Ordnance Survey letters
[Here will go a selection of John O'Donovan's Ordnance Survey letters (along with an introduction providing an account of the Irish Ordnance Survey), however, at this stage this is not the main focus of what we want to do — which is the Penny Journal material and the overall architecture and kitting-out of the website.]
What follows (below) is taken (mainly) from the biographical entry for Thomas Frederick Colby, the director of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, in the Dictionary of Irish Biography and, further below (on the Ordnance Survey 'Name Books') a little bit from timeline.ie; as I say, for now, what I'm putting here are just 'holding items' while I attempt to build the site.
Colby, Thomas Frederick (1784-1852). Army officer (Royal Engineers), administrator, superintendent of the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain and Ireland. Almost the whole of Colby’s career was with the Ordnance Survey, from three weeks after his graduation from the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in 1802 through to retirement with the rank of Major-General in 1846. In 1803 a shooting accident with a pistol — pistol loaded with shot exploded in his hand during shooting practice — resulted in the amputation of his left hand and some disfigurement to the side of his head. The Ordnance Survey was established in 1791 however the wars with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France meant that survey work was interrupted. Colby made his bones, so to say, surveying Scotland in the 18-teens, rising to become chief executive officer of the survey before (following the retirement of his mentor General William Mudge) being appointed superintendent in 1820; Colby was commissioned to start up the survey of Ireland in 1824. Colby’s period in Ireland (1824–38) determined the whole character of official mapping in Ireland. Besides developing improved measuring equipment and methods — he was determined that the work be conducted on under direct official supervision, instead of being sub-contracted out, to which end he raised three companies of sappers and mining engineers to be trained in survey duties — he developed the survey’s role beyond the immediate needs of rateable valuation into an unprecedented research programme: to produce a unified six-inches-to-the-mile map of all Ireland, printed and published for public sale, and amplified (in ‘memoirs’ recording topographic, historic, and even linguistic data) into a comprehensive data-set for physical, sociological, and economic reference. Reconciling accuracy, comprehensiveness, and progress was not easy (leading to clashes with his deputy Thomas Lacrom and with Richard Griffiths, who was conducting a rateable valuation survey of Irish property at the same time, and with Thomas Drummond, head of the civil service in Ireland). Nevertheless, the six-inch map (published 1833–46) was a milestone in map-making (1,939 sheets altogether). Colby returned to London in 1838, moving (with ordnance survey headquarters) to Southampton in 1842, but continued active involvement with the Irish survey until his retirement in 1846. He was an active member of the Royal Irish Academy and a fellow of the Royal Society, the Geological Society, and the Royal Astronomical Society. The Colbys lived in Mountjoy Square, Dublin (1828–30) and in Knockmaroon Lodge, near survey headquarters in Phoenix Park (1830–38); he died (in October 1852) at New Brighton, Cheshire. (Dictionary of Irish Biography — Colby entry by Richard Hawkins; DNB; Boase; see also J. E. Portlock, Memoir of the life of Major-general Colby . . . (1869); Sir Charles Close, The early years of the ordnance survey (1926; new ed., 1969) (portr.); J. H. Andrews, A paper landscape (1975); G. L. Herries Davies, Sheets of many colours (1983).)
[The following is from timeline.ie (http://timeline.ie/the-ordnance-survey-name-books/)] One of the functions [. . .] of the Ordnance Survey was to name the geographical features, prominent buildings and landmarks of each townland so that these could be included on the Ordnance Survey Maps when they were eventually published. This task was given-over to a number of Topographical, or Names Experts. [. . .] The ‘Topographical’ information was collected in a series of books, one for each of the parishes of Ireland. These books are known as the Ordnance Survey Name Books.
Information for each townland was collected and written into the Name Book under five headings: the received name, the name finally adopted for the townland and the one placed onto the 6-inch Ordnance Survey Map in 1837. The Name Book also provided the Irish form of the name and in many instances what the Irish form of the townlands’ names meant. This was the last stage of the ‘Topographical’ process. John O’Donovan [. . .] was the Ordnance Survey’s overall Names Expert. It was O’Donovan’s responsibility to enter all the Irish versions of names into the Names Books, in addition to the English spelling recommended for the published maps. For this reason the Ordnance Survey of Ireland Names Books are sometimes referred to as O’Donovan’s Names Books.
The orthography, section of the Names Books provides the various spellings for each townland or place and the authority section gives the source from which these variations were derived. This was a controversial part of the Survey, especially in the Irish-speaking areas. Thomas Larcom [the Survey’s deputy-director, the person to whom O’Donovan answered] had a clear policy when it came to the variant spellings and meanings of Irish place-names, which was to adopt ‘the version which came closest to the original Irish form of the name’. This showed ‘a well-intentioned deference to the Irishness of Irish place-names’. [. . .] For the names of demesnes and houses, the only authority sought was that of the owner of the property.
The final section, entitled observations, can provide a wealth of information. Commonly this includes the main topographical features, both natural and man made, the name of the owner, the rents levied on the landlord’s tenants, the type of crops grown, type of soil. Individual observations are made on large houses, churches and geographical features of note all of which provide a valuable description of every townland in Ireland in the 1830s.
In addition to the 6-inch maps and Names Books other manuscript material associated with the conduct of the Ordnance Survey includes fair plan maps, field contents books, employment books and city maps. The original 6-inch maps can now be viewed online at www.maps.osi.ie