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JOHN SPEED (1552–1629)

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Originally appearing in Volume V25, Page 632 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JOHN SPEED (1552–1629), English historian and cartographer, was born, according to Fuller, at Farringdon, Cheshire. He was the son of a London tailor, and followed his father's trade, being admitted member of the Merchant Taylors Company in 1580. He settled in Moorfields, where he built himself a house. He was enabled to give up his trade and to devote himself to antiquarian pursuits through the kindness of Sir Fulke Greville, whom Speed calls the " procurer of my present estate," and through his patron's interest he also received a " waiter's room in the custom-house." The results of the leisure thus secured to him appeared in 1611 in his Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, a series of fifty-four maps of different parts of England, which had already appeared separately, and in which he was helped by Christopher Saxton, John Norden and William White. To each map descriptive matter was attached. In 1611 also he published his History of Great Britaine under the Conquests of the Romans . . . to . . . King James. Speed acknowledges his obligations to the chief antiquaries and historians of his day. Sir Robert Cotton lent him manuscripts and coins, and is said to have revised the proofs for him; in heraldry he acknowledges the help of William Smith (1550?–1618); and he had valuable help from John Barkham (1572?–1642) and Sir Henry Spelman. Speed brought some historical skill to bear on the arrangement of his work, and although he repeated many of the errors of older chroniclers he added valuable material for the history of his country. He died in London on the 28th of July 1629. Other maps of his, beside those in the Theatre, are in the British Museum. Another edition of the Theatre is Theatrum Magnae Britanniae latine, redditum a P. Holland (London, folio, 1616). He wrote Genealogies Recorded in Sacred Scriptures (1611), and a similar work, A Cloud of Witnesses (1616). These passed through numerous editions, and were frequently prefixed to copies of the Bible. An account of Speed's descendants is to be found in Rev. J. S. Davies's History of Southampton (1883), which was founded on MS. material left by John Speed (1703–1781).
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