GROSE, Francis & [LEDWICH, E.] The Antiquities of Ireland. Illustrated. Two volumes. [RARE LARGE PAPER COPY]


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London: Printed for S. Hooper, 1791-1795. First edition. Folio [250 x 350mm]. pp. (1) [iii], vi, xlii, [8], 88, (2) [ii], vi, xv, 98, 263 (engraved plates), including two engraved titlepages and two frontispieces. Contemporary full diced russia in the style of George Mullen of Dublin. Covers framed by triple gilt fillets and a blind palmette roll; corners of board edges hatched in gilt; turn- ins gilt. Spines divided into six panels by double raised bands and a floral roll, author, title, volume number and year in gilt direct in the second, third, fourth and fifth panels, the remainder with gilt decoration; brown and gold double endbands; splash-marbled endpapers. All edges marbled. Light wear to extremities, joints starting but firm. A fine copy of the large paper edition.

Francis Grose (1731-1791), the distinguished English antiquary, after completing his ‘Antiquities’ of England, Wales and Scotland, came over to Ireland in the spring of 1791. It was his intention to set out on a tour of the country, but he died before the end of May and was buried in a Drumcondra graveyard. Grose had written and printed “but seven pages of Descriptions” and it was his friend Edward Ledwich, at the request of the publisher after investing a considerable sum in the project, who was called upon “at no small instance of patriotism” to complete the book. He recalled in the preface “I was well aware of the difficulty of the undertaking. Ireland, the seat of turbulence and discord for five centuries, and attached to barbarous municipal laws and usages, which occasioned a perpetual fluctuation of property, ... preserved ... but few memorials of her ecclesiastical and military structures: those that survived ... being sparingly scattered in worm-eaten records ...”. Such was the sad state of Irish records. Ledwich wrote almost the entire text, this being made somewhat easier by the research he had already undertaken in writing his ‘Antiquities of Ireland’ published the previous year. The engravings were taken from the drawings in the collection of the Right Hon. William Conyingham, and the book was dedicated to him by Ledwich.
There are introductory chapters on ‘Ancient Irish Architecture’, ‘Pagan Antiquities’ and ‘Military Antiquities of Ireland’ and historical commentaries on each of the castles, abbeys, and round towers etc. depicted. The plates are especially interesting, showing the condition of these buildings two hundred years ago, some of which have since decayed or disappeared.


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