New light on Irish county map-making in the early 19th century – tracings from William Larkin’s map of King’s County/ Offaly, c. 1808

To conclude our Heritage Week series of talks online we want to tell you the illustrated talk New light on Irish county map-making in the early 19th century – tracings from William Larkin’s map of King’s County/ Offaly, c. 1808 has now been uploaded. You get a 30-minute introduction from the leading expert on the early maps of Offaly. This is followed by minute comparisons of the Larkin tracings for west Offaly with the published Larkin atlas of 1809. Dr Arnold Horner has prepared an in-depth lecture on map-making in King’s County in the early nineteenth century where he analyses the significance of the new map tracings attributed to William Larkin which were donated to Offaly Archives last year, and conserved by Liz D’arcy through Heritage Council funding. He particularly looks at features in the landscape around Birr, Banagher, and Ferbane.

With thanks to Offaly Archives last Tueday’s lecture (16 Aug. 2022) by Dr Arnold Horner is now online as are the maps which are recently conserved.

New light on Irish county map-making in the early 19th century – tracings from William Larkin’s map of King’s County/ Offaly, c. 1808

The original tracings on view at Offaly Archives. These can now be viewed online.

Dr Arnold Horner discuss the history of mapmaking in Offaly, and his appraisal of the newly donated and specially conserved sketch maps of William Larkin, the nineteenth century surveyor.
Dr Horner is the author of many books including ‘Mapping Offaly’ which also concerned the work of William Larkin.

Arnold Horner’s lecture is available now on YouTube:

Offaly Archives online catalogue with digitised versions of the maps:

His books include:

Mapping Offaly in the Early 19th Century with an Atlas of William Larkin’s Map of King’s County, 1809 – Arnold Horner (Bray, 2006), 76 pp. You can buy this for €20 from Offaly History at Bury Quay to callers.

This book describes the geography and early mapping of Offaly (known as King’s County between c. 1560 and 1920) with particular reference to the huge manuscript map of the county made by William Larkin.  Larkin’s long-neglected map of King’s County has fortunately been preserved in the National Archives of Ireland.  The version reproduced here in atlas form was made in 1809 at the request of the newly formed Bogs Commissioners, and was used to guide their engineers.  This book now tells the story of this map and makes it widely available for the first time.  Included also are many other early map images, among them extracts from the near-contemporary surveys of the bogs engineers.  The result is an exceptional introduction to the Offaly of 200 years ago, the rural world of the generation before the Great Famine.

In Mapping Laois from the 16th to the 21st century, Arnold Horner reviews and seeks to provide context for the extraordinarily rich diversity of manuscript and printed maps that record the changing political, economic and social circumstances of an Irish county over nearly five centuries. The flavour of these varied, informative and often colourful maps is captured in over 400 illustrations, among which are reproductions of six early county maps and a unique assemblage of images from the Ordnance Survey ‘fair plans’ of c. 1838–40.  

With a map record that stretches back more than 450 years, County Laois (formerly Leix and Laoighis, and between 1556 and 1920 officially known as Queen’s County) has a distinguished place in the history of cartography in Ireland. This book explores that record, from the first map of c. 1560, covering the eastern part of the county, through to the present century. The aim here is to draw attention to the extent, variety and interest of the maps made during a period of major transformation across the county—a period when far-reaching changes in landownership and settlement were accompanied by significant environmental modifications.

Key features:

•   Comprehensively illustrated with 400 maps

•   Comprehensive coverage of County Laois from the 16th century to the 21st century

•   Detailed index 

Price €30.

His book on Mapping Laois is an exemplar on what can be done for many counties in Ireland.

Documents relating to the Bogs Commissioners, 1809–1813 by Arnold Horner

The bogs of Ireland have changed greatly over the last couple of centuries. The records of the Bogs Commissioners help in assessing the extent of these changes, feeding into local and national studies of environmental change.

This book describes the large volume of documents associated with the government-appointed commissioners who in 1809 were charged with enquiring ‘into the nature and extent of the several bogs in Ireland, and the practicability of draining and cultivating them’.

Operating until 1813, the commissioners compiled maps and reports on bogs in some 22 counties across Ireland. Much of their working materials, including many of the manuscript reports and many of the fine manuscript maps and diagrams prepared by their engineers, are now preserved in the National Library of Ireland. Other records are in the National Archives of Ireland (NAI) and among the Foster papers in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

The present edition identifies and draws together a diverse range of material, thereby allowing the potential significance of the work of the bogs commissioners to be appreciated better. The principal document in this edition is the minute book, in the NAI collections, which recorded transactions of the commissioners over four and a half years. Attention is also given to the manuscript maps and other documents now in the National Library of Ireland. The records associated with the commissioners include much local detail and offer insights into various aspects of early nineteenth-century Ireland, particularly its administration and the countryside. Price: €40.00.

Arnold Horner formerly lectured in Geography at University College Dublin. He has written widely on the geography of Ireland, giving increasing attention in recent years to the history of maps and mapping in Ireland. He has had three books concerning the innovative county maps produced in the early nineteenth century by the roads engineer and surveyor William Larkin: Mapping Offaly (2006), Mapping Meath (2007) and Mapping Sligo (2011).  His Mapping Offaly is a great favourite and was the lead in book for the others in the series.

Our thanks to Dr Horner for his lecture and permitting us to make it available online. Our thanks also to the Heritage Council for the funding to conserve these maps.