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John Speed: Somerset Shire

Map: SOM423
Cartographer: John Speed
Title: Somerset Shire
Date: 1616
Published: London
Width: 20 inches / 51 cm
Height: 15 inches / 39 cm
Map ref: SOM423
Beautifully engraved county map with various coats of arms and vignettes including Bath.

Speed's beautiful map of Somerset shows the county in its full glory with a large English coat of arms on the upper centre and a group of armorial shields belonging to several famous noble houses of the county on the lower left. A small title cartouche is present on the upper right corner of the map and Speed himself takes credit for the map in a small panel on the lower right. The engraving date of 1610 is also present on the lower right, close to Speed's name. The geographical source is most likely to be Christopher Saxton.

However, of as much interest is the large and well developed city scape of Bath situated on the upper left. Speed obviously considers the town of great importance, as it is larger than many of the other city plans on his maps and he even mentions its presence in the title cartouche. The source of the plan is not known. Unlike many of the other plans present on his county maps, Speed was not responsible for Bath. It is speculated that the author was Dr. John Jones of Derby, who produced a plan of the city when he wrote about the famous waters of Bath in 1572 and 1574. In 1572, he made the first public endorsement of the medicinal properties of the city’s water, particularly St. Anne’s Well, Buxton.

This would tend to be supported by the inclusion of several baths as insets within the town plan. Just as interesting is the inclusion of "The Horse Bathe" just south of the city, including an occupant! Unfortunately, the manuscript of this plan has been lost and it is only known through a reference made in book published in the 18th century.

Rare early edition with Latin text on verso. Image available on request.