The British Library Collection  


County Maps

Framed Maps
From the British Library Collection
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Christopher Saxton (c1543-c1610)

The increased centralisation and authority of the Elizabethan monarchy led to a demand for a complete and accurate set of maps of the kingdom. Several projects were started, but the first to reach fruition was Christopher Saxtonís Atlas of England & Wales, published in 1579 with the support and encouragement of Elizabeth Iís Treasurer Lord Burghley. Surveyed using the still novel principle of triangulation, created by the equally new method of copper engraving by some of Europeís finest craftsmen, carefully printed and delicately colour-tinted, the volume was a commercial, aesthetic and technological triumph. It set the standard for, and was relied upon by, many mapmakers in succeeding generations, including John Speed. The cartographic scholar Edward Lynham suggested that 'Saxton deserves a place beside Shakespeare as an interpreter of the national consciousness, unity and pride of Elizabethan England'. Indeed, the two men may well have been familiar with each otherís work: Saxtonís Atlas was designed to complement Holinsheadís Chronicles of 1577 Ė as Shakespeare used this as a source for many of his plays, it is likely he studied Saxtonís maps as well. He would have been struck, as many others have been since, by the elegance and accuracy with which Saxton displayed the late 16th-century landscape Ė Ďthe mappe of England set out in faire coloursí as one impressed contemporary accurately described the Atlas. Saxton was the first person successfully to create a coherent cartographic vision of the country: standing on the shoulders of this giant, future mapmakers were to have much to thank him for.
John Speed

With Saxton having laid the foundations of English cartography, others were quick to build on his work. The most famous, and the best at being able to blend existing material with new research and surveys,  is John Speed. Speed was a Cheshire tailor who felt his main calling to be as a historian and was lucky enough to find a wealthy patron, Sir Fulk Grevil, to support his researches. It is not for his writing, however, but for his Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, published in 1610-11 in conjunction with John Sudbury and George Humble, that he will chiefly be remembered. The Theatre included many town plans and, unlike Saxtonís Atlas, provided separate coverage of each of the counties of England and Wales. With five plates covering Ireland and a general map of Scotland, it was also the first atlas of the whole of the British Isles which had, with the accession of James I in 1603, recently been united in the person of its ruler, if not yet administratively. Produced using the same supreme skill and care as Saxtonís had been some 30 years before, the results are equally stunning. Despite Speedís assertion in the introduction to the long-delayed first edition that ĎI found my selfe unfit and unfurnished both of matter and meanes, either to build or beautifie so stately a project,í it proved to be a considerable commercial success. Even though the bound edition cost 40 shillings, a massive sum for most Jacobean budgets, reprints soon followed. The British had developed a taste for maps, and in Speedís and Saxtonís they were lucky to have some of the finest ever produced.



Cassini is delighted to be able to make available a stunning range of historical maps from the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Sourced from the Libraryís world-famous collection.

hey are some of the earliest, and finest, examples of cartography. In addition to Saxton and Speedís county maps, several larger-format maps are also available covering London, Great Britain and the world. The range will be expanded during the coming months.

As well as being highly decorative, the maps also offer fascinating insights into the Elizabethan and Jacobean Britain. They are the definitive maps of your county from the age of Shakespeare Ė each one a gorgeous vision of the past and a superb addition to your home or office.

If youíre visiting our site for the first time then you probably already have a good reason for being interested in historical maps.

They appeal to many people: local historians, genealogists, home owners with an interest in the history of their area and property, walkers and cyclists who want to see how the landscape theyíre exploring has changed, metal detectors who are interested in discovering old paths on which valuable items might have been dropped centuries before: the list could go on and on. Surveyors, architects, archaeologists, planners, solicitors and farmers also often need, and are frequently obliged, to know how the landscape has changed.

Cassini already produces hundreds of printed and folded maps. Why offer Mapmaker as well?
Because people want maps in a range of different formats. In general, our printed and folded maps follow the area of coverage of the Ordnance Survey Landranger series Ė so, our three map 174s cover the same area as the Landranger 174, but from three different periods. These maps have proved very popular and will continue to be produced.

Some people, though, find that the area theyíre interested in is spread over two or more Landranger-matching maps. Others want to have flat maps at a smaller size that they can frame or put in a file with their other research papers and notes. Sometimes people want to have the map enlarged. We know this because they told us. For all these reasons, we decided to offer a service whereby you could create the map you needed.

What is Mapmaker?
Mapmaker is a web-based service that puts you in control of producing your own historical map. You can choose what area the map covers, how much itís enlarged and what format itís provided to you in. More options are being added all the time.

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