BOATE, Gerard & MOLYNEUX, Thomas. A Natural History of Ireland in Three Parts.


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1. Being a True and Ample Description of its Situation, Greatness, Shape, Woods, Heaths, Bogs ... 2. A Collection of such Papers as were Communicated to the Royal Society, Referring to some Curiosities in Ireland ... 3. A Discourse concerning the Danish Mounts, Forts and Towers in Ireland. Three works in one volume. Illustrated with 10 engraved plates (some folding). Dublin: By George Grierson, 1726. Small quarto. pp. [vi], 221 (numbered to 213) each part with separate sub-title. Later full calf, title in gilt on red morocco label on rebacked spine. Inoffensive old waterstain. A near fine copy.

Gerard Boate (1604-1650) a native of Holland and a physician in London wrote this very interesting account of Ireland to “benefit the Adventurers and Planters there”, by providing them with information on the island’s basic situation. It was by far the most detailed such record to that date. His brother Arnold, the famous Hebrew scholar, supplied most of the information for the Natural History. He was resident in Dublin until the outbreak of the Bloody Rebellion of 1641. Sir William and Sir Richard Parsons also contributed to the work and it was from them that the author obtained much of his information relating to the rocks and minerals of Ireland. The second part of this book, ‘A Collection of such Papers as were Communicated to the Royal Society, Referring to some Curiosities in Ireland’, has a separate title-page, dated 1726; six of the articles were by Thomas Molyneux (1661-1733) F.R.S. (1687), brother of the famous philosopher William, and one of the leading men of medicine and science in Dublin. Thomas was several times President of the College of Physicians of Ireland.
He founded the Blind Asylum in Peter Street, Dublin in 1711, and was later appointed State Physician and afterwards Surgeon-General to the army. He knew and corresponded with Locke, Boyle, and Petty, and submitted important papers to the Royal Society - including the pioneering study on the Giant’s Causeway, in which he was the first to conclude that it was of natural origin. The latter is published in this collection, as is his ‘Discourse Concerning the large Horns frequently found under ground in Ireland’. There is also an article ‘Of the Salmon Fishing in Ireland’ by His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin. The third part of the work ‘A Discourse concerning the Danish Mounts, Forts and Towers in Ireland’ was entirely written by Molyneux. It also has a separate title-page dated 1725. Molyneux was also interested in Irish history and antiquities, and paid a visit in 1709 to Roderic O’Flaherty in his house at Park, Cois Fhairrge, and he wrote of his trip: “I went to visit old Flaherty, who lives very old, in a miserable condition ... I expected to have seen here some old Irish manuscripts, but his ill-fortune had stripped him of these as well as his other goods, so that he had nothing now left but some few pieces of his own writing and a few old rummish books of history”. Boate’s ‘Natural History’ was first published in 1652, re-issued in 1657, and a French edition appeared in 1666. This is the third edition in English.

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