Ireland Illustrated, 1680-1860, is a database of over 500 images of Ireland, with accompanying text, drawn from more than 50 manuscript and printed works, and highlighting several neglected or rarely accessible sources. It provides an opportunity to examine how, in the case of Ireland, diverse representations were created in the course of two centuries.
This collection takes as a starting point the fact that the combination of word and picture in illustrated travel books has shaped how the world is seen, from the early days of printing to the era of the photograph, with the rise of the predecessors of the National Geographic, and continuing into the digital deluge of today. An important part of the visual record of Ireland can be found in illustrations made by or for travellers. Ireland Illustrated draws attention to what they express and how they fit with the written record. What images are chosen, what scenes are worth noting, the colour and emphasis given to an account or a picture, these are important choices when representing a people and their country. They often say as much about the traveller as about realities on the ground.
The presentation of these illustrated accounts encourages further exploration of general trends in the ways that people, including the Irish, thought about and imagined Ireland, and the esthetic or ideological forces at work behind the scenes. At the same time, it allows us to see and appreciate the individual viewpoints of those writers or artists who avoided the obvious comment and the sterotypical scene. The links between people, places, images and text sheds new light on interactions between individual authors, artists and publishers, and, through the examination of Ireland’s case, it foregrounds some of the processes by which travel accounts became illustrated.