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Ireland in the 16th century

As previously mentioned, we went to the Mercator musem a few weeks ago; and I was very intrigues by this 16th century Italian map of Ireland, apparently by the Roman cartographer Lafreri (possibly a Frenchman whose name was Lafréry).

I wonder how many places we can identify?

Lafreri Ireland
This being my home territory, I can make a few guesses.

"HULTONIA" is Ultonia, meaning Ulster.
"Logh Herne" is Lough Erne.
"Banda flu." is the River Bann.

"Donagal" looks at first sight like it is meant to be Donegal town; and it's tempting to identify "Leche" to the south with Laghey, which is however only a short distance from Donegal; and what then of "Afroye"? What of "Tellin" and "Ara" (??Ardara)? And surely "Sligach", just a bit anti-clockwise around the coast from the estuary of the river Erne, is our Sligo, which is also not so far from the estuary of the Erne - but inconveniently south of Donegal rather than north? Indeed, "Tonerella" looks a closer match to Donegal town.

"Norbowrowe" has me baffled, but the "Purgatoriū S. Patricij" is obviously St Patrick's Purgatory on Lough Derg, and "Swylly" and "Foyle" are rivers/inlet loughs rather than towns.

On the lower Bann, I must say I'm stuck to find place names that could be "Band****" of which the last letters are illegible, or indeed "Lampreston" - let alone "Racheres", "Wolwofrith" or the island of "Donselus" (which is roughly, but only very roughly, in the right place for Rathlin).

Then it gets easier - "Knokfergos" is obviously Carrickfergus, "Magynows" is the County Down heartland of the Magennis clan, "Isannium Pr" appears to be the Ards Peninsula, and "Stranford" and "Armach" are fairly obviously Strangford and Armagh.

Lafreri Ireland E

This is pretty easy; continuing down the cast, with little change from the modern spelling, we have Ardglass, Greencastle, Dundalk and Drogheda, with Navan, Trim and Mullingar inland from the last of these. (Dundalk is on the Castletown River, Abhainn Chaisleán Dhún Dealgan in Irish, which doesn't look a lot like Lafreri's "Dongale").

Farther down, I'm not at all sure about "Brúnor", "Greenok" or "Ledepe" but "Holmpadryk insule" are the Skerries off Skerries, onme of which is St Patrick's Island, and the others are obviously enough Lambay, Ireland's Eye and Howth (which was probably a peninsula rather than an island at that point).

Continuing south, we have Dublin itself, Bray Head, Kildare, Leighlin, Wicklow, Arklow, [New] Ross, and - one last puzzle - "Blascarryk".

Lafreri Ireland S

I'm going to confusingly go right to left here, west to east, but it's consistent with going clockwise round the island.

In County Wexford, the town itself escapes notice but I'm pretty sure that "Fodirt" is Fethard. "Suirus" is the mislabelled River Suir, and Kilkenny, Thomastown, Waterford and Dungarvan are pretty clear.

The towns on the real (as opposed to mislabelled) Suir are a bit confused - "Charigeu" must be Carrick-onSuir, "Clemel" Clonmel, "Carrick" actually Cahir, and "Cassel" Cashel.

After the relatively clear nomenclature of the east coast, we are back in the wilds from Cork on. "Balycotyn", anyone? "Enchilford"? I can see at least Baltimore, Cape Clear, Berehaven, Dingle and the Blaskets, but my Munster geography is not all that great. Swinging back north again we have Limerick, Galway and, far inland, Athlone.

Lafreri Ireland W

Finally, the Wild West. (And let's bear in mind that this area is north of Galway and south of Donegal). There are ten place names on this part of the map, and the only one I can identify is the somewhat misplaced Armagh. Can you do any better?

The lesson here, of course, is not to sneer at the heroic efforts of early modern cartographers to put names to places they (and most of their customers) would never visit, but to consider how the perception of Ireland's geography has changed over the centuries. For a 16th-century merchant of Rome, a vague sense of the relative dispositions of Ardglass, Dundalk, Dublin and Dungarvan was much more important than knowing whether Sligo was north of Donegal or vice versa. Today we think we have nice objective measures to tell us where we ought to be. But are we missing some of the human dimension that Lafreri, perhaps unintentionally, captured half a millennium ago?


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 25th, 2014 12:10 am (UTC)
I'd bet (small amounts of) money that "Ioghel" is Youghal, "Balycotyn" is Ballycotton (albeit in the wrong topological relationship to "Corck"), "Crochawin" is Crookhaven, and "Neucastle" is Newcastle West (albeit a lot further from "Lymryk" than it ought to be. Others are... more elusive. Then again, I'm a stranger here myself...
Nov. 25th, 2014 09:07 am (UTC)
"Ioghel" is Youghal, "Balycotyn" is Ballycotton

just what I came on to post.
Ballycotton is home to the famous 10 mile road race...
Nov. 25th, 2014 05:10 pm (UTC)
I wonder if "Ledepe" is "Leclepe" i.e. Leixlip?

In the southwestern chunk, "Aurí" is probably Athenry, Ath an Rí. As well as the Munster places already mentioned I can see Kinsale and Newcastle, along the coast Dursey island and I suspect "Quillines insule" of being the Skelligs. "S. gregorio" marks the Aran islands, apparently the legend is that St. Gregory was buried there.

"Kenlas" in the east must be Kells, the name of which went Ceanannas - > Kenlis -> Kells.
I think therefore "Kelly" in the Midwest is a clan territory rather than a town - there was an "O'Kelly's Country" in Roscommon/Galway.

"Ackylle insula" is Achill island. No idea what "Pontoy" is although it appears to be on Clew Bay. There is a village inland from there called Pontoon but no sign that it ever had a monastery or similar.

Coíon could maybe be Cong, where there was a mediaeval abbey, although in reality it's on Lough Corrib not on the coast. Rabran is probably Rathfran in Mayo where there was a Dominican priory. I am tempted to identify "Loghenk" with Lough Conn which is in the right general area.

I'm more inclined to think that it's Sligo that has been misplaced north and that "Donagal" is Donegal after all. "Tellim" then would be in the general area of Glencolumbkille and the two large islands off the Donegal coast perhaps Arranmore and Tory.

I suspect if we knew more about the ecclesiastical geography of Ireland in those days we could identify a few more.
Nov. 26th, 2014 08:36 am (UTC)

Damn forgot to come back and check.  Kinsale is there..what else.
Sending reminder.....

Nov. 27th, 2014 12:33 am (UTC)
Can't believe I missed "Kynsale"! (Actually, didn't even miss it on the map, just that it hadn't been mentioned to that point.)

"Balycotyn", as just pointed out to me by sammywol, is actually located much more like where Belgooly is. Creatively spelled, or creatively located? No idea.

I further wonder if the Argideen River that goes through Timoleague and Courtmacsherry isn't somehow, through any number of creative respellings, somehow related to (what might or might not be on the map as) "Eridilford".
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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