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Maps of Ireland

Irish Newspaper Archive

We have been given a free trail of the Irish Newspaper Archive at www.irishnewsarchive.com This free trial is for about 4 months from August 2011.

Dublin to Swords

Historical Maps

Archives and Heritage hold a fascinating selection of historical maps of Ireland, and a wide range of material about Ireland which will add to understanding of the historical background. If you would like to visit the library and see any of the material mentioned below, please note the title, and class number, given in brackets.

Road maps

This type of map is one of the oldest in existence, showing the route from one place to another. They do not depict the entire landscape, but show which towns are traversed en route. One example in Archives and Heritage is Taylor and Skinner, Maps of the Roads of Ireland Surveyed 1777, Published 1778. [A912.418] At that time in Ireland the distance given is the distance from Dublin Castle. North is usually indicated by an arrow, but is frequently not at the top of the map.

There are many later road maps in the collection; and railway maps from the late nineteenth century onwards.

Maps in times of war

Many of the older maps were produced at times of war. England was trying to establish its authority in Ireland from 1600 onwards. This was partly because the Protestant English government feared invasion from Catholic countries through Ireland. Baptista Boazio was commissioned to produce a map of Ireland at the end of the sixteenth century, when the Earl of Ulster were rebelling against Elizabeth 1. The war artist and cartographer Richard Bartlett was commissioned to produce maps of the campaign in Ulster, Ulster and other Irish maps c1600, Hayes-McCoy, AE912.418 HAY. These were not accurate representations of the layout of the land, they were designed to show the progress of the war. Archives and Heritage have reproductions of these.

Maps for administration

These required greater detail and accuracy. Following the 'Rebellion' in 1641, which continued for nearly ten years, an Act was passed in 1653, 'Satisfaction of the Adventurers for Lands in Ireland'. Benjamin Worsley and William Petty were commissioned to survey the rebels' lands, which were then to be given to Cromwell's troops. The mapping was of a very high standard for its time. Sir William Petty did further work in Ireland. In 1685 he published 'A General Mapp of Ireland' an Atlas of the Irish counties. [912.418 PET] The barony maps which he produced were lost on the sea-voyage from Ireland, when the ship was attacked by French pirates. There is an original of part of the map of the barony of Dundalk in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.

Carrickallen, Co. Leitrim, 1837. small

Ordnance Survey

Maps before the seventeenth century were rarely realistic depictions of the countryside. Frequently they were stylised to convey an underlying message, for example the power of one country in relationship to another. There is no consistency with regard to scales, the orientation of the map, or the spelling of place-names. The cartographers did not have the manpower to conduct systematic surveys. They often copied from older maps. Lakes, islands, large areas of land may appear, or disappear, at the whim of the cartographer or the printer. It was only when maps were required for administrative purposes, as with the maps produced by Sir William Petty, that accuracy became more desirable.

The setting up of the Ordnance Survey

An Irish government department was set up in 1824-1825 by the Ordnance Board. A detailed map with townland boundaries was required so that taxes could be apportioned more fairly. These maps were more accurate than any produced previously. Base lines were selected, and triangulation points were set up. Lieutenants from the Royal Artillery, and Royal Engineers led Survey Companies who surveyed the whole of the country, North to South, at a scale of 6 inches to the mile. The maps were published at Phoenix Park, Dublin, between 1833 and 1846. The survey of Ireland was so successful that it provided a model for the systematic mapping of England, Scotland and Wales, in sets of several scales, though it proved impossible to map to the same detail as had been done for Ireland.

Archives and Heritage have some copies of the Ist edition six inch OS maps; for parts of Leitrim, Waterford, and Sligo. These are in the Skett Collection [Skett 912.418]. The Skett Collection also includes the complete set of the index to the Townland Survey, 1832-1846. A variety of scales was used for this; ranging from one-and -a -half to three inches to a mile.

Plan of Derry 1689

Town plans, historic and modern

There are a number of town plans in Archives and Heritage, from various dates. Some are included in books which give a history of the town, some in trade catalogues. One of the most interesting and detailed is for the parish of Templemore, Derry (Londonderry). Thomas Colby, who was director of the Ordnance Survey during most of the period in which Ireland was surveyed, had wished to produce 'Ordnance Survey Memoirs', detailed reports on parishes of Ireland. This was abandoned after the publication of Londonderry, [AF941.862] because of the cost; regretfully, as the one volume published gives a fascinating range of information about Derry in 1835; geology climate and natural history, works of art and buildings ancient and modern, and social economy, including a history of the people.

As the middle-class was growing, and growing more affluent, there was a greater market for books with illustrations, and maps. Another example in Archives and Heritage is the History of the City of Dublin, in 2 volumes, published in 1818 [AQ 941.883 DUB]. This gives a vivid picture of life in Dublin at that time. There are various maps and plans, for example Glasnevin Botanic Gardens. There is information about society, newspapers, literature, institutions, and history.

Archives and Heritage also have some of the Irish Historic Towns Atlas series, reproductions of old town plans, published by the Royal Irish Academy.

Travel guides

Modern travel guides, which you can see in the travel section, often include maps, and give useful information if you require maps for travelling to Ireland. There are additional maps and guides in the staff workroom, which are not catalogued individually; please ask staff for details.

(Map) Killarney - County Kerry 1907 small

Modern Maps

Archives and Heritage hold a number of individual maps of Ireland for the twentieth century; some are on display in the map drawers; some are listed in the catalogue, please ask staff for help.

These are some of the sets which we hold:
The 1 inch map for all of Ireland for the period 1900 - 1948. This was originally produced by the British Ordnance Survey, and was then taken over by the Irish Free State government in 1922.

The Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland

Since 1922 some maps cover the Republic of Ireland only, some cover Northern Ireland only. Some scales cover all of Ireland but have separate numbering systems for the the Republic and the North; others number right through.

Archives and Heritage hold the 1 - 50,000 set, 1980 - 1998. These are numbered as one set, but are named 'Discoverer' for the North, and 'Discovery' for the Republic.

The 1971 - 1991 half inch map, published in the Republic, covers all of Ireland except the area immediately around Belfast. This area does not include any of the Republic's territory.

Geological maps

Archives and Heritage hold the 1 inch maps for all of Ireland, 1855 - 1890.


Most Irish maps less than seventy years old are within copyright.
No more than an A4 section may be copied from these. Please ask staff for details.

The maps described above are a very small selection of those held in Archives and Heritage. We hope you will visit if you would like to see the wide range of maps, atlases and plans on Floor 6 of the Central Library.