This album contains the earliest surviving pictorial record of the Isle of Man. The sketches were made during the Interregnum (‘between reigns’) of 1649–60, to illustrate and supplement a report on the state of the island commissioned by Lord Thomas Fairfax (1612–1671), a prominent Parliamentarian general and the appointed Lord of Man during this tumultuous period.

What’s shown in the sketches?

The sketches are primarily concerned with the condition of the fortifications and defences on the Isle of Man. The album includes detailed views of Castle Rushen (f. 10r, f. 12r, f. 14r, f. 16r, f. 18r), Castletown (f. 20r) – the town surrounding Castle Rushen, and capital of the island at this time – its outer walls and possible seaward approaches (f. 22r., f. 44r), as well as detailed illustrations of Douglas (f. 26r), Peel Castle (f. 28r) and Bishopscourt (f. 30r, f. 32r, f. 34r). Also within the album are two pages of proposed plans for new fortifications (ff. 36r and 38r).

Fascinatingly, there are also two sketches of local wildfowl: a pair of Northern Gannets (f. 40r) and a detailed depiction of a Great Auk, a once-common Atlantic bird that became extinct in 1844.