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Cambridge University Library has one of five known sets of proof maps prepared for John Speed's Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine (Atlas.2.61.1), which was published in 1611/12.

The maps were printed from copper plates which had been engraved, in reverse, by Jodocus Hondius in his workshop in Amsterdam. Maps printed from the plates - proofs - would have been sent back to England for checking.

The maps in Cambridge University Library's set of proofs - known as the Gardner copy after Dr Eric Gardner (1877-1951) the former owner - are in a late state of preparation, but many were altered before being published. The map of Cheshire, which had been produced as early as 1603 by English engraver William Rogers, was completely replaced for publication and only two copies of the proof map of Cheshire are known to exist. 

All 66 maps are now viewable in the Cambridge Digital Library

Images are available for download for non-commercial purposes (licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-NC 3.0))

The original maps measure approximately 40 x 53 cm (16 x 20.5 inches ; = A2 or 2 x A3).

For more information on John Speed's proof map see the blogs:

The following articles on John Speed from the MapForum website may also be of interest:

And on Map Printing: (see 'Beginner's Guide - Printing') or

Information on Dr Eric Gardner, the former owner, can be found at:

Some information on Speed's map of Hampshire can be found on the Old Hampshire Mapped website


Image credit: extract of Ely from Speed's Huntingdonshire Atlas.2.61.1

Current Services

Note that the Map Room is still closed to in-person visits though pre-booked items can be viewed in the Special Collections Reading Room 

Email us at for assistance and if you need to consult our card catalogue or look at Ordnance Survey data.

Note that there are very reduced catering facilities in the Library.

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Map Department 
Cambridge University Library 
West Road 
CB3 9DR 


+44 (0) 1223 333041
+44 (0) 1223 333042