Harris: Hibernica

Pdf Harris, Walter. Hibernica. Dublin: Milliken, 1770
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Walter Harris (1686-1761) was an Irish historian who also worked for the Bishop of Meath. He was educated at Kilkenny Grammar School and Trinity College Dublin. He married Elizabeth Ware in 1716, great-grand-daughter of the historian Sir James Ware, and became vicar-general to the Archbishop of Meath in 1753.

In the 1730s, along with others of his time, he decided to compile and publish histories of all Irish counties. He also started to revise and republish the historical and topographical writings of Sir James Ware concerning Ireland, establishing a seminal body of Ango-Irish works, translating them from Latin. The first to be published was Historiographorum Aliorumque Scriptorum Hiberniae Commentarium: or, a history of the Irish writers (Dublin, 1736). To increase the attractiveness of these books he commissioned drawings of buildings and their contents from Jonas Blaymire.  

In the 1740s he was involved with the Physico-Historical Society, a similar society to the Royal Dublin Society. In 1752, he bitterly attacked a book by John Curry published in London in 1747, a Brief Account from the most authentic Protestant writers of the Irish Rebellion, 1641, which was against anti-Catholic history.

Partly financed by the Irish Parliament, he published a collection of early modern political tracts from old manuscripts under the title Hibernica (2 volumes, Dublin, 1747, 1750).

Hibernica contained everything from historical events, economic and political commentary to culture, sociological factors and geography. With Sir James Ware’s and his son Robert’s manuscripts at hand, he had the definitive information available to him. Every detail, academic and incidental, was selected and transferred into Harris’ work. Surveys and maps were included to aid the reader. Later writings were compared to Hibernica and criticised for omitting details included by Harris.

He died at his house in Clarendon St., Dublin, in 1761. In 1766, his work The history and antiquities of the city of Dublin was published.

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