Online Encyclopedia

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)  ,
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English historian and cartographer, was born, according to Fuller, at Farringdon,
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Cheshire . He was the son of a
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London tailor, and followed his
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father's trade, being admitted member of the Merchant Taylors
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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
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Sir Fulke Greville, whom Speed calls the " procurer of my
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present estate," and through his
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patron's
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interest he also received a " waiter's
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room in the custom-house." The results of the leisure thus secured to him appeared in 1611 in his Theatre of the
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Empire of
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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
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matter was attached . In 1611 also he published his
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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
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manuscripts and coins, and is said to have revised the proofs for him; in
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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
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historical skill to bear on the arrangement of his
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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

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July 1629 . Other maps of his, beside those in the Theatre, are in the
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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
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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
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left by John Speed (1703–1781) .

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