Philip O’Sullivan Beare, who was from West Cork, wrote the Zoilomastix in 1626 while he was in exile in Spain to refute a book written in 1188 by Giraldus Cambrensis, which was very derogatory of Ireland and the Irish people. Cambrensis’s book underwent a revival at the end of the sixteenth century as a form of propaganda to justify the Elizabethan conquest and cruel suppression of Ireland. The English wanted to give the impression that the Irish were barbarous so that Spain and France would not send help to support the Irish rebellions against the English. —The Natural History of Ireland (ISBN 978 185918 439 4, hbk, 384 pp, 234 x 156mm, €39/£35).
The handwritten manuscript of the Zoilomastix was lost for nearly 300 years; it was found at the University of Uppsala, Sweden in 1932. The manuscript was written in Latin and it appears here for the first time in English. The Natural History of Ireland highlights Philip O’Sullivan Beare’s reaction to these propagandist texts denigrating Ireland. The book starts with a description of Ireland from twenty-one authors followed by sections on the natural habitat and features, such as rivers, plants, animals, fish and birds and the geology of Ireland. Species listed are named in four languages, including Irish. There is a description of Ireland by the regions. The book finishes with a section on the purgatory of St Patrick’s including a description of how St Patrick expelled snakes from Ireland. An introduction by Denis O’Sullivan gives an overall history of the O’Sullivans and Philip in particular.
Denis C. O’Sullivan was a consultant urologist at Cork University Hospital and the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork and a Clinical Lecturer in Urology at University College Cork. After retirement he graduated in Ancient Classics from University College Cork.