Gentle, Civill, Wilde, and Irish

If you thought it was cool that we have a detailed map of Dublin from 1754, then let me go one (century) better, and show you this one: John Speed’s map of Dublin from 1610. Isn’t it wonderful?! Click to make it bigger, then print it out, and walk around Dublin with it in front of your nose for an afternoon.

Here is one he did of the whole island. Click to make much bigger.

Wouldn’t it have been wonderful for us if he’d drawn some people wearing clothes at this time? Oh wait!

How cool is this! It’s a ‘carte a figures’, meaning that the map was embellished with drawings of people, and was a typically Dutch decoration of the time (Speed’s maps were produced by Dutch cartographers). It was just one of a number of carte a figures produced by Speed – this is a famous map of England, adorned with typical English people, that you can zoom in and around.

Image reproduced from Dunlevy. Click and zoom in on the colour map above for a painted version of the picture, which may help you see the overall outfits more clearly.

Three kinds of early seventeenth-century Irish people are dressed here – Gentle, Civill (non-military middle class), and Wilde. There is such a lot of detail represented here – far more than a blog post can describe – you can zoom right in. My favourite bit is the shoelaces in the top two portraits (the one of the ‘Gentleman’ who looks like V from V for Vendetta), which demonstrates the disposable wealth they were able to spend on fashionable shoes. The Gentlewoman is wearing a long necklace, which falls from her fancy ruffle collar. The Gentleman’s hat is a pretty familiar shape! The Civill man wears a doublet with cuffs, in a very similar style to this contemporary portrait of a tailor by Moroni. The main characteristic of the Civill woman is her modesty, and her chaste motherhood – can you spot the little baby she carries? The Wilde man’s funny leg coverings might be boots, or may be meant to represent trews – compare to the Killery or Kilcommon bog garments. The Wilde woman was described in Speed’s own words in his Theatre comments:

[they wear] shagge rugge mantles purfled [lined and bordered] with a deep Fringe of diuers colours…

But something makes this map, with its sextet of costumed Irish people, even more interesting. John Speed was a late starter in the world of cartography – he didn’t begin drawing maps properly until he was in his fifties. He was born in Cheshire, England in 1542, and for most of his life worked as a tailor in his father’s clothing business. Worked as a tailor! What better person to embellish his maps with contemporary textiles?

This entry was posted in bog clothes, john speed, maps, personalities, seventeenth century. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Gentle, Civill, Wilde, and Irish

  1. MweaG says:

    Holy crap, WOW!! Fantastic post, as per usual, and I’m a bit of a nut for maps, so this one was particularly good. I had a good look though, and can’t recognise anything in Kerry. Apart from the shape. Kinda. ;o) Amazing stuff, please please PLEASE keep up the good work! :oD

  2. These maps are fabulous! Thanks so much for sharing this!

  3. Catherine says:

    Absolutely stunning!!! … thankyou

  4. P B says:

    Everybody probably knows at this stage already but just in case, check the interactive map on, it is very good and very detailed but not very old, 19th century I think? The slider control is very good to see a comparison between then and now.

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