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While material discussions of John Derricke’s Image of Irelande (1581) often focus on the woodcarvings and print history, this study focuses on the textual content and presentation, particularly the glosses, dedication, and multiple letters to the reader, in order to locate Derricke’s text in sixteenth-century poetic discussions of representation, interpretation, and reception. In the dedication to Sir Phillip Sidney, Derricke reveals his anxiety over these issues – an anxiety further illustrated in the abundance of glosses that clutter the text. The content of the glosses appear to offer a key to the text, yet fail to explicate the text or help a reader decipher the poem, often raising more questions than they answer. By examining the interplay between the glosses and their corresponding lines, this chapter argues that as the text progresses, the glosses become a free-standing work of sorts and a place where Derricke’s poetic concerns and anxieties can be traced.
This collection of sixteen essays, the first devoted to John Derricke’s work, offers new readings of, and new sources behind, The Image of Irelande: With a Discoverie of Woodkarne (1581), all to better explicate facets of this difficult and complex book. While prior scholarship on Derricke was largely confined to commentary on the illustrations, the essays in this volume encompass a broad range of approaches to the Image of Irelande in its entirety. Although on the face of it, The Image is blatantly pro-Sidney and anti-Irish propaganda, and has always been so received, the essays in this collection combine to suggest that Derricke’s book is in fact far more culturally and politically daring than has been assumed, with a highly sophisticated textual and visual presentation only now brought into focus. In addition to scrutinizing Derricke’s poetic and iconographic practices, the essays include insights from architecture and archaeology, print history and reading practices, studies of civic display and colonial ideologies. The collection, divided into five sections (Ideologies, Archaeologies, Print and publication, Influences, and Interpretations), establishes a basis on which to build future analyses of Derricke’s enigmatic book.
The Introduction to the book offers a historical and literary contextualization of the Image. The editors address the text’s rich historical connections; the little-known background of the author, John Derricke; the brief, but impactful reception of the work; the immediate and contemporary reaches of the Image. Lastly, the editors summarize the collection’s chapters, linking many of the ideas contained in the work. In general, the Introduction seeks to present information about the work, its characters, and its sordid history, ultimately arguing for its early modern significance to a variety of disciplines.