Irish Proclamation of 1916 poster printed for
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
We were asked to print a fantastic project for Special Collections at the University of Delaware Library to commemorate their exhibition on the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland. Lead Graffiti attempted to reproduce an accurate representation via letterpress of the original proclamation poster, of which only a few are known.
Tray painstakingly retouched a digital image of the original poster, trying to maintain the subtle details, mistakes, and printing inconsistencies. We worked with Maureen Cech, Senior Assistant Librarian, who served as curator of the “A terrible beauty is born: The Easter Rising at 100″, an exhibition sponsored by Special Collections on display from February 9 to June 12, 2016.
Click the image below to see it double-sized for more detail.
On the night of Easter Sunday 1916 in the basement of Liberty Hall, Dublin, Christopher Brady, William O’Brien and Michael Molloy printed approximately 1,000 copies of Ireland’s best known historic document, the 1916 Proclamation. | video about printing the proclamation.
A tour of some of the history and typographic elements of the proclamation | story of the proclamation.
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A few typographic details offered by Lead Graffiti.
A B O V E : The woodtype character at the end of REPUBLIC is an “C,” but it has been cut from an "O" as you can see from the letter's opening which isn't centered correctly.
A B O V E : The woodtype character is an “F,” but they needed an “E.” They filled the necessary space with wax. No way to tell where the original weused for our reprint fell in the 1,000 printed, but clearly the wax was being distorted by the printing. You can easily turn an E into an F, but the reverse is hard. We have a number of examples of wood type in our collection where additional letters have been carved on the back side of the wood block to fill in for missing letters.
A B O V E : This shows the point at which they ran out of “e”s and had to switch to another typeface. There is actually a third type of “e” in the bottom half of the poster,
A B O V E : The infernal rotated letter that creeps into letterpress at inopportune times. There is at least one instance of wordspacing missing between two words. This also shows the difference in the inking from the bottom half of the poster to the top shown immediately above.
A B O V E : This shows two instances of the word spacing raising up and inking during the printing.
It is hard to imagine the tension that must have been surrounding the group of compositors and printers as the proclamation was being produced the night before all hell broke loose. As the printers who produced the piece were professional printers, you almost get the idea they were trying to hide that fact. The humanness of the original poster is a wonderful element of this moment in Irish history, even with the disaster that was going to follow.
A B O V E : Ray printing the credit line onto the finished poster.
While trying to maintain the correct ink density across the prints we had to add ink every 3 prints in the edition of 100 prints because of the area we were printing. To help keep things even and to get the dark blacks we wanted we also double inked the plates meaning we were actually running prints every other time the rollers inked the plates. We were quite happy with the results from our end.
Now a strange moment after we finished this project.
We sent a copy of the proclamation to a letterpress printer friend at Wild Apple Press who prints all things Irish. After a few weeks we got a package from him .He had just returned from a trip to Ireland and brought us a chocolate bar essentially wrapped in the proclamation. Interesting to note the change of typeface on the line "Irish Republic" from the original. We can only wonder what the point of that was. Seems like a strange business strategy. Hmmm.