Title Page of The Historie of Great Britain by John Speed

Created by Ethan Brown

This exhibit is a collaboration of Tisch Library Special Collections, Tufts Technology Services, and students in History 96: History of the Book, taught by Professor Alisha Rankin at Tufts University, Fall 2018.

“The History of Great Britain Under the Conquests of the Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans” is a rare book which has found its home among the Special Collections of the Tufts Tisch Library . Little information could be found about the provenance of the book beyond the name of its donor, Lewis Hilton Peters. This overview of British history from the time of the Romans to that of its publication in the early 17th century rather lengthily describes itself on its frontispiece as concerning “[occupants] originals, manners, habits, wares, coins, and seals: with the successions, lines, acts, and issues of the English monarchs. The book’s author John Speed led a varied, successful life and was renowned as a cartographer before eventually turning his hand to writing. Despite his continued reign at the time of Speed's death, King James is notably included in the history, perhaps due to the royal patronage Speed received.


While the title page of the text holds many of the same identifying elements of the published works seen today, many of these same characteristics distinguish it as a text from nearly three centuries earlier. Firstly, the works manufacturer, John Dawson, denotes himself a beautifully rendered printers mark . Woodcut images like this one appeared frequently in extravagant books of the period and are identifiable through their limited use of shading and the jagged nature of the lines used in them, aspects inextricably linked to the manner in which they applied ink to paper. Later, the Latin phrase Cum Privelgio, Anno 1632 identifies the book as an authorized edition and establishes its publishing date in 1632, after Speed’s death. Regardless, this straightforward title page merely serves as an entry into a very comprehensive 600 pages of text, Speed in no way left his readers wanting.



Further Reading:

"Woodcut, Engraving, or What?" The Collation, Folger Shakespear Library, 7 Apr. 2016 collation.folger.edu/2012/02/woodcut-engraving-or-what/.

Speed, John. The Historie of Great Britaine: Under the Conquests of the Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans. Their Originals, Manners, Habits, Warres, Coines, and Seales: With the Successions, Lives, Acts, and Issues of the English Monarchs from Julius Caesar, to Our Most Gracious Soueraigne King James. John, Dawson. 1632.