(London: Printed for J. Debrett, 1794). 222 x 132 mm. (8 3/4 x 5 1/4"). lxii, , 226 pp. FIRST EDITION.
Pleasing contemporary red straight-grain morocco, covers with gilt floral chain border, raised bands flanked by gilt rules, spine panels with gilt star tool, gilt-rolled turn-ins, all edges gilt. WITH A FINE FORE-EDGE PAINTING OF THE GALWAY WATERFRONT. Front flyleaf with author's ink presentation inscription to Sackville Hamilton; front pastedown with armorial bookplate of Ferdinand M. McVeagh. Kress Library 2783. Spine lightly soiled, joints and extremities a bit rubbed, isolated mild foxing or offsetting in the text bed, otherwise a very appealing copy, the text fresh and clean, the attractive binding sound, and THE FORE-EDGE PAINTING BRIGHT, with no signs of fading.
This collection of essays by an Irish Catholic writer who nevertheless supported union with England comprises unusually serious content for a book adorned with a fore-edge painting, but the lively scene of the Galway docks is at least geographically an appropriate embellishment. MacKenna (d. 1808) wrote numerous pamphlets promoting a moderate unionist platform combined with an easing of the "popery" laws that placed restrictions on Catholic citizens. He was firmly opposed to the republicans arguing for an independent Ireland, and one of his most famous essays (included here) was his 1793 response to republican leader Wolfe Tone: "An Essay on Parliamentary Reform, and the Evils likely to ensue from a Republican Constitution in Ireland." Our copy was inscribed by the author to the Anglo-Irish politician Sackville Hamilton (1732-1818), who served as a pro-union MP in the Irish House of Commons and as Under-Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Most fore-edge paintings are very difficult to date, but this one can be tentatively ascribed to the middle of the 19th century, since the painting is based on topographical artist William Bartlett's "Galway City Viewed from the Claddagh," which appeared in the 1841 book "The Scenery and Antiquities of Ireland." In it, we see fishing boats at docks on the River Corrib, the fishermen unloading their wares, and the fishwives arriving with baskets to take the catch to market. The river itself is choppy where its mouth meets Galway Bay, a gothic-arched bridge spans it, and its far bank is lined with stone buildings, including the old guard tower, with the cathedral just beyond. Our volume was later owned by Ferdinand M. McVeagh (1789-1866), High Sheriff of County Meath and author of "The United Irishman." (ST15811)
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PJP Catalog: 76.137