A free exhibition at the Irish Architectural Archive for National Heritage Week will reveal how Dublin looked in the late eighteenth-century, writes Rachel Cunningham.
Over 200 years before Google Street View, architectural draughtsman James Malton (1765-1803) created a portrait of Dublin. In a series of 25 prints, he depicted some of Dublin’s best-known buildings, including the Custom House and the Four Courts, which were newly built at the time.
Embarking on this ambitious project in the 1780s, the drawings were completed by 1791, with the engraved versions published in six parts between 1792 and 1799.
A complete set, entitled A Picturesque View of the City of Dublin, appeared in 1799 with accompanying text. The work was dedicated to the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, Sheriffs, Common-Council, Freemen and Citizens of Dublin.
James Malton initially travelled to Ireland in 1769 to accompany his father, who was an English architectural draughtsman, and he was later employed by the famous architect James Gandon while he was working on Dublin’s Custom House.
The Act of Union in 1800 marked the slow decline of the fortunes of the city and Mr Malton, who died in 1803, did not reap the financial benefits of his work. However, the prints show his skilled eye for architecture, detail and perspective, and the series stands as an important historical record Dublin at the height of Georgian pomp.