So last night I put one of my Christmas presents up on the wall. It is a copy of an amazingly detailed drawing of Victorian Dublin, dating from 1890.
“A Bird’s Eye View of Dublin” was a present from my “Secret Santa” (as is now the tradition among the six Cullen siblings) and the Geographer in our family, Declan.
Amazingly, this panoramic of Dublin was issued as a supplement to “The Graphic” newspaper 123 years ago. Kind of puts the countless churned-out supplements you’ll get in the Sunday newspaper today into perspective, eh?
This drawing is by H.W. Brewer, who (according to the information I have found on Old Irish Maps, where they are selling an original copy of this map) was named by RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) as the finest of all Victorian architectural draughtsmen.
Unsurprisingly, Mr Brewer was also a perfectionist. There is incredible clarity and detail in “A Bird’s Eye View of Dublin”, which the image above does not do justice to. Especially as it was taken late last night under artificial light – Mr Brewer would not have approved!
As pointed out on Old Irish Maps, this is “an incredibly detailed original topographic panorama, church spires and street-scapes are shown with exacting precision. To look at the scene in High Street, as the eye is drawn from St. Audoen’s to Christchurch is akin to stepping back in time, with the minute detail of each house, window, door etc. delicately rendered”.
I’m writing this post from just in behind the Four Courts, the impressive building dominating this small section of the overall map, which, as well as the Four Courts, shows The Liberties, High Street and Christchurch in the foreground, and stretches out to include the Liffey as it flows into Dublin Bay, with Howth and Killiney also clearly visible in the background.
How Mr Brewer achieved this fantastical view of Dublin before the age of helicopters and aerial photography has apparently been a matter of some conjecture since it was first produced.
According to Old Irish Maps, “that he invented it all using ground-level sketches and a bit of imagination is highly probable. And indeed would be a correct assumption, except for the fact that five years before this Dublin panorama was completed he produced a “Bird’s Eye View of Liverpool – As seen from a Balloon“, (1885). We guess it will remain a mystery!”
Oh and, on a final note, I have to say, Declan set the bar pretty high this year, as I also got this amazing book!