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John Speed: Midle-sex described with the Most Famous Cities of London and Westminster

Map: MIDDX483
 
Cartographer: John Speed
Title: Midle-sex described with the Most Famous Cities of London and Westminster
Date: 1627
Published: London
Width: 20 inches / 51 cm
Height: 15 inches / 39 cm
Map ref: MIDDX483
Description:
County map of Middlesex, now greater London. Towns marked include Enfield, Pancras, Osterley and Staines. Based on a survey by John Norden.

Encompassing what in modern times would be greater London, Speed’s map of Middlesex is dominated by four large vignettes.

The central portion of the map shows the county, based on the survey performed by John Norden, another famous antiquary and map maker, who unsuccessfully attempted to publish an updated county atlas of the United Kingdom before Speed. He also lived most of his life in Middlesex, thus becoming an obvious source for the map.

The City of London is clearly shown on the lower right of the map with villages such as “Hamsted”, “Pancras”, “Kensington” and “Paddington” marked around the city. The lower centre of the map bears a panel where Speed acknowledges that the original survey was performed by Norden and it was only augmented by himself.

However, it is the vignettes for which this map is justly famous. The two lower corners show the Church of St. Peter’s, Westminster on the left and St. Paul’s on the right. This is the medieval Cathedral of St. Pauls, just after it had lost its spire in 1561 and before the Great Fire of 1666, in which it burned down and was then rebuilt in its present form by Sir Christopher Wren.

Above these two vignettes are two text panels in the form of books, one describing the two churches below on the left the other describing London on the right.

Finally, two large vignettes on the upper left and right corners depict Westminster and London respectively. It is believed that Speed was not responsible for either of these images. It is most likely that Norden drew both of them although no manuscript evidence of this has been found. There are also theories that they may have come from either German sources or lost maps of London.

Due to modern border changes, the county of Middlesex no longer exists, but this is the most magnificent published map of the 17th century of what are now mostly boroughs of London.

English text on verso (image available upon request). Coloured [MIDDX483]