The Royal Irish Academy/Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann champions research. We identify and recognise Ireland’s world class researchers. We support scholarship and promote awareness of how science and the humanities enrich our lives and benefit society. We believe that good research needs to be promoted, sustained and communicated. The Academy is run by a Council of its members. Membership is by election and considered the highest academic honour in Ireland.

Read more about the RIA

Antiquarian Drawings

The Royal Irish Academy Library’s collection of c.8,600 antiquarian sketches and drawings covers the period between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries. The drawings - mainly watercolours and sketches in ink or pencil - range from the depiction of Irish landscapes to places and objects of archaeological and architectural interest.

The collection includes works by the following artists:

The library also holds the collection of nineteenth century Ordnance Survey drawings and sketches which were prepared by the researchers employed by the OS as part of their work of recording antiquities in the landscape. Among the artists employed by the OS were George Petrie, MRIA (1790-1866), George Victor du Noyer (1817-69), and William Frederick Wakeman (1822-1900). The collection of OS Sketches in the Royal Irish Academy comprises over 1,000 drawings. (Shelf-marks are in the range 12 T 1 – 12 T 17).
These holdings are supplemented by the Ordnance Survey Memoir drawings, a collection of over 1,600 drawings incorporated in the Memoirs collected by soldiers of the Royal Engineers working on the Ordnance Survey six-inch map project. The majority of drawings feature in sections on ancient topography by civilian memoir writers including John Bleakly, James Boyle, Thomas Fagan, Charles W. Ligar, John Stokes, J. Butler Williams and J. Hill Williams. These occur both within the body of the text of the memoir and as appendix drawings. Drawings vary in style, from outline sketches of antiquities by writers gathering information for the fair sheets, to ground plans in a military topographical style by Charles W. Ligar and J. Butler Williams, to charming ink and wash views by Lieutenant Edward W. Durnford, to accomplished drawings by James Boyle illustrating the ruins of megalithic monuments, churches, castles and other antiquities. Perhaps John Stokes draws the most interesting subjects, with over 500 drawings revealing the artist’s evolving artistic skills. Although the Memoirs were published by the Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University Belfast during the 1990s, most of the drawings were not included in the published version. In 2014 the Academy published a book of drawings from the collection, Glimpses of Ireland’s past – The Ordnance Survey Memoir Drawings: topography and technique, compiled by Angelique Day. For further information on the OS Memoirs, click here
Detailed records of the drawings and selected accompanying images are accessible via our online Prints and Drawings Catalogue.

Stay up to date with the Royal Irish Academy newsletter

Sign up now