Friday, March 4, 2011

In Dublin's fair city ...

'Tis the month of the Irish, an' we'll be offerin' fer yer consideration, we will, a grand history of the beautiful capital city of the Other Holy Land. If you're Irish, wish you were Irish or thinkin' about becoming Irish on St. Paddy's Day, sure 'tis just the thing to warm the cockles of your heart, comin' as it does wrapped in Kelly green.

Our brogue might not be perfect, but you get the idea. Here's an 1818 edition of History of The City of Dublin From the Earliest Accounts to the Present Time. The two-volume set was published in London by T. Cadell and W Davies, in the Strand.

The hefty volumes contain annals, antiquities, ecclesiastical history, charters, public building, schools and social welfare institutions, plus all sorts of charts and lists of the most arcane detail any student of Dublin history could ever want. A copy of this history is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA.

Most of this set was compiled by two evidently energetic gentlemen, who passed away before the project was finished, leaving a third, Rev. Robert Walsh, to finish the monumental task alone. Rev. Walsh addresses the dilemma presented by the untimely passing of one John Warburton, who was a government employee evidently charged with supervision of record keeping, and the Rev. James Whitelaw, vicar of a prominent Irish Anglican church and a man generous with his time.

It was Warburton who provided much of the ancient history, drawing on records and personal knowledge. Whitelaw added more recent information, particularly about the city’s social services, hospitals and religious community. Upon the departure of the other two, Walsh seems to have acquired the project with little in the way of instruction on how to proceed.  The tone of his preface leads one to marvel at the fact that he, too, didn’t succumb when all was said and written!

The books are full of glorious detail on all matters pertaining to the history and then-current status of the city, accompanied by engravings of important buildings, cathedrals and monuments, as well as various maps. The slide show above offers a sampling of the pages to be found in them, including some descriptions of such curious institutions as the Society for the Relief of Industrious Poor, the Strangers’ Friend Society, the Music Fund for Decayed Musicians and the House of Refuge for Servants out of Place, this last commenting that “female servants when disengaged from a family are particularly …” vulnerable.

Indeed, it is an Ireland of a different era.

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