The Maynooth Montaigne

By Guest writer Prof John O’Brien Emeritus Professor of Durham University

Never judge a book by its cover! This age-old advice is never truer than in the case of the Maynooth copy of the Essais by the French writer, Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592). Externally, the book is a mid-to late 19th-century ‘Spanish pattern’ binding. Its real value lies within. It is, for a start, a printing of the first posthumous edition of the Essais overseen by Montaigne’s adoptive daughter, Marie de Gournay (1565-1645). Only a few hundred of these were printed in 1595, so the copy has some rarity value. Yet there are three other characteristics of the Maynooth Montaigne which make it a truly exceptional copy.

In the first place, this copy was a gift from Gournay to an acquaintance of hers, Henri de Beringhen (1603-92), whose aunt ran a literary salon that Gournay attended in the 1620s. Her dedication to Beringhen is shown in the illustration [011]. Although partly cropped, it is perfectly legible. We have almost no other copies of the 1595 edition with dedications by Gournay, so this in itself is valuable evidence of her circle of friends.

Secondly, the Maynooth Montaigne contains a number of ink corrections. About 17 of these are to be found in most copies of the 1595 printing and will have been done either by Gournay or by the printshop as the sheets came off the press. Over and above these, however, there are additional corrections in Gournay’s own hand, one of which is illustrated here [053]. In fact, the Maynooth Montaigne is second only to a copy now in Antwerp in having such a large number of corrections by Gournay herself. They constitute extremely important proof of the time and effort she continued to expend on getting the text of the Essais right.

One set of corrections, however, is without precedent in any other copy of the 1595 Essais. A passage at the end of chapter 17 of book 2 contains Montaigne’s praise of Gournay. For reasons which are unclear, but may be related to her own ascent as a writer, Gournay cut down this passage. Her alterations are shown on the Maynooth Essais [452]. They correspond to the text of the Essais printed in 1625, so we can be sure that it was around that date that she gave this presentation copy to Beringhen.

Finally, the Maynooth Montaigne contains reset sheets on pp. 63 and 64. Late in the printing cycle, it was discovered that text had been omitted. It was quickly added in some copies. This is an exceedingly rare feature found to date in only three other copies worldwide.

If just one of these features were present in the Maynooth Montaigne, that would make it of great interest. But having three such pushes it into the exceptional category, of outstanding value to scholars of Montaigne and of the history of printing.

Further reading: John O’Brien, ‘Gournay’s Gift: A Special Presentation Copy of the 1595 Essais of Montaigne’, The Seventeenth Century, 29/4 (2014), pp. 317-36.

A King’s Confessor: Henry Essex Edgeworth, 20th January 1793.

By Ruairi Nolan, Library Assistant, formerly of MU Library

While conducting research in the Russell Library I came across a book which caught my interest. It was the Memoires de M.L’Abbé Edgeworth de Firmont dernier Confesseur de Louis XVI by C. Sneyd Edgeworth, translated into English by Edmund Burke, and published in 1815 in Paris. Henry Essex Edgeworth, (1745-1807) was known also as Abbé Edgeworth in France, where he had lived most of his life from an early age.

Edgeworth was the final confessor to King Louis XVI, the French monarch who fell victim to the guillotine during the French Revolution. The King sent for Edgeworth personally – Edgeworth had developed a friendship with Princess Elizabeth, the King’s sister in the late 1780s-90s and came highly recommended.

Figure 1. Abbé Edgeworth

The book is one of many in the collections that is directly linked to the history of the foundation of the College. The effects of the French Revolution influenced the establishment of St. Patrick’s College. A number of French professors came to teach in the aftermath of the Revolution. L’Abbe Edgeworth was offered the presidency of the College in 1795 which he turned down.

In Edgeworth’s account, we are told the narrative of events which brought the Abbé to King Louis on the night of 20-21 January 1793 and we are introduced to the gut-wrenching first moment of when the two are alone. Edgeworth, thus far composed and in control of his emotions loses strength and begins to weep, prompting the King to follow suit:

‘Forgive me, sir…for a long time, I have lived among my enemies, and habit has in some degree familiarised me to them; but when I behold a faithful subject…a different language reaches my heart, and in spite of my utmost efforts, I am melted’.

From this we receive a detailed retelling of the evening spent with the monarch right through to the morning, he speaks of Louis’ final hour with his family where ‘Not only tears were shed, and sobs were heard, but piercing cries’. In the morning, the two were constantly bothered by paranoid officials and officers worried that the monarch would take his own life to avoid the shame of execution to which the king responded: ‘These people see daggers and poison everywhere; they fear that I shall destroy myself…they little know me! To kill myself would indeed be weakness’.

At 8 o’clock on the morning of 21 January 1793, the King was brought to the Place de la Révolution. The streets of Paris were so crowded with silent spectators that it took two hours to reach the site of execution. Once they arrived, the gendarmes attempted to bind the King’s hands and chop off his hair to which he exclaimed: ‘do what you have been ordered, but you shall never bind me’. (Fig 2)

Figure 2. King Louis Looks to Edgeworth

Edgeworth claims that the King looked to him in that moment as if seeking guidance, at which time he reassured him that this final humiliation served only to bring him closer to Christ in that he is suffering the same humilities as the son of God. Edgeworth is noted to have proclaimed ‘Fils de St Louis, Montez au ciel! / Son of St Louis, ascend to heaven!’ – though when asked himself about it, he could not recall having said anything.

A footnote to the memoirs highlight that the King was astonished that the Abbé chose to accompany him to the scaffold – he had assumed he would give flight once the night had passed. When the execution took place Edgeworth did become acutely aware of his position and feared he was next for the guillotine and he ‘thought it time to quit the scaffold…I saw myself invested by 20 or 30,000 men at arms…all eyes upon me’. Edgeworth had managed to blend in with the crowd, he simply looked like another spectator once he made it deeper into the crowd. (Fig 3)

Figure 3. Ascend Louis

France remained a dangerous place for him, he became known as King Louis’ final confessor and he noted in his memoir that a confidant expressed a dire warning: ‘Fly, my dear sir, from this land of tigers that are now let loose in it…it is not Paris alone, but France itself you must leave. For you I do not see a safe place in it’. (Fig 4)

Figure 4. Fly Abbé

Edgeworth remained in France for the next three years, evading arrest and hiding away. He eventually left to rejoin the then-exiled royal family, spending much time in Germany and Russia. He had refused a pension from the British Government. He died in Mittau, Russia (now in Latvia) while ministering for French prisoners of war on 22 May 1807. He was cared for in his dying days by the daughter of Louis XVI, further highlighting the close relationship he had with the family.


Liam Swords, The Green Cockade (Dublin, 1989).

Letters from the Abbé Edgeworth to his friends, written between the years 1777 and 1807; with memoirs of his life (London, 1818).

Charles Sneyd Edgeworth, Mémoires de m. l’abbé Edgeworth de Firmont : dernier confesseur de Louis XVI (Paris, 1815).

A Seventeenth Century Camera: Johann Zahn and the study of optics 

by Alexandra Caccamo Special Collections Librarian

Digitisation is an important part of our work in the library. It increases access to our collections and helps us make them available online to a greater number of people. With the development of our Digitisation Suite and the arrival of the scanner to the library, it is interesting to look at our collection for early descriptions of the camera. 

The Russell Library holds a number of books that deal with the study of optics. One such item is by Johann Zahn (1641-1707) Zahn was the canon of the Premonstratensian monastery of Oberzell near Würzburg. He had an interest in natural philosophy and published several works, with the most notable being ‘Oculus Artificialis Teledioptricus Sive Telescopium‘ or The Long Distance Artificial Eye or Telescope. This work was published in 1685 in Würzburg. 

Plate depicting Zhan’s design for a portable camera obscura

The book is a treatise on optical instruments and their uses. It describes magic lanterns, telescopes, microscopes and other projection types. Zahn also outlines and illustrates the first portable camera obscura. A camera obscura consists of an entire darkened room with a small hole at one end through which an image is projected. It should be noted that he was not the first to describe a camera-like device. The Han Chinese philosopher, Mozi (c. 470 – 291 BC) described the principle behind the camera obscura and detailed how light travels in straight lines from its source thus inverting an image when projected through a small hole. However, Zahn was the first to publish a design for a portable mirror-reflex camera, which you can see here. Although it is still relatively large, and perhaps not what we would think of as portable today, it was innovative at the time. This design did not become a reality until almost 140 years later. 

Plate showing how light travels in straight lines.

‘Oculus Artificialis Teledioptricus…’ has 190 pages. The title page is printed in black and red ink, with an additional richly engraved title page facing the printed title page. This engraving depicts an oculus artifci, literally artificial eye or a telescope. The book is illustrated throughout and contains 8 double-page tables, 30 engraved plates and numerous engraved and woodcut illustrations. Many of the plates are quite elaborate including one examining optics and the structure of the eye. 

Plate showing the structure of the eye.

There are also a number of plates which depict the refraction of light. 

Although, cameras have come a long way since the seventeenth century, we are still developing new ways of capturing images. In the New Year, we hope to be able to image, digitise and share more of our collections online. 

Jack Cornfield in ‘Liberty’: Exploring the Creative Process of Seán Ó Faoláin 

By Róisín Berry, Archivist, MU Library 

Whether writing a blog post, a short story, or a novel, the creative process of each writer is unique and can vary from project to project. One of the most exciting aspects of being an archivist is examining how a work of literature can evolve, from a few scribbled notes on a scrap of paper to a final published work. This process can involve the development of themes, characters, timelines, and revisions, supported often by extensive research and fact-checking. Understanding this process can provide researchers with a much richer experience of a writer and their work. 

Foreign Affairs and Other Stories by Seán Ó Faoláin

In 2018, Maynooth University Library was fortunate enough to acquire a fascinating letter written by writer Seán Ó Faoláin (1900-1991). The four-page document reveals how Ó Faoláin researched the main character, Jack Cornfield, for his short story ‘Liberty’ published in a collection of his work, Foreign Affairs and Other Stories in 1976. Ó Faoláin was regarded as one of Ireland’s leading short-story writers at the time. Not confined to fiction, he also produced travelogues, literary criticisms, and historical biographies. The letter is dated 24th February 1973 and is addressed to Dr Burke, who appears to be a mental health professional. In the document, Ó Faoláin describes his short story character, Cornfield, and outlines plot lines for the story, requesting that the doctor assess their feasibility. Cornfield is a patient in a psychiatric asylum, and the fictional story revolves around his relationships, sanity, and freedom.

Ó Faoláin notes in his letter that the story is based on the memory of a man who used to sit outside the psychiatric asylum in Cork. He recalls him on fine days sitting outside the front gate on the low wall backing on to the fields above the River Lee, chatting with anybody who passed. Ó Faoláin mentions his wife knowing him a little as a girl, her father having worked in the asylum at the time, and notes ‘between them they gave me the image of a quiet and cultivated and gentlemanly sort of chap.’ With this ‘meagre memory,’ Ó Faoláin describes how he has invented a history for Cornfield to ‘explain why this apparently sane chap was there and what he may have been through.’

Letter from Seán Ó Faoláin to Dr Burke on Jack Cornfield character

In the document, Ó Faoláin asks Dr Burke specific questions as he attempts to create a plausible backstory for his character, which includes a violent attack on his wife and the potential repercussions. He enquires ‘Here is the first practical q.:- She commits him to asylum. Is this possible? Or was it ever? But she agrees later that he be sent at her expense to a private mental clinic (? Right word?).’ He also observes ‘No least sign of instability has been given by Cornfield since he was first committed. Yet he continues in the public asylum year after year, tacitly recognised as harmless…and bit by bit he achieves so much respect…that he also achieves this liberty, and virtual equality so that he can wander about the grounds, stroll outside the gates, sit on the wall outside, smoke and chat.’

Detail of letter to Dr Burke

Ó Faoláin observes ‘I am sure you must be chuckling at all these complications and I rather feel myself that so many would bend the credibility of the story.’ He refers to the boyhood image of this patient sitting happily outside the asylum in the sun writing verses and reading books that has stayed with him for fifty years, concluding ‘…as I don’t know his story I am obsessed by the wish to invent it. I suspect I’ve been too inventive.’

An enthralling insight into an artistic mind at work. For further information on our Seán Ó Faoláin collection, please contact:

Seeking the Foundations of the Canadian Church

By Professor Mark McGowan
Library Visiting Research Professor in the Arts and Humanities Institute at Maynooth University

My current project is tentatively titled Pilgrims in the Snow: A History of Catholics in Canada, which is intended to be a thematic synthesis of the principal developments, controversies, and challenges within Canada’s largest Christian denomination. There has not been a history of the Catholic Church in Canada, written in English, in over twenty years. Because of the strong influence of Irish and Scottish Catholic settler/colonists in many regions of the country, it seemed appropriate to dedicate a chapter on the Celtic presence in the Church. For part of the material for this chapter, I am grateful for the opportunity to undertake research at Maynooth University as a Library Visiting Research Professor in the Arts and Humanities Institute.

One of the influences was certainly the way in which Canadian bishops in fledgling dioceses in the 18th and 19th centuries depended on the recruitment of priests and women religious from Ireland and Scotland. The Russell Library, at Maynooth University, which houses the collections of St. Patrick’s College and All Hallows Seminary, provided the ideal locus for research into how priests were recruited for British North America and how they were formed by the discipline and curriculum of these Irish seminaries. Correspondence between Canadian bishops and the Irish Seminaries could offer valuable insights into what Canadian prelates expected of the recruits, and how these newly formed priests brought their Irish training to bear on the Canadian frontier.

Based on the matriculation records of All Hallows Seminary, between 1841 and 1891, seventy young men trained for thirteen dioceses in British North America. Having examined the episcopal correspondence, however, two more dioceses in the far west of Canada (Regina in Saskatchewan, and Victoria, in British Columbia) were added to the list. The correspondence is a treasure trove of insights into the reasons All Hallows became “a favourite” among the Canadian hierarchy. Bishops frequently expressed high praise of the quality of instruction offered by the Vincentians in Dublin. Academic rigour and moral formation were qualities Canadian bishops wanted in new recruits since many bishops were preoccupied disciplining their priests who were often described as less than models of priestly virtue. As dioceses were growing, bishops needed more men, and they sought qualified graduates of All Hallows, whom they would support financially through their course of study. One bishop, Michael Power of Toronto, made a heartfelt plea for more priests in 1847, as he feared the loss of so many priests due to typhus fever, which was in epidemic proportions, among the thousands of Irish famine victims fleeing to his diocese.

While the correspondence is plentiful between All Hallows and Canada in the mid to-late nineteenth century, the episcopal requests become fewer by the 1880s. At this point in their development, many dioceses had sufficient numbers of home-grown Canadian priests, who were trained principally on the “Irish floor” of the Grand Séminaire in Montreal, or in the United States. The exception to this independence from Ireland is evident in the two Newfoundland dioceses of St. John’s and Harbour Grace. Newfoundland had a population of which 40% were of Irish birth or descent, many of whom had roots in southeast Ireland. The bishops of Newfoundland had the most robust correspondence with All Hallows and, in one sense, it became their “local” seminary. In the mid-nineteenth century, Newfoundland imported graduates of All Hallows, but after the 1850s bishops were sending Newfoundlanders of Irish decent to All Hallows with the intention that they be properly trained and return to Newfoundland. No other British North American dioceses managed such a relationship with All Hallows, where several Newfoundland priests continued to be trained until the 1940s. The engagement between the Church in Newfoundland and Ireland was quite unique, given the Province’s Irish heritage, its resistance to the control of Canadian bishops, and the fact that it remained politically independent of Canada until 1949.

The correspondence in this collection is rich with potential research subjects well beyond the scope of my proposed monograph. In the mid-nineteenth century there is a detailed and moving correspondence between Bishop Modeste Demers of Vancouver Island and successive Presidents of All Hallows until 1871. Located on the Pacific coast of what is now the Province of British Columbia, Demers’ diocese could not be geographically farther away from Ireland. Demers discusses his need for at least two Irish priests, as young Irishmen entered his diocese to work in mining, forestry, and the gold fields. He laments the sorry state of Christianity in the region but sees All Hallows as a means of transforming this frontier diocese. The fact that Demers’ letters take six months to reach Ireland adds further drama, if not pathos, to the desperate pleas of this frontier bishop. In fact, his missives reveal much about the state of his diocese, material descriptions that are less evident in Canadian archives. Demers’ requests do not go unrequited. By the end of his life, he welcomes at least one Irish priest, “Mr. Maloney.” The twenty-six letters in this folio would make for an interesting article for an eager post graduate student.

This is but a short glimpse into a collection that promises to confirm the thesis that Irish seminaries provided the firm foundations for an Anglophone Church outside of the Province of Quebec, where French was the dominant language.

Dr. Mark G. McGowan

Professor of History, University of Toronto

Interim Principal & Vice-President, University of St. Michael’s College

‘We have deceived the senate’: The Trial of Reverend William Jackson, 30th April 1795.

By Ruairí Nolan, Library Assistant with Engagement and Information Services.

The Russell Library carries a great deal of invaluable documentation from the late eighteenth century. This is particularly true of items concerning the 1798 Rebellion and the run up to it. One can find works by Thomas Paine (1737-1809), Edmund Burke (1730-97), Richard Musgrave (1746-1818) and many more. One name that stood out to me while doing research in the Russell was that of Rev. William Jackson (1737-95). I found summaries of proceedings for the trial in the form of pamphlets from 1795 which included transcripts but also a published book from 1845 by Thomas MacNevin (1814-48). MacNevin’s account notably takes from the summarised accounts with a bit more substance added – whether from other unknown sources or historical hagiography, is unclear.

The anniversary of the trial was yesterday and took place at the bar of the King’s Bench in Ireland. He was a man that led the life of a reverend in the Church of England, a journalist, a courtier to aristocracy and spy for the French Committee of Public Safety. In 1794 Jackson was caught and arrested on charges of high treason for passing on documents which proved the existence of a French mission to gauge public opinion in Britain and Ireland for armed revolution. The sentence for high treason was the death penalty, meaning the forfeiture of his estate to the government upon his death, something Jackson could not stomach – among other things.

Jackson was a man known for his self-dramatizing appetite for life, embedding himself in the controversial life of the Duchess of Kingston and engaging in a journalistic debate with Samuel Foote, a fight which cost him his job. What stands out the most about Jackson’s trial and MacNevin’s account of such, is Jackson’s continued flair for the dramatics right up until the end of his life. Jackson was found guilty on the morning of April 24th and his date of sentencing set for the following week.

While imprisoned, Jackson at no point showed regret or concern for his fate – he simply accepted it and understood that what he did was the right thing to do. So, eyebrows were raised when on 30th April there were reports of him vomiting from the carriage on the way to the courthouse and looking ill, sweating profusely and steam rising from his head.             


Newgate Prison, Dublin

To many it had seemed that he had begun to reconsider the consequences of his actions, but MacNevin records it in a different light: ‘He beckoned to his counsel to approach him…and uttered in a whisper, and with a smile of mournful triumph, the dying words of Pierre, ‘We have deceived the senate’’. This reference, a call back to the last words uttered by Pierre in Thomas Otway’s play Venice Preserv’d, a conspirator against the state who kills himself before the government can reach him. Otway’s production, from the Restoration Era, was particularly controversial in 1790s Britain for its overt radical political imagery – a somewhat fitting reference for Jackson to make.

As Jackson’s lawyers haggled over the formalities of proceedings, he started to become visibly more distraught. Eventually he was heard groaning aloud and clutching at his sides in pain – forcing prosecutors to call a doctor to the bench, almost immediately pronouncing Jackson dead.

As Jackson had passed before a formal sentencing was handed down to him, all his property and wealth was left to be inherited by his family, as opposed to the state. It was found that he had intentionally ingested a lethal amount of metallic poison, but how and by whom, was never concluded. The details of this trial are incredible to follow, and the pamphlets detailing the trial provide a great amount of detail and I can’t recommend visiting the Russell Library to read them more.


The trial of the Rev. William Jackson, at the bar of the King’s Bench in Ireland, for high treason, on Thursday the 23rd of April, 1795 By William Sampson

A full report of all the proceedings on the trial of the Rev. William Jackson, : at the bar of His Majesty’s Court of King’s Bench, Ireland, on an indictment for high treason. Collected from the notes of William Ridgeway, William Lapp, and John Schoales, Esqrs. barristers at law

The life and trials of Archibald Hamilton Rowan, the Rev. William Jackson, the Defenders, William Orr, Peter Finnerty, and other eminent Irishmen By Thomas McNevin

A Billiard Connoisseur? An 1806 analysis of the game by An Amateur

Susan Durack, Special Collections and Archives

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is billiards-title-page.jpg
Tilte-page of pamphlet held in Russell Library, Maynooth University

On a recent browse through the Pamphlet Collection held in the Russell Library at Maynooth University I came across a curious and somewhat long title.

 “A philosophical essay on the game of billiards: wherein the theory is minutely examined upon physical principles; and familiarly exhibited by easy transitions from causes to effects: With plates illustrating the several propositions advanced and the practice shewn in all its variety with copious observations and directions”.   

Who would write such a pamphlet? We are none the wiser, as the author signs himself “An Amateur” on the title page and ends the essay as “Philobill”. Printed in Bath by W. Meyer and sold by G. Robinson, of the same city in 1806, the fifty-nine page pamphlet is followed by a four-page appendix and two fold out diagrammatic sheets, which are referenced throughout the main text.

One can only imagine the difficulty in describing the intricacies of the game, in an interesting way, without the benefit of modern technology and commentary that we enjoy today. Such was the problem for Philobill in 1860.  He does not make it easy for the reader and in fact describes whom this essay will not benefit…

“The perusal of the following pages will not be of any use to a good player” as practice and experience are indispensable.  Neither does he suggest that the novice will derive much advantage from it as a course of instruction, as liking the activity, tops reading technical instruction.  But he says, it may be useful to those “inquisitive travellers” who when encouraged to play, “may be better accommodated on the road to Science” in linking cause and effect and Nature’s Laws and therefore the essay “cannot be charged as useless”.

The scientific and verbose language of the text is accompanied by two fold out diagramatic sheets that are intended to help our understanding, but as you will see from the text below, it takes some effort on the part of the reader.

“The progressive motion takes place with the middle point at both ends of the cue, and the centre of the ball make part of a right line at the time of impulse; and if this position be also parallel with the table, as a, (see Fig1) it will be smoothest, lightest, and the least impeded.  For such the cue be pointed downwards, as in b, the motion of the ball mush be partly destroyed by the reaction of the table; and, if pointedopwards, as in c, or anywhere else, the power of gravity would be more directly in opposition to it….”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is billiards-diagram-1-2.jpg
Diagram of Fig 1. of text

He notes that Chance is the “common enemy of bad players” but the writer does not wish to have it taken from the game but to confine it “within due and reasonable bounds”. While games of judgement are sources of amusement and may be down to expertise and skill, the writer warns “those merely of chance” never can and man’s exalted nature becomes inactive and he falls for the “favours of that capricious deity who presides”.

There were two contrasting reviews of the essay in periodicals of the day.  John Richards Green (1758-1818) in The Anti-Jacobin Review and Protestant Advocate: Or, monthly political and literary Censor (Vol. 26, 1806) stated, “This is not merely a curious and ingenious, but a truly scientific essay of the Game” and “we conclude that the author be not only an amateur but a connoisseur. While the essaywill not be a pleasing study to novices or to players, who have made certain progress in the knowledge of the Game but it affords both amusement and instruction”.

Tobias Smollett (1721-1771) editor of The Critical Review: Or, Annals of Literature (Vol. 10, 1807) states that the author “has better claim which he gives himself at the end of his treatise (Philobill) than that of philosopher to which he seems to aspire in his title page”. The review questions who this essay is for, if not the experienced player or novice.  It goes on “a more flimsy performance we have rarely seen” and that the author should “take his cue, and give up authorship”

Both critics agree in their observations on the author’s assertion as to who would not benefit from this essay.

Some facts about Billiards: Billiards evolved from a lawn game similar to Croquet, played in the 15th century in Northern Europe, probably France. Kings and commoners played it alike.  The term billiard is derived from the French word “billart” meaning wooden stick or “bille” meaning ball. The first Billiard Room was built in England in 1785, which was a table with one pocket and four balls. Billiards was the inspiration of the development of snooker and other pool games played today.

For more on the history of billiards, click here.

Fold-out showing various diagrams in relation to the text.

Cosmography: First mention of California and Australia in print

By Adam Staunton, Special Collections & Archives

Peter Heylin

Cosmography in Four Books: Containing the Chorography and History of the Whole World (1652) is an attempt by Peter Heylin to describe in immaculate detail everything known about the world, including its cultures, religions, politics, customs and geography. Heylin was enrolled in Magdalen College at Oxford University in 1615 and by 1617 had already graduated with a B.A and begun lecturing with the school of Geography. By 1620 he completed his M.A and published his lectures, Microcosmos: a Little Description of the Great World and presented the same to Prince Charles in 1621. His continued loyalty to the Monarchy would cause Heylin a great deal of trouble during The English Civil Wars (1642-1651). His home was attacked by Parliamentarian troops, he narrowly escaped the siege of Oxford and was later forced into hiding. It wasn’t until the Restoration of 1660 that Heylin was restored to his position as sub-dean of Westminster, presenting the royal sceptre to King Charles II at his coronation.

Cosmography is one of Heylin’s most important works. It is the first print mention of California, Australia and the Tierra del Fuego province of Argentina. California is described in book four, part two, The Chorography and History of America and all the Principal Kingdoms, Provinces, Seas and Iles thereof. Heylin starts his description by objecting to the name given to the continent. America was named after Amerigo Vespucci who sailed from Spain to the Gulf of Mexico, then was the first to travel as far as to Brazil and back to Haiti. Heylin argues that Christopher Columbus and John Cabot “led the way” and “touched many places” but that Vespucci did not. Heylin suggests the names “Columbana” or “Cabotia” and refers to Vespucci only as “an adventurous Florentine” and not by name.

Map one of North America first showing California attached to mainland North America

California at this time was believed to be an Island, with the Gulf of California separating it from mainland Mexico, as Heylin notes: “acceptation of it to an Island, as now it is generally conceived to be.”  Although one map in the chapter shows California attached to mainland North America while a second shows it as an island. He goes on to describe California as “very plain, of few trees, nor much of people.” California is broken down into four different provinces, Quivira to the North, Cibola in the South, New Albion to the North West and California as the remaining part. Each with its own climate, food sources and descriptions of its indigenous people. Their religions, clothing, language and first interactions with Spanish or English travellers are described in great detail by Heylin. For example Englishmen had been kidnapped by the Tartary of Quebec who are described as “near neighbours” of the indigenous people of Quivira, only known to be “apparelled in bull skins from head to feet.” While in New Albion, Englishmen were gifted feathers and bull skins by its indigenous people upon landing.

Map two showing the Isle of California as described by Heylin

Terra Australis Incognita is briefly described in An Appendix to the Former Work Endeavouring a Discovery of the Unknown Parts of the World. Heylin notes that mariners travelling along the Cape of Good Hope have noted cold winds coming from the South. Heylin argues that wind blows colder from land than it does from sea, thus there must be a new land mass to the south of Good Hope. This land mass “of glory (and) enough to satisfy the hungry appetite of any Empire” had gone undiscovered as Princes are “engaged in wars and other such avocations” while merchants are busy in their “wealthy factories.”  Terra Australis would end up being Antarctica as we know it today, hence the cold wind theory. While Australia as we know it today was originally named New Holland and it wasn’t until Matthew Flinders circumnavigated the continent in 1803 that he suggested the name Terra Australis, 150 years after it appeared in print in Cosmography.

Cosmography was the last work Heylin could complete by himself before becoming blind. By 1660 he couldn’t read or write and could only make out shapes. He is buried in Westminster Abbey, under his own choir stall after being visited in a dream by King Charles I who told him “Peter, I will have you buried under your own seat in church, for you are rarely seen but there or at your study.” Further reading on the life of Peter Heylin and his relationship with both King Charles I and II can be found in the Russell Library. Cosmography was recently viewed in the Russell Library by Maynooth University president Professor Eeva Leinonen, accompanied by The Australian Ambassador to Ireland, Gary Gray.

Lemons, Bad Lobster and Irish Weavers: The Travel Books of the Russell Library

By Adam Staunton, Special Collections & Archives

With vaccines rolling out across the world, international travel may soon be on the cards again. As we have travelled all over Europe in previous blogs, it’s time to set our sights on the United States.

Travel Map of the United States circa 1871

With no direct travel from Ireland, we’ll have to make our way from Liverpool. A rolling theme in this series has been the slight bias towards the UK. No matter where we have travelled, from Madrid to Maynooth, nothing has ever compared to the English countryside. I have been eager to see if the UK is still cream of the crop when being reviewed itself. H. Wilson starts his review in Picturesque Europe, Vol II by explaining “The homes of England! How the very name stirs the imagination!” I guess that answers that. Wilson recommends staying at Haddon Hall, only two hours from Liverpool. Built in 1452, it has a chapel, banqueting hall and courtyard which is the highlight of “the most magnificent castellated mansion of the sixteenth century.”

The Courtyard of Haddon Hall, with a very welcoming crowd

Well rested we’ll be taking the Cunard Line from Liverpool. For £26 you can have your choice of cabin on Tuesday or Saturday and travel to New York or Boston. Trips can take between nine and twelve days, luckily with privileges in the saloon to help pass the time. If you suffer from sea sickness, G. W. Bacon has put together some handy tips in Bacon’s Guide to America. You’ll want to eat regularly, “but without raising your head for a day or two,” Take some “mild laxative pills” your first night and if all else fails “Lemons will be found very useful in allaying sea sickness.” How fun does that sound?

Don’t forget to pack those Lemons

If you’re stopping in New York, you’ve plenty to look forward to. Bacon describes it as the most important state, “unsurpassed in soil, climate and beauty of its natural scenery.” 1880 New York boasts highlands for sheep farming in its North and Western lowlands adapted to all kinds of grain. Looking to shop? Liquors, timber and flour “are made here in greater amount that in any other state.” If you’re after a more relaxing trip, New Jersey is just a train ride away, with many natural attractions and “the sea coast is abounds in favourite bathing and sporting resorts.” If you don’t fancy the twelve day, lemon filled trip back to Liverpool, an acre of land in New York will only cost you £400.

Immigration arrival, Castle Garden, New York

Those of you heading to Boston have “the emporium of literature of the United States” to look forward to, as described by Maurice Hore in An Accurate Account of the United States of America. Thanks to its higher tax rate of 1$ per home, Boston is well maintained in both education and arts. Its restaurants have “every description of fish to be met with in Cork, particularly lobster and mackerel.” Although the lobster doesn’t seem to be everyone’s taste as Hore notes to be “surprised to see lobsters sent away from table(s) untouched.” Ten miles north via stage coach is the town of Lowell, home to eight thousand Irish weavers. Hore describes it as “the most picturesque I have seen in any part of the world”. From the harbour you’ll get a full view of the Atlantic Ocean at sunset to round off your trip. 

View of New York from Ward Island