My 5x great uncle is known in the Cooper family as
the Antiquary, to distinguish him from the more than twenty other Austin Coopers who occur in the Cooper family tree. Austin
Austin Cooper FSA
In his lifetime he achieved high office in the Irish treasury, but he owes his lasting fame to his extracurricular interest in the ancient buildings of
. As he went about his work of collecting taxes and inspecting the British military institutions which peppered the Irish countryside, he began to sketch what he saw around him – the ruins of earlier fortifications, castles and abbeys, early churches and even prehistoric sites. Ireland
It must be said that my family has produced finer artists than he. But his drawings emphasise the fact that he had the eye of an antiquarian rather than that of an artist. He was a civil servant, a recorder of information; and the information that he left now forms, 180 years after his death, an invaluable record of
’s past. Ireland
Cloghleagh Castle, Co. Cork
(Austin Cooper in the coach with a military escort,
taking the Cork taxes back to Dublin)
All these men were however at the vanguard of the antiquarian movement which was part of the emergence of science as an academic discipline, a pursuit of knowledge for its own sake and for the better understanding of the human condition.
Cooper’s drawings and plans remained virtually undiscovered, kept together by his descendents in the Cooper family, until his great grandson Albert Damer Cooper left money in his will for their publication. In 1942 “An Eighteenth Century Antiquary – The Sketches, Notes and Drawings of Austin Cooper (1759-1830)” finally made it into print and the public domain.
In the 1960s the Cooper family left
, and in 1993 donated all Ireland the Antiquary’s work, including his diary notes about the places he had visited, to the National Library of Ireland. In 2000 the Library published a new collection of the work, “Cooper’s Austin – Drawings and Notes from an Eighteenth-Century Gentleman.” Ireland