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Smith’s Ancient and Present State of the County of Kerry, 1756

What is inside?

Charles Smith's Ancient and Present State of the County of Kerry was originally privately published by Smith in 1756 and represents the last of his works before his death in 1762. This digital republication of the Ancient and Present State of the County of Kerry contains some 470 pages and is fully-searchable. Smith was born in 1715 and studied and Trinity College, Dublin, from where he qualified as a doctor and practised as an apothecary in the Dungarvan area of County Waterford. However, Smith is now best remembered as one of Ireland's earliest topographers and writers of county histories and this role as 'county historian and topographer' can be traced to two societies in Dublin, namely the Dublin Society and the Dublin Philosophical Society. The latter Society was founded in 1683, but both societies had as a general aim to encourage serious research in the main by gentleman scholars. Amongst the first members of the Dublin Philosophical Society was its first president, Sir William Petty and secretary William Molyneux. In 1731 the newly-founded Dublin Society, which included amongst its members many of the leading antiquarians of the days called for the landed gentry of Ireland to take more interest in their surroundings and to record items of interest in a more professional manner. To this end, members of the Society decided to embark upon a project to collect, through a series of questionnaires, sufficient material to publish a book to be entitles Hibernia: Ancient and Modern. Although this never came to fruition, a number of county histories were eventually published, the first of which, a history of County Down, was put into print in 1744 and was jointly edited by Walter Harris and Charles Smith. Histories of County Waterford and Cork City and County quickly followed, but the Society's ambitious plan to follow this series through for every county of Ireland fell far short and before publishing a further county history, the Dublin Philosophical Society ceased in 1756 and Smith was left, in the same year, to privately print the Ancient and Present State of the County of Kerry. Like the other county histories published at this time much of what was written was dependent on the respondents to the questionnaires and the quality and accuracy of their replies. It was also said that Smith tended to embellish the accounts of certain gentlemen and their seats if he had been provided with a good dinner and entertainment by the gentleman in question. However, recent research has tended to look more kindly on Smith's work and although far from scientific in any modern sense, what they do record has tended to be more or less accurate. The digital republication of Charles Smith's Ancient and Present State of the County of Kerry is replete with handwritten MSS notes by the well-known local historian Mary Agnes Hickson (the former owner of the book) which adds to the flavour of this 470 page fully searchable history, which now being some 250 years old is amongst the first serious topographical history of the county.

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