The Colouring of Old Maps . . .

Not Always an Enhancement.

As it is today the expense of cartography hundreds of years ago was formidable. Initial plotting and surveying employed many groups of individuals for years, then the finished drawing required many more skilled crafts people including illustrators, using expensive art materials, before the whole work was engraved in reverse, onto copper plates for the final printing in black and white. It was not long before these early map makers realised that a relatively simple embellishment was available - colouring, rendering the map, to some eyes, both more beautiful and more valuable.

A small corner of John Speede's Map of Gloucestershire from his atlas The Theatre and Empire of Great Britain.

The coloured atlas would have been considerably more expensive. It can be argued that colouring would sometimes spoil the map this being due to the fact that the very strong pigments used back in the 17th century would sometimes obscure the finer engraved detail within the map. We print Speede's County Map series in a single colour as per the originals. Our unique ageing process however removes the starkness of a simple black and white edition.

We can see certain colour keys appearing on some of his maps to simplify the process. It's likely that professional map colourists would have performed the earliest editions but it is known that children were employed to do the work. (It is not known if John Speede engaged any of his own large family of no less than twelve sons and six daughters in this work)

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