Skip to Main Content

Special Collections Subject Guides: Irish Studies

This subject guide provides an overview of the maps and atlases accessible through QUB Special Collections.


The material held by Special collections & Archives at Queen's University Belfast is a rich Irish Studies research resource. All major subjects relating to Ireland and Northern Ireland are covered within our collections including history, politics, literature, philology, economics, society and culture. 
Given the extent of Irish Studies related material in Special Collections & Archives, this guide is intended to reflect some of the highlights within the manuscript, book and map collections.

Hibernica Collection (Irish Studies Print Collection)

The Hibernica Collection is a substantial collection of monographs, periodicals and pamphlets of general Irish interest and/or origin, being strongest in history and literature. Officially established in 1929 with a deposit of 1000 volumes from the personal library of R.M. Henry (Professor of Latin at Queen's, 1908-38), the collection now represents the largest single subject division held in Special Collections containing in excess of 35,500 volumes and pamphlets dating from the mid 19th century to the present day. All major subjects relating to Ireland and Northern Ireland are covered including history, politics, literature, philology, economics, society and culture. 
Titles in this collection, prefixed h/, can be found on the Library catalogue.

The Hibernica Collection includes comprehensive series of major Irish periodicals and journals. Titles include: Irish Historical Studies, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, James Joyce Quarterly, The Belfast Mercury; or, Freeman's chronicle, The Honest Ulsterman. 

Special Collections strives to make the Hibernica Collection as comprehensive as possible in all matters of Irish history. Purchases of new and old books and periodicals are made on a regular basis. All major periods in Irish history are covered. 

Suggested searches of the catalogue: 


Ireland--History--Easter Rising

Ireland--History--Civil War, 1922-1923

Refine by Location McClay Floor 1 (Special Collections) in order to access books in Special Collections only. 


Seamus HeaneyHeaney Manuscripts (MS 20)

These manuscripts are primarily composed of materials relating to Seamus Heaney's translation of the Old English epic 'Beowulf', including the original manuscript drafts and subsequent typescript drafts that trace the revision process, as well as late drafts and correspondence detailing the publication process and illustrating Heaney's consultation with academics. The collection also contains a small assortment of other writings and correspondence, interspersed with the Beowulf translation materials. These include drafts of lectures and other prose by Heaney, usually translating Beowulf. Also included are drafts of other poems composed during the period, including a number which were not subsequently collected, and may never have been published. 

Of particular interest are Heaney's student notebooks from 1957 when he was attending Queen's University (MS 20/7/1)

Belfast Creative Writing Group (MS 1/204)                                                                        Collection of typescripts in a folder marked "Complete file: Belfast Creative Writing Group 1963-6". A note on the folder states "Gift of Mr. Hobsbaum, creator of C.W.G.). Philip Hobsbaum (1932-2005) was a lecturer in the Faculty of Arts at Queen's University Belfast from 1962 to 1966. During that period he established the Belfast Creative Writing Group, or "The Group". Members included James Simmons, Stewart Parker, Bernard McClaverty, Michael Longley and Seamus Heaney. The folder contains 67 discrete items, all but one are typescripts by single authors. 

Lewis Correspondence (MS 56)

A collection of 11 letters from C.S. Lewis to Captain Bernard Acworth. In the series of letters, written between 1944 and 1960, Lewis explains, in response to Acworth’s views on the incompatibility of evolution and Christianity, his own views on the question of origins. The letters also contain references to some aspects of Lewis’s private life, including his marriage and visits to Donegal. 

Letter from C.S. Lewis to Anne Waller (MS 1/247)

In 1961 C.S. Lewis replied to 10 year old Anne Waller's enquiry about the meaning of the "Narnia" series of children's novels. The letter contains a brief explanation of the meaning behind the series handwritten and signed by C.S. Lewis. This reply was presented to Special Collections in 2006 by Anne Jenkins. 

Significant collection of personal and literary papers of Edith Somerville (1858-1949) and Violet Martin (1862-1915) alias “Somerville and Ross,” one of Ireland's most celebrated literary partnerships. An important and unique collection reflecting the lives, interests and work of the two authors, the Somerville & Ross Papers consist largely of diaries, correspondence, working papers, and draft manuscripts relating to the authors’ literary activities, personal interests and affairs. 

Papers of the Ulster writer and scholar, Helen Waddell (1889-1965). The collection consists of notes, translations, holograph and typescript manuscripts of published and unpublished works by Waddell, c 1909-47, and an extensive series of correspondence with the critic and historian George Saintsbury (1845-1933), c 1914-33.
Also includes Collection of 133 manuscript and typescript letters from 34 correspondents to Otto Kyllmann (d. 1958), senior partner of the publishing firm, Constable & Co., with typescript copies of 16 of his letters to various correspondents, and one note in his hand; the whole collection spanning the period 1900-1957 and arranged chronologically.

Special Collections holds numerous editions of Ulysses by James Joyce including a first edition published in 1922. It contains the following text: 

"This edition is limited to 1000 copies: 100 copies (signed) on Dutch handmade paper numbered from 1 to 100; 150 copies on Vergé d'Arches numbered from 101 to 250; 750 copies on handmade paper numbered from 251 to 1000. No. 526"-̈-leaf following title page.
"P̈rinted for Sylvia Beach by Maurice Darantiere at Dijon, France"-̈-Colophon.
The book includes original paper covers, bound in hard boards, with full green leather binding and gold tooling, and five raised bands on the spine. 
A number of books about the creation of Ulysses are also held in the collections. Search for Ulysses in the Library catalogue and refine by Location McClay Floor 1 (Special Collections)

The almost intact 18th century library of the author and antiquarian, Thomas Percy (1729-1811), Bishop of Dromore, Co. Down. Described at one time as the finest library in private hands in Ireland. 

The collection contains monographs, bound volumes of pamphlets and some manuscripts relating principally to English Literature (especially 16th and 17th century verse, Shakespearian controversies, ballad poetry), Gaelic and northern poetry and antiquities, and popular metrical and prose romances of Europe. 

The collection also reflects Percy's membership of Samuel Johnson's ''Literary Club' by including association or presentation copies from Johnson himself, Oliver Goldsmith, Edmond Malone, George Steevens, et al. Percy annotated his books extensively, one of the most interesting of which is a copy of the 3rd edition (1775) of his own work, 'The Reliques of Ancient English Poetry'. A unique item in the library is the earliest known English Gesta Romanorum (Deeds of the Romans), printed by Wynkyn de Worde during the early 16th century. 


Bunting Manuscript MS 4/29

Major collection of Irish musical manuscripts, notebooks and correspondence etc., concerning the work of Irish music collector and musician, Edward Bunting (1773-1843) arising out of the Belfast Harpers Festival of 1792 and published in 'A General Collection of Ancient Irish Music' (revised 1809 and 1840). The collection includes three editions of Bunting's 'A General Collection of Ancient Irish Music' (published in 1796, revised in 1809 and 1840) and the musical manuscripts of Irish traditional music which he compiled during the Belfast Harp Festival of 1792 and his subsequent travels around Ireland. The collection also contains Patrick Lynch's notebooks of Roman and Gaelic lyrics which he compiled for Bunting during a tour in 1802, and a folio of letters to Bunting. Digital Special Collections & Archives provides online access to a selection of manuscripts from the Bunting Collection. 

At approximately 1000 imprints, the Thomas Moore Collection is believed to be the largest collection of Thomas Moore ephemera, offering a near-complete coverage of Moore’s work with particular emphasis on variant editions, issues, and states of the Irish Melodies (circa 200 exemplars) as well as Lalla Rookh (circa 75 exemplars).  The collection was originally amassed by Andrew Gibson (b. 1841), a Scotsman who became a Governor of the Belfast Library and Society for Promoting Knowledge (the “Linenhall Library”) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. His multi-national Moore collection stands as a testament to the world-wide renown that this Dublin-born figure enjoyed.

All Moore Collection books are catalogued and contain the prefix Moore/ in the classmark.

The Gibson-Massie Collection is a collection of printed material which belonged to the book collector and bibliographer Andrew Gibson (1841-1931). Included are 186 chapbooks, mostly from Scotland and Ireland, with early nineteenth Irish examples (MS 37/3 & MS 37/4). The chapbooks contain numerous ballads and songs as well as poems, stories and jokes.

Collection of holograph manuscripts of the composer and conductor, Sir Hamilton Harty (1879-1941) featuring full and part scores to a range of orchestral and choral pieces composed or arranged by Harty, c 1900-1939. Included in the collection are arrangements of Handel and Berlioz, whose performances of which Harty was most noted, and autograph manuscripts of approx. 48 original works including ‘Symphony in D (Irish)’ (1915), ‘The Children of Lir’ (c 1939), ‘In Ireland, A Fantasy for flute, harp and small orchestra’ and ‘Quartet in F for 2 violins, viola and ‘cello’ for which he won the Feis Ceoil prize in 1900. The collection also contains an incomplete autobiographical memoir, letters, telegrams, photographs and various typescript copies of lectures and articles by Harty on Berlioz and piano accompaniment, c 1926-c 1936. The collection also includes a set of 5 scrapbooks containing cuttings from newspapers and periodicals, letters, photographs, autographs etc by or relating to Harty, compiled by his sisters-in-law, Olive and Nell Baguley.


Antrim Presbytery

Collection of theological, philosophical and literary works ranging from the 16th to 18th centuries, maintained and accumulated by the Presbyterian congregations in Belfast and Antrim, 1765-1873, for the purposes of local intellectuals and Presbyterian ministers. 

Including items on theology, philosophy and religion, the collection is notable for its material on the classics, civil and ecclesiastical history and politics. The majority of these titles date from before 1800. Items of later dates (19th century) include mainly published sermons and addresses produced locally. 

Cardinal Cahal Daly (1917-2009) bequeathed his entire personal library to Queen's in 2009. It is a collection of ten thousand books, journals and pamphlets, mostly of theological, philosophical, and Irish historical and cultural interest.

Irish Language

MacAdam Manuscript

Extant manuscript for English-Irish Dictionary of Ulster Irish compiled for and in association with the Belfast born industrialist and Gaelic Scholar, Robert Shipboy MacAdam (1808-95). The manuscript consists of some 23 folios arranged alphabetically and containing results of MacAdam's attempts to compile an English-Irish Dictionary in collaboration with the native Irish speaker, Hugh MacDonnell of Co. Meath. 

Books collected and sometimes authored or annotated by the distinguished Celtic scholar, T.F. O'Rahilly (1883-1953). The main focus of the collection is Irish culture and language. The collection includes a number of texts which study the language, its various dialects and grammar. 

The majority of texts are in English and Irish, many are in old Irish script. There is also a focus on the history of Ireland, its poetry and song, and ancient Irish folklore. 

Scots Gaelic, Welsh and Breton are also featured in the collection.

All O'Rahilly Collection books contain the prefix O'Rahilly/ in the classmark. 

Collection of Irish manuscripts and printed books annotated by the distinguished Celtic Scholar, T.F. O’Rahilly (1883-1953). A relatively small assemblage of material, the books are extensively annotated by O'Rahilly and include a range of titles on Irish dialect, grammar and Irish Literature, dating from c 1849-1937. Among the authors featured are Brian Merriman (1749-1805), Joseph Henry Lloyd, Peter O'Leary (1839-1920), John O'Tuomy, Pierce Fitzgerald and John Clarach MacDonald. An annotated draft of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland is to be found within the collection in addition to a manuscript inscription from Eamon DeValera thanking O'Rahilly for his assistance on it. The collection also includes a miscellaneous series of other papers and correspondence. Of the correspondence can be found 15 letters from D.J. O'Sullivan to O'Rahilly, 1926-28, regarding O'Sullivan's edition of the Bunting Collection of Irish Music (QUB MS/4) (MS1/237). Also included are letters from George Russell to O'Rahilly concerning state financial support for Gaelic scholarship (MS1/236).

History/ Politics

John Foster Baron OrielCollection of 18th century pamphlets, magazines and reports etc., compiled by John Foster, Baron Oriel  (1740-1828), last Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. An important and unique assemblage of materials, the collection was compiled by Foster during his years of high political office in both the Irish and  British Houses of Parliaments. The main focus of the collection concerns the major political pre-occupations  of the day, including Parliamentary Reform, Catholic Relief, trade and manufacture, the Act of Union and the state of the Irish nation. 

The collection is part of the Eighteenth Century Book Collection and denoted by the classmark w DA943 FOST.

Journal of Harriet Skeffington, 4th Countess of Massereene, describing her flight from Belfast, during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. She describes upheavel in Belfast and her journey from Portpatrick to the north of England, 6 Jun. - 20 Aug., 1798.

The Hibernica Book Collection, which is a substantial collection of monographs, periodicals and pamphlets of general Irish interest and/ origin, contains numerous texts on the history and politics of Northern Ireland and Ireland. 

Suggested searches in the catalogue:

Northern Ireland--Politics and government

Ireland--Politics and government

Ireland--History--Easter Rising

Refine by Location McClay Floor 1 (Special Collections) in order to access books in Special Collections only. 

Map Collections

Ewart Map 1567

Core Map Collection 1: The Ewart Map Collection

The Ewart Map Collection (c. 1567-1896), is a collection of 168 original maps and facsimiles of printed and manuscript maps of Ireland. The collection was originally assembled by Belfast collector and linen merchant, Lavens M. Ewart J. P. (1845-1898). It was formally presented to Queen's University in 1954 by Ewart's grandchildren, Dr. Vivian Lutwyche, Dr. Violet Lutwyche, and Miss Lenore Dawson. A number of complementary maps have been added to the collection since the original deposit. 

The collection is comprised of 4 main categories. These are: Ewart 1 - Maps of Ireland; Ewart 2 - Maps of the Provinces and Counties of Ireland; Ewart 3 - Maps of Individual Places within Ireland; and Ewart 4 - Maps and Plans of Belfast.

Digital Special Collections & Archives provides online access to a selection of maps from the Ewart Map Collection.

Core Map Collection 2: Hibernia Regnum Map Collection

The Hibernia Regnum Map Collection contains 289 facsimiles of the Down Survey of the Baronies of Ireland, 1655-1659.

The collection comprises two sets: Ulster and Munster; and Leinster and Connaught. Queen’s Special Collections holds 141 maps of the Ulster and Munster Provinces. Of these, there are 105 individual maps and 36 duplicates. The collection also houses 148 maps of the Leinster and Connaught Provinces. Of these, there are 109 individual maps and 39 duplicates.

Core Map Collection 3: Maps of the Escheated Counties of Ireland

The Maps of the Escheated Counties of Ireland is a collection of 31 facsimiles of old maps of Ireland. They were copied at the Ordnance Survey Office in Southampton and published by Colonel Sir Henry James, R.E., in 1861. 28 of these maps are the result of a survey directed by Sir Josias Bodley in 1609. The 3 maps entitled A Generalle Description of VlsterTyrone &c., and Tyrconnell &c. are earlier (c. 1603) and have been attributed to cartographer Richard Bartlett.

A full listing is available here.

These maps are also printed in a single bound volume which is available for consultation in the Special Collections & Archives Reading Room. Please see our catalogue for bibliographical details. This item contains coloured versions of the 31 below listed maps with the exception of The Baronie of Omey, which is missing from the volume.

Digital Special Collections & Archives provides online access to the Maps of the Escheated Counties of Ireland. 

Read more about these maps on the Special Collections blog.


Other Maps and Atlases

In addition to these collections, Special Collections holds a wide range of maps and atlases relating to Ireland. These include Ordnance Survey maps of Ireland, the Irish Historic Towns Atlas series, Ulster and Other Irish Maps, and several versions of Petty's Maps of Ireland. All of the maps and atlases outside of the three core collections are searchable via the catalogue.

All of our maps and atlases are available for consultation in the Special Collections & Archives Reading Room. Please see our blog post and infographic guide for an overview of our holdings.

Genealogy/ Family History

A collection of Belfast and Northern Ireland street directories beginning in 1865 and ending in 1995. As detailed on the catalogue there are some missing issues. As well as containing names of individuals and businesses they contain numerous business advertisements. Most directories have details for Belfast and for the principal towns and villages in Ulster.

Special Collections holds a full set of Griffiths Valuations. 

The primary valuation of Ireland or Griffith's Valuation - carried out between 1848 and 1864 to determine to pay the Poor rate (for the support of the poor and destitute within each Poor Law Union) - provides detailed information on where people lived in mid-nineteenth century Ireland and the property they possessed. 

Further Reading