…made by English, or strangers.

The terrestriall Globe is defined to be a sphericall body, proportionably composed of Earth and Water: into which two parts of it is divided. Whereof the Earth comes first to view, whose parts are either reall, imaginary, and the reall parts, either continents, islands…

A new and accurate map of the World*…1641. (E) B1 (420)

William Grent made the first version of this beautifully elaborate and descriptive double hemisphere World map in 1625. Little is known about Grent and there are no other listings for any work apart from his World map, which went on to be copied and improved on a number of times. John Speed used it as the basis for his World map published in his ‘A Prospect of the most Famous Parts of the World’ atlas a year later while Thomas Jenner, publisher, bookseller and engraver, produced copies in 1632 and, the date of this copy, 1641.

It is a map so full of information, iconography and allegory that it is hard to know where to start. It may not be the best topographically – it’s one of the first to show California as an island despite numerous examples both before and after showing the location as a peninsula – but is still full of useful information about places. ‘At the Cape of Good Hope all that passe to and from the East Indies ancour to take in fresh vittaile and meete newes one of another affaires’  (a blog about ’rounding the Horn’ can be found here) and in another part of the map we’re told that ‘This south land undiscovered commonly known as Terra Australis…can not certainly be affirmed…only some few coasts thereof have appeared to sea men driven there upon by extremity of weather…’

But it’s the information that surrounds the globes as well as the text that make this map special. Want to see how eclipses work? Here’s both the Moon and the Sun , while diagrams in the top

left and right corners show the days and months and the position of the Sun during the year  and the Planets respectively while in the middle are northern and southern zodiac

hemispheres. At the bottom there’s an armillary sphere, for the plotting of celestial objects, and either side of the sphere are the figures representing Geography holding a compass and a map and wearing a dress appropriately with a landscape scene, and Astronomy, identified by the star necklace and the cross-staff in hand (a cross-staff would be used in navigation to measure stars or the Sun against the horizon to try and gauge latitude).

Most intriguing is the scene to the right of the zodiacs. This vignette states that ‘Peace is the nurse of science, and these the means to attaine it’. These means are Desire, Diligence and Observation, and set around the group are measuring and surveying instruments while Peace

holds the olive and palm branch associated with that figure. Peace signifies the conditions needed to do science, the quietness to observe, the lack of threat to survey, measure and explore and the desire to achieve all of these.

While all these parts of the map can be viewed as individual decoration when seen together they show how much a map based on science Grent’s work is, and this is something that the accompanying text based on the Earth and its climates, zones and divisions as well as the writing at the side on the heavens and measuring time amplifies. This becomes more striking when you compare the text to that accompanying the map in Speed’s more well-known ‘Prospects…’. In this Speed talks about the Earth according to how God’s creation has set it out. Compare the opening sentences of the section on geography on Grent’s map at the start of this blog to Speed’s, ‘Heaven was too long a reach for man to recover at one step. And therefore God first placed him upon the Earth, that he might for a time contemplate upon his inferior workes, magnife in them his creator: and receive here a hope of a fuller blisse, which by degrees he should at last enjoy in his place of rest’.

There’s a suitably grand title befitting such a map. ‘A new and accurate map of the World drawne according to the truest descriptions, latest discoveries, and best observations, that have beene made by English, or strangers, with briefe and most plaine notes upon the whole body of Cosmographie for the easie understanding thereof. Pleasant and usefull for all such as desire to know further than of their owne home. ‘A new and accurate map…’ are words that often appear on maps of this time (Speed copies the first part of the title exactly) which sort of makes such a claim redundant, it’s the ‘…by English, or Strangers…’ part that stands out. Grent not only includes the pictures of four circumnavigators; Thomas Cavendish, Francis Drake (both English), Ferdinand Magellan (Portuguese) and Oliver van der Nort (Dutch) he also uses information provided by both Spanish for the central, southern and western parts and the English and French for the north-eastern parts of America and Dutch cartography for the East Indies. Hence the ‘English or Strangers’ part.

Finally, and somewhat ironically, the dedication. ‘To the Right Hon.ble Henry Mountage, Baron of Kimbolton, Viscount Maundeville…’ Montague was, amongst other things, a close confident of Charles I, Lord Privy Seal, judge, politician and the 1st Earl of Manchester. The irony comes from being dedicatee of a world map which deals with, and is partly based on the recent major discoveries and explorations, while being the judge who condemned Sir Walter Raleigh, one of England’s leading Elizabethan explorers, to death seven years before Grent’s map was published, in October 1618.

*Apologies, this isn’t the easiest map to get an image from. There’s only one copy in the Bodleian and it’s been enclosed in a melinex sleeve for protection which causes light to reflect off and doesn’t give that clear an image.