Ancient map of Great Britain on display in Cambridge

May 24, 2011 by  

A 400-year-old map of Britain is to go on display to the public after Cambridge University made digital copies of the map available online.

The map of the British Isles, entitled Theatre of the Empire of Britaine, was published by John Speed in around 1611 and is thought to be one of the first comprehensive depictions of the country in map form. As well as being available to view on the web, Cambridge University will also be creating print copies to sell. This has attracted enthusiasm from cartography fans across the globe.

The map was bought by Cambridge University in 1968 and is now considered to be priceless. The map itself was printed centuries ago using copper plates and was coloured by hand. Many areas on the map contain descriptions of the terrain, such as this one about Cambridge:

“This province is not large, nor the air greatly to be liked having the Fenns so spread upon her North that they infect the air far into the rest.”

The work was successful when it was printed back in the 1600s, with the initial print run of 500 copies selling out immediately. The new digital edition is available to view online but the fact that there are copies to buy that were produced using digital printing by Cambridge university speaks volumes about how well the printing industry – and indeed printing companies in Cambridge – have withstood the test of time and are still relevant today.