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Mapping Early Modern Worlds
Mapping a Nation

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Mapping a Nation



The project to map a nation completely was first fully realized in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. While the impetus came originally from the crown—Queen Elizabeth backed Christopher Saxton’s great atlas of 1579—the project soon took on a life of its own in which the land and its parts, rather than the monarch, took center stage. The men who produced the county maps, Camden, Speed, Norden, Drayton, and others, often worked at their own expense, hoping for some remuneration from a patron.

 

The monarch’s gradual displacement in favor of the land is symbolized by the progression of images on title pages, from Elizabeth enthroned in Saxton’s atlas to the allegorical figure of Britain in Drayton’s Polyolbion. The royal coat-of-arms is increasingly placed on the margins of maps that foreground the chorography of the land itself with its hills, forests, cities, towns, monuments, battles, flora, fauna, and inhabitants, giving rise to the Nation as an entity independent of the Monarch.

 

 

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Christopher Saxton. Atlas of the counties of England and Wales. London, 1590?




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