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"In Ireland, the map possesses the same pioneer status as is held in England and Wales by William Smith's map..." - Gordon L. Davies

A Beautiful Copy of the Monumental Wall Map, Hand-Colored by Counties.

A handsome example of Richard Griffith's masterwork, the first large-scale geological map of Ireland, published in Dublin in 1839.

This enormous six-sheet map was produced for the National Railway Commission and shows the magnificent base topography of Ireland at the impressive quarter-inch-to-the-mile scale. The map represents the culmination of a quarter-century of labor by Richard Griffith, a key figure in mid-19th century Ireland, who it was said was involved in every major public works project of the time.

This example is from the 1855 edition of the map, which has been re-engraved to refine the geological information presented. The map includes additional cross-sections as well as a list of the principal fossils to be found in the region. The proof copy of this edition was ready in 1855, but copies of that edition colored with geological information were ready only from 1856.

The detail on the map is extraordinary, with topography, towns, loughs, roads, and much more shown throughout the country at a resolution of several hundred yards. Mines are marked on the map, including gold, iron, copper, lead, coal, and antimony diggings. Off the west coast of the country are additional key boxes that could be hand-colored.

Griffith and the Early Geological Mapping of Ireland

The Griffith map has been the subject of extensive research. Griffith first had a manuscript geological map of the entire island sometime around 1815, when he first referred to a manuscript map in one of his lectures. It is known that made many editions of this manuscript map, slowly coloring in portions of the country as he and other geologists mapped ever-increasing portions of the island. However, it was thought that all examples of Griffith's manuscript maps were lost until the recent discovery of an annotated Alexander Taylor map appeared in the archives of the Geological Society.

A printed map by Griffith would have to wait until 1838 when he published the first geological map of Ireland at a scale reduced from the present (1 inch to 10 miles). This map accompanied a railroad report which he was also involved in. In 1839, the enlarged and significantly more detailed version of his map appeared, which remained in circulation throughout the 19th century as the foremost authority on the geology of the country.

Griffith retained the 1839 dating on the map until 1855 despite continuously updating the map with the work of other researchers. This practice drew criticism at the time as some felt that this practice suggested that he, in fact, discovered the newly-depicted elements first. Perhaps to assuage this criticism, a member of the Irish Ordnance Survey (usually James Duncan) would date the map in the lower right of each sheet. In addition, Griffith would sometimes change the date on the map himself when presenting to a scientific audience likely to know that the work on the map was not exclusively his own.


The map is scarce. Only nine examples are listed in OCLC.

Condition Description
Original hand color. Upper margin extended (likely contemporaneously) for display. Minor soiling throughout, most pronounced at base of map. Green silk selvage on the left and right edges of the map, partially torn.
Notes on the various issues of Sir Richard Griffith's quarter-inch Geological Map of Ireland, 1839-1855.
Richard Griffith Biography

Richard Griffith, a pioneering figure in Irish geology, was born in 1784.

His significant contributions to the field began when George Bellas Greenough commissioned him in 1811 to create a geological map of Ireland. Despite initial setbacks due to the lack of an accurate topographical base map, Griffith's early version of the map was likely showcased at his Dublin Society lectures in 1814.

To address the deficiencies in available maps, Griffith embarked on his own triangulation of Ireland from 1819 to 1824. However, the establishment of the Ordnance Survey in 1825 rendered his efforts redundant. That same year, Griffith was appointed director of the General Boundary Survey of Ireland, and in 1827, he became commissioner of the General Survey and Valuation of Rateable Property. In his boundary survey role, Griffith was responsible for identifying and plotting all county, barony, parish, and townland boundaries, which were then represented on the Ordnance Survey's six-inch maps.

As commissioner of valuation, Griffith conducted two major surveys: the townland valuation (1830-c.1842) and the tenement valuation (1852-65), known as "the Griffith Valuation." He emphasized the importance of understanding local geology for accurate land valuation, instructing his staff in geological observations primarily aimed at improving his geological map of Ireland. From 1835, Griffith operated an unofficial geological survey within the valuation office, employing Patrick Ganly for geological field investigations.

Griffith's geological map, based on Aaron Arrowsmith's inaccurate Irish map, received positive acclaim when displayed at the British Association meeting in Dublin in August 1835. By October 1836, Griffith had become one of the four railway commissioners for Ireland, advocating for the importance of regional geology in planning the railway system. The commissioners published his map in 1838 at a scale of 1:633,600, and in May 1839 at a scale of 1:253,440, based on a new Ordnance Survey map directed by Thomas Aiskew Larcom.

This quarter-inch geological map established Griffith's reputation as "the father of Irish geology." The map underwent continuous revision before 1855 and was featured at the Universal Exhibition in Paris that year. Despite Griffith's efforts, he was not appointed as director of the official Geological Survey of Ireland, established by the government in April 1845.