Until the productions of Pigot and Co. in the early nineteenth century, very little exists that covers the entire country.
Although not true directories in the sense of the Dublin publications, four works may be used in a similar way, at least as far as the country gentry are concerned. The earliest of these is Taylor and Skinner's Road Maps of Ireland (1778), which prints maps of the principal routes from Dublin to the country towns, including the major country houses and the surnames of their occupants, with an alphabetical index to these surnames. The aim of William Wilson's Post-Chaise Companion(1786) is similar, providing a discursive description of what might be seen on various journeys through the countryside. These descriptions include the names of the country houses and, again, their owners' surnames. There is no index. The next publications were the two editions, those of 1812 and 1814, of Ambrose Leet's Directory. This contains an alphabetical listing of placenames-with towns, villages, country houses and townlands in an arbitrary mix-showing the county, the nearest post town and, in the case of the houses, the full name of the occupant. These names are themselves indexed at the back of the volume.
The earliest countrywide directory covering more than the gentry was Pigot's Commercial Directory of Ireland (1820). This goes through the towns alphabetically, supplying the names of nobility and gentry living in or near the town and arranging the traders of each town according to their trade. Pigot published a subsequent edition in 1824, and his successor, Slater, issued expanded versions in 1846, 1856, 1870, 1881 and 1894. These followed the same basic format, dividing the country according to its four provinces and then dealing with towns and villages alphabetically within each province. With each edition the scope of the directory was steadily enlarged, including ever more towns and villages. 'Chapter 4: Guide to Irish Directories' in Irish Genealogy: A Record Finder (ed. Donal Begley; Dublin: Heraldic Artists, 1981) includes a detailed county-by-county listing of the towns and villages covered by each edition. A more detailed guide to the towns covered is available at via the civil parish, Ancestor search, and subscription areas of this site.
important differences between the various editions are as follows:
Eneclann's collection of CD-ROM versions is online at www.findmypast.ie and
includes Pigot's (1824) and Slater's (1846, 1870, 1881 and 1894). Pigot's (1824) and
Slater's (1846) are also at www.failteromhat.com, along with Taylor and
Skinner's Road Maps of Ireland (1778).