SPEED, JOHN, an English historical writer of the reigns of Elizabeth and James I., was born at Farrington in Cheshire, in 1552, but came early in life to London, where the rest of his days were spent. He was brought up to the business of a tailor, and seems to have supported himself by it during the greater part of his life, for he does not appear as an author before the year 1603, when he was in the fifty-sixth year of his age. He was however, during that time, amassing treasures of curious historical knowledge, the possession of which brought him into the acquaintance of Sir Fulk Grevile, who drew him forth from his obscurity, and, it is supposed, afforded him the means of publishing the large works of which he is the author or editor. The first of these is a collection of maps of the English and Welsh counties, with plans of cities, and engravings of various antiquities, said to have been first published in 1608; but when formed into the work entitled 'The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain, printing an exact geography of the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the isles adjoining. With the shires, hundreds, cities, and shire-towns, within the Kingdom of England, divided and described by John Speed,' folio, bearing the date of 1611. In this work he owed much to the labours of Camden, Christopher Saxton, and John Norden. There have been several editions of it. The other work of Speed's is a history or chronicle of England, entitled, 'The History of Great Britain under the Conquests of the Romans, Saxons, Danes, and Normans,' originally published in 1611. In this work are engravings of coins, and also of the great seals of England, then for the first time published; but on the whole it is a compilation of no great merit. He was also the compiler of a set of Tables of Scripture Genealogy, comprising much of the genealogical information contained in the sacred books, exhibited in the form of pedigrees; and several theological works, as ' The Cloud of Witnesses,' &c, of small value are ascribed to him. He died July 28,1629, and was buried in the church of St. Giles's, Cripplegate, where a monument was raised to his memory. By his wife Susannah, to whom he was married for fifty-seven years, he had twelve sons and six daughters.
---Biography. C. Knight, 1867.
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.