“Mad as a March Hare”

Rabbits are often associated with the months of March and April, due to role the ‘Easter Bunny’ plays in delivering chocolate to children at Easter. However, the animal which most resembles the rabbit – the hare – also comes to mind in March, thanks to the English expression “as mad as a March hare”. This phrase was popularised in the late 19th century by Lewis Carroll’s inclusion of the character, the March Hare, in Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, but it was in existence long before that, having been used by poets such as John Skelton in the sixteenth century.

Lewis Carroll: “Alice’s adventures in Wonderland”. Illustrated by John Tenniel (London, 1866) Shelfmark: Press K.3.7

Lewis Carroll: “Alice’s adventures in Wonderland”. Illustrated by John Tenniel (London, 1866) Shelfmark: Press K.3.7

The origin of the idiom is straightforward: the hare’s breeding season is around the month of March, when its behaviour becomes unusually excited and energetic, causing the hare to jump into the air and dart around for no apparent reason. Lewis Carroll’s protagonist comments, before her first meeting with the March Hare, “perhaps as this is May it won’t be raving mad – at least not so mad as it was in March.” (Chap. 6)



Now on display in the foyer of the Berkeley Library are three very different images of hares, from the 17th and 20th centuries.

John Jonston: “Historiae naturalis de quadrupedibus” Frankfurt, [1650] Shelfmark: Fag.M.4.51

John Jonston: “Historiae naturalis de quadrupedibus”
Frankfurt, [1650] Shelfmark: Fag.M.4.51

These include Matthaeus Merian’s engraving for John Jonston’s “Historia animalis de quadrupedibus”, showing a common hare as well as a species of a hare with horns which by the end of the 18th century had been proved not in fact to exist.

Jonston’s work was published thirty years after another important book about animals, by Conrad Gesner, whose illustration of a hare is also shown here.

Conrad Gesner: “Historiae animalium liber primus de quadrupedibus viviparis”. 2nd ed. (Frankfurt, 1620) Shelfmark: OO.bb.14

Conrad Gesner: “Historiae animalium liber primus de quadrupedibus viviparis”. 2nd ed. (Frankfurt, 1620) Shelfmark: OO.bb.14









The other pictures of hares which can be viewed in the case at the entrance to the Berkeley Library are one of Agnes Miller Parker’s illustrations for H.E. Bates book “Through the woods” (London, 1936) and Rene Cloke’s colourful depiction of the Mad Hatter’s tea party in the picture-book version of “Alice in Wonderland” published by Dean in 1969.

Shhh! The Secret Wonder of Down Under

Dating from 1626 the title page of ‘Iovrnael vande Nassausche vloot …’ is illustrated with what appears to be an underwhelming map of the world. The work is an account of Admiral Jacques L’Hermite’s voyage to the East Indies, which left Texel in April 1623 before reaching the Bay of Nassau, charting its environs including the Hermite Islands. However its importance to the history of exploration cannot be underestimated as it is the first printed map to show the discovery of the Australian coast. In an effort to give prominence to the new land, this oval map is an early example of a South Atlantic centered representation of the world. Labelled ‘t Land Eendracht, it portrays Dirk Hartog’s landing at Shark Bay in 1616 and is attributed to either L’Hermite’s navigator, Johann van Walbeck, or the publisher Hessel Gerritsz.

Title page from Iovrnael vande Nassausche vloot

Iovrnael vande Nassausche vloot … (Amsterdam, 1626) Shelfmark: Fag.B.9.2

Hartog sailed from Holland as master of the ship Eendracht in January 1616 for the East Indies. Blown off course, the ship arrived at the Cape of Good Hope before taking a southerly route across the Indian Ocean and landing on the west coast of Australia. Hartog’s discovery led to the fabled land mass Terra Australis Incognita (unknown land in the South) being referred to on Dutch maps as ‘t Land van de Eendracht or Eendracht’s Land for the next 150 years. Subsequent and more detailed discoveries by the British would rename the territory Australia.

The map illustrating Hartog’s landing was printed ten years after his voyage. Accounts of the expedition did not materialise in print until 1635 in ‘Journael gehouden door …’ by Seyger van Rechteren. The large time lag can be explained by a reluctance of the East India Company (VOC) to reveal any new discoveries or lucrative trade routes.t'Land Eendracht In the 1620s the VOC was on its way to becoming the largest global trading business until its decline in the mid-17th century. So guarded in fact were the Dutch that very few references to Australia appeared on maps before the 1640s, making this 1626 publication all the more exciting.


An tSeachtain Glas 2015: The Roots of Irish Sustainable Forestry

Vale of Ovoca, from the Octagon House. From "Picturesque Sketches of some of the finest Landscape and Coast Scenery of Ireland" (Dublin, 1835). Shelfmark: V.g.29

Vale of Ovoca, from the Octagon House. From ‘Picturesque Sketches of some of the finest Landscape and Coast Scenery of Ireland’ (Dublin, 1835). Shelfmark: V.g.29

Trinity College Dublin hosts their 13th annual Green Week from the 16th to the 20th of February this year, and we are all encouraged to “Go Green in 2015!” Sustainability on campus and as a research direction is very important to the University and this has inspired our Green Week exhibition currently on display in the Berkeley foyer. A selection of titles shows the use of silviculture, or forest management, in Ireland from the 12th century up to early state forestry in the 20th century.

Early written references to tree planting in Ireland date back to the late 12th century when Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales) described yew trees planted about churches and cemeteries for ornament and shelter. From the 16th century, an increase in industry and agriculture resulted in the decline of woodland and forest areas. Forest management was necessary to sustain future demand and pamphlets and books were published on the subject.

The first major work on the topic of Silviculture in Ireland was written by Samuel Hayes, who forested his own estate at Avondale, Co. Wicklow in the 1770s. His ‘A practical treatise on planting; and the management of woods and coppices’ (Dublin, 1794) was written for the Dublin Society and encouraged the preservation of woods and the extension of plantations.

Extensive demesne planting occurred on Irish estates in the 18th century. Originally formal layouts were preferred, but with the introduction of ‘natural style’ landscape parks in the 1740s planting increased to achieve ‘natural’ woodland features. The “Vale of Ovoca, from the Octagon House” (top) shows dense plantations on the hills that provided not only an aesthetically pleasing view, but also an annual income of £600. More scenic landscapes can be seen in ‘Picturesque Sketches of some of the finest Landscape and Coast Scenery of Ireland’ (Dublin 1835).

State forestry began in Ireland in 1903 and the first forestry school was established at Avondale, the former estate of Samuel Hayes, in 1904. Today the objective of the Forest Service is that all timber produced in Ireland should be derived from sustainably managed forests.

For more on Green Week activities in the Library check out the alerts page. Selected items from the collections will be featured on this blog throughout the week.

Martians, detectives and ghosts – all in a day’s work

In January the Department welcomed School of English students from the sophister option ‘Martians, Detectives and Ghosts’ to the reading room with Assistant Professor, Dr. Clare Clarke. The visit gave the group an opportunity to view early editions of core texts related to their course. For more about the visit and to learn what the students thought of their excursion, please see the School of English Facebook page.

The Golden Lion and its silver swag: a Kerry tale of adventure

Regular readers of our blog might recall a piece relating to Lady Margaret Barrymore which was published in September 2014. She now returns with her husband, Thomas Crosbie, M.P. for Dingle, in a swashbuckling tale that features a rare ballad from the Burgage Collection.

On October 28th 1730, the Danish ship The Golden Lion hit stormy weather off the Kerry coast on its voyage from Copenhagen to the Indian port of Tranquebar. Thomas Crosbie came to the aid of the stranded ship and its captain Johan Heitman at Ballyheigue by beating off a scavenging mob and sheltering the crew on his nearby estate. The cargo was recovered and stored on Crosbie’s land. It included 12 chests of silver, the majority of which was the property of the Danish East India Company and valued at c. £20,000. With his health suffering after the exertions of saving the crew, Crosbie died a short time later. By early 1731 after an eventful few months the widow Lady Barrymore initiated salvage claims to the cargo which resulted in her being awarded £4,000. The drama however was only beginning!

In early June 1731 events took a spectacular turn when the Crosbie property was stormed by a gang of over 60 men who made away with the chests and killed at least two Danish guards in the process. Even though half the silver was recouped with the help of Francis Ryan, a ring-leader of the gang, the balance remains unaccounted for to this day.

Pue's Occurrences

Pue’s Occurrences, (June 1731) reports ‘about 200 men’ were involved in the raid. Shelf mark: IN.18.42.

Establishing who was behind the robbery became a sensational news story. Suspicion soon fell on the Crosbies and other landed gentry about their role in the missing silver. The close relationship between the investigating authorities (local magistrate Sir Maurice Crosbie was a nephew of the recently deceased Thomas) and the suspects, coupled with Lady Barrymore’s dubious salvage claims, rightly concerned Captain Heitman. His confidence in the resulting Kerry verdict was low and he moved that the case be heard in Dublin. Proceedings eventually opened in November 1735 resulting in the acquittal of conspirators Arthur Crosbie, cousin of Thomas, Archdeacon Francis Lauder and his wife Bridget. Much to Captain Heitman’s dismay Lady Margaret was never charged with involvement. He returned in defeat to Denmark in 1740 aged 77 and passed away a short time later.

The events inspired the composition of this rare ballad from the Burgage collection.

OLS-x-1-924-no 21_01 (2)

‘An excellent new ballad on the county of Kerry jury’ [Dublin, c.1735]. Shelf mark OLS X-1-924 no.21

The collection came to the library in 1979 from Terence Vigors of Burgage, Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow. The verse shown is one of seven poems and ballads from the collection not recorded in Foxon, D.F. ‘English verse, 1701-1750′.

TAP Workshops Hosted by the Library

We are delighted to welcome children from three Dublin primary schools to the Library for a series of workshops on 13th January 2015. These workshops are the starting point of the annual Bookmarks Programme organised by staff from TAP (Trinity Access Programmes) in Trinity College. In one of these workshops the children — from Our Lady of Lourdes National School, Inchicore; Our Lady of Good Counsel Boys’ National School, Drimnagh; and St. Mary’s Boys’ National School, Haddington Road — will be shown books from the Pollard Collection, a collection of more than 10,000 children’s books bequeathed to the Library by Mary Pollard, former Keeper of Early Printed Books.

Miss Pollard’s collection of schoolbooks had been purchased by the Library thirty years earlier. Three needlework textbooks from that collection are currently on display in the exhibition case at the entrance to the Berkeley Library. The book on agriculture which accompanies them is one of many schoolbooks which have been acquired to supplement the Pollard Schoolbook Collection.

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The books shown here were all issued by the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, the publisher of the bulk of the textbooks used in Irish schools during the mid- to late 19th century. They are notable for their careful attention to detail and balanced approach, especially in potentially controversial subjects such as religious education.