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John Derricke

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The Image of Ireland plate 1

John Derricke (fl. 1578–1581) was the writer and artist of The Image of Irelande, a 1581 book documenting Sir Henry Sidney's campaigns in Ireland as Queen Elizabeth I's Lord Deputy. He was probably the same John Derick who was appointed customer of Drogheda port, responsible for collecting custom duty on wine imported into Ireland, in 1569, when Sidney was granted the right to collect this duty by the Irish parliament.

The book begins with a long poem, giving a genealogical history of the Irish people and the English monarchy, justifying the right of the English to rule Ireland, and describing the conflicts between Sidney's forces and the Irish "woodkarne", landless guerrilla fighters who emerged from their mountain and forest retreats to plunder English settlements. There follows a sequence of twelve double-page woodcut illustrations, meauring between 313 and 320mm wide and 180mm high, with accompanying verse narration and occasional captions and speech, telling the story of the subjugation of the Irish woodkarne rebels by Sir Henry Sidney, complete with hostile commentary on Irish customs, religious practice and even dress, ending with the submission of Turlough Luineach Ó Neill, king of Tyrone, in 1578.

The book's dedication to Sidney is signed at Dublin on 16 June 1578, indicating that Derricke completed the composition of the book in Ireland, and was almost certainly an eyewitness to the events he depicts. It is likely he returned to England with Sidney in 1578, and his illustrations were engraved between then and 1581, when the book was published in London by John Day. Two of the plates are signed "ID", thus presumably engraved by Derricke himself, and four by "FD", perhaps a member of his family.


  • Andrew Hadfield, "Derricke, John (fl. 1578–1581)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004, accessed 27 July 2010
  • Anthony M. McCormack and Terry Clavin, "Derricke, John", Dictionary of Irish Biography, (Eds.) James Mcguire and James Quinn, Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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