Born in the very middle of the 16th century on the North border between England and Wales, John Speed was a world famous historian and cartographer. Young man, he started as a tailor, giving him his rigor and passion for details. It took him until age of 50 to be able to fully live from his research and passion: cartography.

The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Courtesy Manhattan Rare Book Company The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Courtesy Manhattan Rare Book Company.

Three of his books are considered as masterpieces. This is the case of History of Great Britain (first published in 1611) accompanied by The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine (also 1611), an atlas presenting about 70 British cities – of which more than fifty had never been mapped before.

The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Courtesy Manhattan Rare Book Company The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Courtesy Manhattan Rare Book Company.

During the 1620s – a decade before his death –, Speed has lost usage of his eyes. Sill he works on a compilation of 22 maps from around the world. A Prospect of the most famous parts of the World will be published two years before his death, in 1627.

The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Courtesy Manhattan Rare Book Company. The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Courtesy Manhattan Rare Book Company.

Manhattan Rare Book Company is offering a copy from the initial edition of The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine accompanied by a second edition of A Prospect of the most famous parts of the World (1631). Both are in good condition and of excellent provenance: the Speed Art Museum in Kentucky, which – funny enough – has no link with the historian! The asking price is of €95,000.

Find out more about The Theater – and 300 more items on sale from Manhattan Rare Book Company – on Barnebys.

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