Richard Nicholson of Chester

A World of Antique Maps and Prints

1579 - 1660

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Elizabeth I (1558 - 1603)

The daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn

Born at Greenwich Palace, London in 1533
Ascended the throne in 1558
Did not marry
Died at Richmond in 1603, aged 70

Coastal Charts
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Christopher Saxton
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Enter the name for this tabbed section: List of Maps in the Atlas
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1579. The first county maps of England and Wales. Some counties are grouped with others on a folio sheet.
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1572 - 1617. Town Plans
London, Cambridge, Oxford/Windsor, Norwich, Bristol, Chester, Edinburgh, Canterbury, Nonsuch Palace, Exeter, York/Shrewsbury/Lancaster/Richmont, Dublin/Glaway/Limerick/Cork
29th July, 1588. Huge fleet of warships sighted off the Lizard in Cornwall. The Spanish Armada
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Pieter van den Keere
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Enter the name for this tabbed section: The Man
1593 onwards. Miniature county maps of England and Wales. Areas of Scotland and the provinces of Ireland.
1595 - Folio and smaller maps of areas of British Isles. Regional Maps
1595. Bird's Eye Views of a few English Cities
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James I (VI of Scotland) (1603 - 1625)

The son of Mary, Queen of Scots and Henry, Lord Darnley

Born at Edinburgh Castle in 1566
Ascended the throne in 1603
Married Anne of Denmark
Had three sons and four daughters
Died at Theobalds in 1625, aged 59

5th November, 1605 Guy Fawkes is found beneath Westminster guarding 20 barrels of gunpowder with the intention of blowing up king and parliament
Enter the name for this tabbed section: John Speed
List of Maps
Enter the name for this tabbed section: His life and times
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List of Maps in


British Isles
England and Wales
Saxon Heptarchy
Invasions of England and Wales (added in later editions)
Holy Island, Farne Islands, Guernsey, Jersey
Isle of Man
Isle of Wight
Yorkshire West Riding
Yorkshire North and East Ridings



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Enter the name for this tabbed section: Editions of his atlas
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1611 onwards. English and Welsh county maps. Maps of the Irish provinces.
You may come across a few John Speed maps with colouring described as early. The publishers, however, did not advertise or sell the atlases coloured unlike some of the 17th century Dutch map publishers. The majority of John Speed maps arrived in the 20th century in an uncoloured state. Modern colouring is quite acceptable and the majority of present day collectors like their John Speed maps to be coloured. The quality of the modern hand colouring is important and poor unattractive modern colouring can greatly reduce the value.
Did you know that many of the coats of arms on John Speed's maps are colour coded?
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If you go through the little village of Farndon in Cheshire today you are unlikely to see anything to draw your attention to the fact that John Speed was born there. Perhaps, given time, much will be made of the event but today, as in 1552, the happening is, and was, taken as an every day event and John was called John after his father and as soon as he was old enough sewed up the similarity by following in his father's fashion, the trade of a tailor.
At the age of 18 John Speed was admitted to the freedom of the Merchant Tailor's Company in London. He rented somewhere to live and a garden in Moorfields for twenty shillings a year.

At the age of 20 he married and continued his manual employment in the business of garments. Doubtless he was well employed for these were the days of Queen Elizabeth when colour and style in dress left a vivid and interesting image in our island history.

Undoubtedly a fine family man, John Speed could apply only his spare time to history and mapmaking, for tailoring brought in the money to bring up his brood of twelve sons and six daughters. His son Samuel in later years became implicated in a plot against Cromwell and was forced to flee the country for the West Indies where he joined some buccaneers and later became a sea chaplain.

Perhaps we would not have seen the fine maps of John Speed if a courtier of good literary taste and discernment had not used his influence to further the careers of talented men. The courtier was Sir Fulke Greville, the first Lord Brooke, a lifelong friend of Sir Philip Sydney.

Thus is was in 1598, with Speed at the age of 48, that Queen Elizabeth gave him a Waiters room in the custom house and at last Speed was able to pass onto us what had been in his mind.

He first devoted himself to writing a history and preparing a series of county maps of England and Wales. Between 1605 and 1610 he collected material including manuscript maps, coats of arms, portraits, drawings of antiquaries and rubbings of coins which he passed onto Jodocus Hondius in Amsterdam who engraved most of the maps for the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain. During this time Speed must have travelled extensively in the British Isles acquiring information for his unique series of town plans that appear on his maps, which are the earliest recorded plans for many of the towns featured, Proofs of his maps were issued between 1608 and 1610 and in 1611-12 all 67 maps were published in atlas form under the title The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain.

It was a most successful publication. Many copies sold and further editions were to appear for over one hundred years. Speed also prepared maps of the countries of the world, These appeared in A Prospect of the most famous parts of the World.

Maybe you will find a suitable memorial to John Speed at St. Giles, Cripplegate where John Speed finally came to rest on the 28th July, 1629. He was aged 77 and had suffered blindness and gall stones in a none too enlightened era. The good work he did, however, lives after him and the pleasure derived by discerning collectors who own one of more of his original maps is adequate evidence of his being one of the virile hard-working and inspired stars of the Elizabethan era.
The Copper Plates
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John Speed's maps were so popular during the 17th and 18th centuries that they were published many times. This is a rough guide to the various editions of his atlas.
The first edition, fine dark impressions, very often on thick paper. Sometimes have large blank margins at the top and bottom. English text on verso of each map, much of the content being taken from Camden's Britannia. Published by John Sudbury and George Humble although the name of Humble only appears on some of the maps. Printed by William Hall and John Beale
Another good early edition with dark impressions. English text reset on verso. Published by John Sudbury and George Humble, Printed by Thomas Snodham.
A rare edition and the only one to have Latin text on the verso of each map. Good dark impressions Published by John Sudbury and George Humble.
Edition with English text on verso.
A good edition published by George Humble alone although the name of John Sudbury who was now retired continues to appear on some of the maps. The first edition to include the map of the Invasions of England, Wales and Ireland. The English text on verso was reset for this edition. Printed by John Dawson. The first edition in which the Prospect of the World was added. Printed by John Dawson.
1631 - 2
Published by George Humble. Reset English text on verso. Published with the Prospect by John Dawson.
This edition was printed by John Legatt and published by William Humble, the elder son of George Humble. English text again.
More editions by William Humble
1662 - 5
The only edition to be published by Roger Rea who changed all the imprint panels to accommodate the names of Roger Rea the Elder and Younger. The date of 1610 which had continued to appear on some of the maps is now changed to 1662 on some maps. Printed by Mary and Samuel Simmons.
A popular edition published by Thomas Bassett and Richard Chiswell. The impressions are lighter but the margins are usually wider than the previous editions. There were some specimens printed on a thick paper The English text on verso was reset for this edition, A number of interesting maps of North America and one of the Holy Land were added to the Prospect for this edition.
circa 1690 - 95
A rare edition by Christopher Browne who erased the imprint of Bassett and Chiswell on the maps of Hampshire, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Yorkshire and replaced it with "Christopher Browne, at the Globe near the West End of St. Paul's Church London". In the past 25 years we have only offered one complete series of these maps, featured in our Catalogue 14 in 1971.
1710 - 43
An edition published by Henry Overton whose imprint appears on the maps. The roads, following Ogilby s survey, were engraved onto the old plates for this edition. Plain on verso.
A rare edition and the last edition published by Dicey & Co. Pale impressions. Plain on verso.

JOHN SPEED Born in 1552 Died in 1629

The story of how stock of the London map trade was acquired or passed from one to another is a fascinating one. The relationships between surveyors, mapmakers, engravers, publishers and mapsellers is often complex. I hope the diagram below helps to illustrate the history of John Speed's map plates and a few other relationships.

John Sudbury
fl. 1599 - 1618

George Humble
(fl. 1603 - 40)
Died in 1640
The business bequeathed
to George Humble's Son.
William Humble
(fl. 1640 - 59)
Published many editions of the Speed Atlas

Peter Stent fl. 1641 - 1662 Acquired stock from William Humble but not the Speed plates. Published the series of anonymous county maps in 1650 Died in 1665
William Garrett. Publisher
His daughter married John Overton
Purchased the Speed plates from William Humble in 1658 - 9. Did not use them but soon sold them to Roger Rea the elder and younger.
Roger Rea, the elder and the younger
(fl. 1660 - 67)
Purchased the John Speed plates and published atlases in 1662 and 1665
Thomas Bassett (fl. 1659 - 93)
Richard Chiswell (fl.1639 - 1711)
Purchased the Speed plates from Roger Rea and published an atlas in 1676
Christopher Browne (fl. 1688 - 1712)
Purchased the Speed plates and published an atlas. Sold the Speed plates to John Overton.
John Overton (fl. 1665 - 1707)
Married the daughter of William Garrett
Acquired stock of Peter Stent in 1665
Acquired Speed plates in 1700 from
Christopher Browne. Disposed of his stock to his son Henry Overton in 1707.
Henry Overton (fl.1707 - 49)
Reissued the series of anonymous maps in 1708
Published Speed Atlas in 1713 and again in 1743
Cluer Dicey (fl. c.1740-0)
Acquired the Speed plates and published the last edition in 1770.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: William Hole and William Kip
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Enter the name for this tabbed section: List of Maps in Camdens Britannia
1607, 1610 & 1637. County maps of England and Wales in Camden's Britannia
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Michael Drayton

List of Maps in the Poly-Olbion

First published in 1612

Cornwall & Devon
Dorset & Hampshire
Somerset & Wiltshire
Glamorgan & Monmouth
Pembrokeshire & Carmarthen
Herefordshire & Worcestershire
Caernarvonshire & Merionethshire
Denbighshire & Flintshire
Gloucestershire & Worcestershire
Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire
Middlesex & Hertfordshire
Surrey & Sussex
The following maps come from the second part of the Poly-Olbion, published in 1622

Essex & Suffolk
Bedfordshire & Huntingdonshire
Derbsyhire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire
Lancashire & Isle of Man
Cumberland & Westmorland
Enter the name for this tabbed section: List of Maps in Poly-Olbion

Poly-Olbion of a Chrographical description of Tracts, Rivers, Mountains, Forest and other Parts of this renowned Isle of Great Britain

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Drayton was born at Hertshill, Atherstons, Warwickshire in 1563. An Elizabethan poet and friend of Shakespeare, but to mapmakers he is known for this series of stange and unusual maps of the counties of England and Wales. There are no county boundaries but the countryside is inhabited by shepherds, women and naked water nymphs.

The work was started in 1598 and in 1612 the first volume appeared illustrated by 18 maps. It was reissued in 1613 but it wwas another nine years that the second part was published with a further 12 maps.

The work was not hand coloured at the time so coloured maps you find will have been worked on in more recent times.

Drayton died in 1631 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
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Enter the name for this tabbed section: Examples of Drayton Maps
Poly-Olbion Titlepage
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1612 - 22 Strange maps of parts of England and Wales.
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Title page to Michael Drayton's Poly-Olbion

Click image to enlarge
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Charles I ( 1625 - 1649 )

The son of James I and Anne of Denmark

Born at Dunfermline in 1600
Ascended the throne in 1625
Married Henrietta Maria of France
Had four sons and five daughters
Executed at Whitehall, London in 1649, aged 48 years

1612 - Miniature County Maps
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1636 - Small English county maps set into the corner of a sheet showing a Table of Distances.

Civil Wat Battles
1642 Edgehill
1642 Worcester
1643 Devizes
1643 and 1644 Newbury
1644 Marston Moor
1645 Naseby
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Joan Blaeu
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Enter the name for this tabbed section: Examples of Blaeu Maps


One of the greatest names in early map making is that of Blaeu. The business flourished for over forty years in the city of Amsterdam. The company started in 1596 making instruments and globes but soon expanded into publishing maps and charts. His first son Joan was born in about 1599 who by 1610 had six brothers and sisters, Sijtge, Jacob, Stijntgen, Catharina, Willem and Cornelis.
It was in 1630 that Joan joined his father in the map business and in 1631 their joint names began to appear on their maps. In 1634 Joan married Geertruid Vermeulen Pieterdr and it was about this time the output of the business was greatly enlarged with the publication of wall maps, globes, charts, town plans and atlases. In 1637 the print workshops moved to larger premises on Bloemgracht where the number of printing presses was increased to nine. The father and son partnership ended with the death of Willem in 1638. Joan continued to run the business with the help of his brother Cornelis but it was to be quite a short partnership lasting only six years as Cornelis died in 1644 at the age of 34.

Joan was appointed official cartographer to the East India Company. A position his father had held previously. The business continued to grow as Joan extended his now famous Theatrum to 12 volumes and by 1668 it is believed that he was employing about eight men to produce this magnificent work in four languages, Latin, French, Dutch and Spanish. Each set of atlases having some three thousand pages of text and six hundred different maps, most of which were hand coloured. At the same time Blaeu was also publishing his magnificent town atlases. The publication of charts by now had ceased but was carried on by other Amsterdam mapmakers such as Colomb and Jacobsz.

It was as Dr. Joan Blaeu that he help important positions, serving on the council from 1651 to 1672, appointment as Captain of the Civic Guard in 1650 and in 1651 'Overman' of the Handbow Archer's Guild, Commissions of Fortifications in 1655 and of the ammunition magazines in 1659. By this time Joan and Geertruid had six children, Willem, who later became an advocate, Pieter, Maria, Elisabeth, Joan II, and Louisa. Pieter and Cornelis helped there father Joan in the business.

In 1667 Joan opened another printing house in Gravenstraat. It was to last only five years as at 3.30 on the morning of February 23rd, 1672 the premises caught fire. The building was destroyed along with the stock of books, atlases, paper, copper printing plates, type and equipment. Seven months later on 10th September, 1672 owing to political pressures Joan was dismissed from the council, on which he had serves twenty-one years, along with fifteen other councillors.

It is most probable that these two distressing events were responsible for his decline in health and his coming to rest on 23rd December, 1673, aged 75. The business was carried on by his sons Joan II and Pieter. Many items were auctioned and in 1683 the globemaking part of the business was sold to J. van Keulen. The sons published a number of maps but the business never regained the influential position it had held in earlier years. Pieter died in 1706 and Joan II in 1712.

The Blaeu's no longer make maps but as long as there are collectors of maps the name of Blaeu will never be forgotten

Tooley's Dictionary of Mapmakers. Revised Edition A - D
Joan Blaeu and his Grand Atlas, C. Koeman
Atlantes Neerlandici, C. Koeman

Enter the name for this tabbed section: The Blaeu Family
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1645 - Fine county maps of England, Wales and Scotland. Published in Amsterdam

Atlas Frontispiece
1646 - County maps of England and Wales plus parts of Scotland and Ireland
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Cromwellian Period 1649 - 1660

Born at Huntingdon in 1599

Dictator from 1653 to 1658


Civil Wat Battle
1651 Worcester
1658 - Groups of Counties