Shapes of Ireland is the first book-length historical study of the mapping of Ireland as a whole. It examines nine early maps of special importance, each epitomizing the best geographical knowledge of its day. The maps are chosen to span the period from the mid sixteenth century, when Ireland's internal geography first became the subject of a general consensus, to the arrival of the Ordnance Survey in the early Victorian Period. The cartographers represented are Gerard Mercator (1564), Baptista Boazio (1599), John Speed (1610), William Petty (1685), Henry Pratt (1708), Thomas Jefferys (1759), Daniel Beaufont (1792), Aaron Arrowsmith (1811) and Thomas Larcom (1839).
In Shapes of Ireland each cartographer's professional mentors, disciples and competitors receive attention, and each map's construction, subject-matter and style are analyzed in detail. Apart from their technical interest, maps in general are revealed as products of social and economic forces, and as expressions of a country's geographical personality.