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George Petrie Collection

Identifier: MSE/IR 1038

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a small group of correspondence sent to the Irish antiquarian George Petrie from a wide variety of fellow antiquarians and historians over the course of forty-two years. The collection comprises twenty-two handwritten letters primarily dealing with various antiquarian interests and one printed portrait of George Petrie.

Notable items in the collection include Irish nationalist Charles Gavan Duffy’s letter to Petrie, written while Duffy was imprisoned at Newgate Prison for sedition in 1848.


  • Creation: 1822 - 1864


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

George Petrie, Irish antiquarian, music collector and artist, was born in Dublin 1790 to Scottish parents, James Petrie (d. 1819) and Elizabeth Petrie (née Simpson) (d. 1793). He received his education at Samuel Whyte’s school in Grafton Street as well as at the drawing school of the Dublin Society. Petrie married Eliza Mills in 1819; together they had five daughters and one son.

While a teen, Petrie developed an appreciation for archaeology and artifacts. Eventually, his interest in collecting manuscripts to better understand monumental inscriptions resulted in his election to the Royal Irish Academy in 1828. He joined the RIA’s council in 1830, assisting with the selection and purchase of various manuscripts for the Academy Library, including the Cross of Cong and the second volume of the Annals of the Four Masters (Annala Rioghachta Eireann).

Together with fellow antiquary, Reverend Caesar Otway (1780–1842), Petrie edited the Dublin Penny Journal 1832-1833, a publication based on Henry Brougham’s Penny Magazine.

Petrie was appointed to the topographical department of the Irish ordnance survey in 1833, eventually becoming responsible for place-name orthography and the cataloging of historical artifacts. Through the ordnance survey he became acquainted with Irish scholars John (Seán) O’Donovan (Ó Donnabháin) (1806-1861) and Eugene (Eoghan) O’Curry (Curry, Ó Comhraí) (1794–1862).

Petrie would also serve as the first president of the Society for the Preservation and Publication of the Melodies of Ireland, founded in 1851. Petrie, along with other leading music collectors and antiquarians of the Society, such as Patrick Weston (P.W.) Joyce (1827 - 1914), followed in the footsteps of Petrie’s friend Edward Bunting (1773–1843) in attempting to preserve, classify and publish the traditional music of Ireland. Petrie’s collection of traditional music numbered between 750 and 1000 tunes when The Petrie collection of the ancient music of Ireland was published in 1855.

George Petrie died in January 1866 and was later buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.


0.5 Cubic Feet (Legal Document Box)

Language of Materials



Collection is arranged with letters grouped by correspondent and filed chronologically.

Lauren Jean
9 March 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556