Irish Ambassador donates 37 maps to Asiatic Society

Updated: Aug 22, 2019, 07:44 IST | Fiona Fernandez | Mumbai

As a gift to the city, outgoing Ambassador of Ireland to India, Brian McElduff donated the heritage maps from his personal collection to The Asiatic Society of Mumbai

Irish Ambassador to India, Brian McElduff with one of the prized maps from his collections in his office
Irish Ambassador to India, Brian McElduff with one of the prized maps from his collections in his office

Former geologist, diplomat and outgoing Ambassador of Ireland to India, Brian McElduff, has a special connect with the city. He has donated 37 heritage maps from his collection to The Asiatic Society of Mumbai as a parting gift at an event in the Durbar Hall last week. McElduff has visited the city 30 times before, and has a special fondness for the architectural landmarks of South Mumbai. "It is heartening that efforts are being made to preserve the historic buildings," he shares, adding how after a stroll around these parts, it's always been a pleasure to have tea in the lounge of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

Edited excerpts from an email interview:

How did you come in contact with the Asiatic Society to make this wonderful donation?
I was introduced to The Asiatic Society of Mumbai by Cyrus Guzder, our excellent former Honorary Consul-General and a trustee of the Society. The Society already had a substantial map collection, but their holdings of pre-19th century material are limited. Having a large collection myself, and having come to appreciate the interest and enthusiasm of the Society's members, led me to decide on the present donation. I am sure that the maps, which have themselves come on a long journey, have now found a most suitable final home in Mumbai.

Tell us how about your passion of collecting archival maps?
The collecting habit starts early, and I have since childhood always enjoyed visiting museums and galleries as well as meeting other collectors. My first career was as a geologist and my first real collecting passion was for minerals, a hobby, which I have continued. Incidentally, the areas around Pune and Nashik have been a famous source of beautiful mineralogical specimens. While I did not start collecting antique examples until well into adulthood, maps have always fascinated me and have become the main focus of my collecting instincts. Cartography may be the only thing that links my first career in geology with my second in diplomacy! It was a diplomatic posting in Budapest 20 years ago, which saw my collection improve. I found some of my most prized possessions in the city's old bookshops and auction houses.

Of the 37 maps, do you have favourites?
Of course, all maps of Ireland have a special meaning and they have always been my first object in collecting. I have considered myself lucky to be from an island as they have their own character and have always captured the imagination of writers from Shakespeare to RL Stevenson. Bound by the natural frame of the sea, islands also invariably make handsome maps. But India with its elegant form, embraced on two sides by the ocean and to its north by the world's greatest mountain range, looks as handsome on the page as it does in reality. Of the maps of India I have donated, I am fond of Weigel's map of about 1720 – it displays the entire sub-continent rather than just the Mughal Empire and it includes a splendid depiction of a war elephant.

Email asiaticsociety1804@gmail.com to access these maps

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