This atlas of manuscript plans (frontispiece and thirty-three drawings in pencil, ink, and wash) is one of a set of eight oblong folio volumes comprising a complete survey of the estates in County Kildare, Ireland, of James FitzGerald (1722-1773), 20th Earl of Kildare and 1st Duke of Leinster. The eight volumes came to light in November 1963, when the set was offered for sale as separate lots in a Sotheby’s auction. The atlases of the manors of manors of Athy (1756) and Kildare (1757) afterwards migrated into the Library of Trinity College Dublin; Castledermot (1758) into the National Library of Ireland; Woodstock (1756) into the British Library; Maynooth (1757) into Cambridge University Library; and Graney (1758) into the British Art Center of Yale University. Until recently, the atlas of the manor of Kilkea (1760) here offered for sale could not be located; the atlas of the manor of Rathangan (1760) is still lost.
The identities of the draughtsmen who collaborated to produce the eight volumes of the Kildare estate survey are not all known. In the entire set of 170 plans, only one frontispiece and three cartouches are signed. That signed frontispiece is a virtuoso drawing by Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1740-1808), who went on to become ‘one of the finest painters ever to come out of Ireland’ (Crookshank & Glin). Hamilton’s “little masterpiece” occurs in the atlas of the manor of Kilkea, here offered for sale. The three signed cartouches also appear in the Kilkea atlas. They contain views of local houses and landscape and were drawn by an Irish surveyor, Matthew Wren. The unsigned map decoration in the Kilkea atlas is here divided between Hamilton (twenty-seven sheets) and Wren (three sheets).