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Ulster Museum

Purpose and Portrayal: Early Irish Maps and Mapmaking

This exhibition will showcase our fabulous collection of early maps and offer the opportunity to see up close original works by some of the world’s greatest mapmakers and surveyors.

Fri 19 Apr 2019 - Sun 26 Jan 2020

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Maps show and describe the shape of our world. They are products of reason, technology and invention, powered by artistry and ambition. They aid and abet travel and exchange; confer and confirm ownership and status; and promote and encourage knowledge and curiosity.

This exhibition draws on the Ulster Museum’s rich collection of historic maps to explore how the shape and definition of Ireland has been refined and represented over the centuries.  It includes representations of Ireland by two of the sixteenth century’s greatest map makers, Abraham Ortelius, who produced what was essentially the world’s first published atlas in 1573, and Gerard Mercator, who first used the term to describe a collection of maps in 1595.

Six examples of the work of the English mapmaker John Speed are on display – his famous group of Irish maps, first published between 1610 and 1611, and his map of the invasions of Britain and Ireland, first published in 1627.

You’ll also see fine examples of early seacharts, including examples from English, Dutch and local sources, maps referring to the capture of Carrickfergus by the French privateer Captain Francois Thurot in 1759, and a huge County map of Tyrone printed in four sections in 1821.

The exhibition closes with two very different anthropomorphic maps of Ireland, drawn by Lilian Lancaster in the mid-nineteenth century.