Humphrey Llwyd’s map of Wales and the Saxton proof map

Digitisation - Posted 26-07-2010

Like George Owen (see post on 21st July) Humphrey Llwyd was an Elizabethan polymath: physician, antiquary and MP for Denbigh, it was later in life that he created the cartographic work for which he is best known. In a letter written just before his death in 1568 he sent the manuscript (now lost) of his map of Wales to Abraham Ortelius, who published it in his 1573 Additamentum (supplement) to Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, with the title Cambriae Typus.


Cambriae Typus is the first printed map to show Wales as a separate region. It’s been suggested that the poor delineation of the coastline is because Llwyd based his map on earlier works, now lost, or even that Ortelius made a mistake in transferring the original manuscript into the final printed version.

This map shows Wales as extending to the River Severn, thus including large parts of what is now England. The reason for this is that Llwyd was creating a historical and cultural map rather than a map to show the contemporary political situation.

The inaccuracies in Llwyd’s map are even more inexplicable when compared to other contemporary maps of Britain which show the Welsh coast more accurately; as is the case with Saxton’s proof map of Wales of 1580.

Unlike Owen and Llwyd, Christopher Saxton was a professional surveyor and this map appears to be an attempt to create a map of Wales. The map was never published, though much of the information appears in his wall map of England and Wales.

The combination of printed plates and manuscript information, make this map unique; the first accurate rendering of features such as Anglesey, St Bride’s Bay and the Lleyn and Gower Peninsulas, makes this an invaluable historical and geographical source.

Huw Thomas

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