Sketches with the Microscope
Mary Ward’s Sketches with the Microscope in a Letter to a Friend was first published in Birr in 1857 and that edition is now a prized example of provincial printing and almost impossible to obtain. Since the 1980s the public has come to know more of her work and her expertise as a highly skilled microscopist. The gift of a microscope in 1845 transformed her life and came at a time when her cousin, the third earl of Rosse, was completing the great telescope in in the grounds of Birr Castle. Not surprisingly, this fuelled her interest in astronomy about which she would also write extensively. Mary Ward (nee King) was born in Ferbane, County Offaly in 1827 and died in Birr in a shocking motor accident on 21 August 1869. Her privately printed Sketches with the Microscope ranks as the finest book printed in the county in the nineteenth century and is now deservedly reprinted for an engaged public.