Speed’s map of Europe
By SPEED, John , 1626, [but 1627-1632]

Europ and the cheife Cities contained therin, described; with the habits of most Kingdoms now in use. By Jo: Speed. Ano: Dom: 1626.

Continent of Europe Europe
  • Author: SPEED, John
  • Publication place: [London]
  • Publisher: Are to be sould in popes-head alley, against the Exchange by George Humble
  • Publication date: 1626, [but 1627-1632].
  • Physical description: Double-page engraved map, with hand-colour.
  • Dimensions: 395 by 515mm. (15.5 by 20.25 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 21914


The map of Europe from the first atlas compiled and published by an Englishman, Speed’s ‘Prospect’. Along the top border are vignettes with views of eight cities, among them Paris, Constantinople, and Venice. As the lop-sided slant of the River Thames reflects, the views have been inadvertently reversed by the engraver. Down each side are depicted figures in regional dress. In the top left-hand corner, between Greenland and Iceland, is Frisland, the phantom island that pervades 16th and 17th c. cartography.

Accompanying text in English, ‘The Description of Europe’, is printed on the reverse. 

John Speed (1552-1629) was the outstanding cartographer of his age. By trade a merchant tailor, but by proclivity a historian, it was the patronage of Sir Fulke Greville, poet and statesman, that allowed him to pursue this interest in earnest. His ‘Theatre of Great Britain’, first published in 1611 or 1612, was the first large-scale printed atlas of the British Isles. The ‘Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World’, from which the present work is drawn, appeared in 1627, bound with the ‘Theatre’, and is the first world atlas compiled by an Englishman to be published in England. Engraved in Amsterdam, many of the maps are anglicized versions of works by Dutch makers in distinctive carte-à-figure style, featuring borders with figures in local costume and city views.


  1. Chubb, XXV
  2. Shirley [Atlases], T.SPE-2a.