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John Speed: Bedford Shire

Map: BEDS262
Cartographer: John Speed
Title: Bedford Shire
Date: 1614
Published: London
Width: 21 inches / 54 cm
Height: 15 inches / 39 cm
Map ref: BEDS262
John Speed attributed this map of Bedfordshire to himself although the name of the engraver, Jodocus Hondius, together with an engraving date of 1610 is also present on the lower right.
The upper left shows a particularly elaborate coat of arms of the Cross of St. George, representing England and the Cross of St. Andrew’s representing Scotland, joined together. Bearing in mind that James I was a Scottish king, it was certainly politic of Speed to design it this way. The upper right corner portrays a plan of the small but prosperous town of Bedford and both the left and right borders depict the coats of arms of past Dukes of Bedford. This is a very old title in the British aristocracy, which exists to this day and in fact, John Russell, shown on the map to be Earle of Bedford, was a member of the family to whom the title is attributed in the 21st century.

The lower left corner bears a panel of text which narrates a peculiar occurrence in 1399, when the River Ouse parted mysteriously into two branches and one of the channels ran dry. Speed uses this division as a metaphor for the Wars of the Roses which followed shortly thereafter.

English text on verso. Image available on request.