O’BRIEN, Henry. The Round Towers of Ireland or The History of the Tuath-De-Danaans. A new edition with introduction, synopsis, index, etc. Portrait frontispiece of the author. Illustrated.
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London: W. Thacker. Calcutta: Thacker Spink, 1898. Demy octavo. pp. xciv, , 551. Title printed in red and black. Original quarter brown cloth on green cloth, title in gilt; gilt harp in gilt on upper cover and spine. A few nicks to spine ends. Top edge gilt. A good copy.
In 1832, on very short notice, O’Brien enthusiastically wrote a dissertation on the round towers of
Ireland in an attempt to win the RIA’s Cunningham gold medal and a £50 prize offered by the
Academy to the person whose work would finally explain the origin of what were then regarded as
enigmatic structures. Other competitors included Marcus Keane and the eventual recipient of the 1833
medal, George Petrie. O’Brien was awarded £20 as consolation, but he had been so passionately
convinced of the importance and accuracy of his explanations and hypotheses that he accused the
Academy of unfair adjudication, and unsuccessfully demanded that it should reconsider and award him
the prize. Not surprisingly, the Academy refused to publish his essay, which he had hoped would
appear in its Transactions.
“The object of this present work (an expanded version of his prize essay) was to show that the round
towers were Buddhistic remains. The book was condemned as wild and extravagant in the Gentleman’s
Magazine and by George Petrie, a fellow Irish antiquary. Thomas Moore wrote a hostile review in the
Edinburgh Review, and, in response O’Brien accused Moore of appropriating his discoveries in his
History of Ireland. F. S. Mahony, known as Father Prout, a warm friend and admirer of O’Brien’s,
came to his defence in The Reliques of Father Prout (1836)”. ODNB.
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