed ​shows the people who conquered and inhabited the island. Prominent in the top center is A Britaine. This may be a Pict, as engraved by Theodor de Bry in 1590. Next to and below him are a Roman, a Saxe, a Dane and a Norman,  the “ethnic composition” of the people of 17th Century Britain. Each of them  is garbed according to their epoch.  Above or beside them are their armorial shields and at the foot of the titlepage are two small vignettes: one of London and another of a ship.

The title page is unsigned. It is generally attributed to Jodocus Hondius himself, but may have come from engraver Renold Elstrack (1570-c. 1625).

This title page was successful and was later used in 1645 and 1646 as inspiration for title pages by Blaeu and Janssonius.

John Speed

John Speed (1551 or ’52 – 28 July 1629) was the best known English mapmaker of the Stuart period. Speed came to mapmaking late in life, producing his first maps in the 1590s and entering the trade in earnest when he was almost 60 years old.

John Speed’s fame, which continues to this day, lies with two atlases, The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine (first published 1612), and the Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World (1627). While The Theatre … started as solely a county atlas, it grew into an impressive world atlas with the inclusion of the Prospect in 1627. The plates for the atlas passed through many hands in the 17th century, and the book finally reached its apotheosis in 1676 when it was published by Thomas Bassett and Richard Chiswell, with a number of important maps added for the first time.





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