[Pillars of the Giants' Causeway]

Artist(s) : John Barrow (Draughtsman), James Lee (Engraver)

A woodcut of portions of two pillars of the Giants' Causeway.

Inscribed in Image

  • Signature – Lee
  • Caption outside of boundaries of image – Portions of two quadrilateral pillars f Giants' Causeway.
    a, a, a, Triangular pieces removed.
    b, b, b, ditto ditto not removed.
  • Text within boundaries of image – [clockwise from top: b b b a a b b a]
  • Text within boundaries of image – Triangular Piece.

Image Details

Genre Scientific or Technical illustration
Technique Woodcuts
Subject(s) Nature
Geographical Location
  • Giant's Causeway - Named locality
  • Antrim - County
  • Ulster - Province
Keywords(s) Plans, Rock formations
Colour Monochrome
Published / created 1836

Bibliographical Details

Travel Account A Tour round Ireland [Barrow]
Print or manuscript Print
Location of image in copy p. 80
Source copy National Library of Ireland Ir 9141 b 3

Related text from travel account

One piece of mechanism, however, I must not omit to mention, which struck me as a very singular contrivance in the construction of the pillars of the causeway, and that is the remarkable manner in which the angular or corner pieces at the joining of the segments have been inserted, for what purpose, or by what concurrence of circumstances, it is not in my power to form even a conjecture; it is very general, though not universal. Most of the segments of the outer columns have [p. 79] two or more of these angular pieces broken out, and I am not sure that a smart blow of a hammer would not detach the rest. That they are the result of design, and for some special purpose, my belief is too firm to be shaken. The same mighty power, that shaped the basaltic column, fitted to it these angular appendages for some good purpose, though our geologists do not yet seem to have discovered it. "All nature is indeed but art," much of which the human intellect can never fathom; but if we look at these columns and imagine them for a moment as the work of man, we should ask for what purpose could these loose corner-pieces have been placed in the joinings of the segments? As man’s work, one would be almost inclined to say, that the insertion of them had been an after-thought to keep the joints of the pillar together, and to give them uniformity of surface and unbroken lines at the extremities of the polygonal sides; but we dare not ascribe to the Great Creator of the universe any want of thought or premeditated design.* [* Footnote: The only notice I have seen since my return that appears to have any allusion to this part of the subject is the Rev. W. Hamilton’s "Letters on the Northern Coast of Antrim," where he says, "The angles of one (joint) frequently shoot over those of the other, so that they are completely locked together, and can rarely be separated without a fracture of some of their parts." Mr. Greenough, to whom I mentioned this structure, was aware of it; and from him I learn the more extraordinary fact that, in the columns of Dunbar, the material of those angular pieces is different from that of the pillar, the former being jasper.
I do not know whether I have made myself under- [p. 80] stood, as I find a difficulty at description. I have therefore attempted to sketch what I feel to have been improperly described.
The polygons I have stated to be irregular; they are so both in shape and dimensions; those on the Causeway appear to run from nine to twenty-four inches in diameter; here and there somwhat larger. It is no rule that the lower end of the upper segment should be convex, and upper end of the lower concave to receive it; the reverse is frequently the case; and it also frequently happens that one joint or segment has both ends convex, and another both ends concave; but this of course does not prevent them from forming parts of a whole pillar. In fact, I should suppose that the same operating cause which separated the mass of melted [p. 81] matter into columns (for who can doubt its having once been in a state of fusion?) separated also the columns themselves into articulated portions of various lengths, and to each column its proper number of sides, from four to nine. [pp. 78-81]
Pillars of the Giants' Causeway