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The Walton Collection

1916 Copy of Proclamation of the Irish Republic (Limited Edition)

1916 Copy of Proclamation of the Irish Republic (Limited Edition)

A rare 1916 Copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. We believe from the information available that this is one of the earliest known reproductions of the original Proclamation which was most likely reproduced in the weeks following the Rising of 1916. In its typography, it is identical to the half-size versions in the O'Hegarty Collection and The Walton Collection which it seems certain were printed in the weeks following the Rising in 1916, and closer in several details to the original Proclamation than either of the copies produced in the Sinn Féin Handbook in August 1916 and the ICA copy production in Easter 1917, or indeed any subsequent copies. In tandem with the half-size copy, with which it was discovered in The Walton Collection, it adds a new dimension  and raises new questions around  the history of copies of the Proclamation. Separately it is a beautiful document in its own right and will create many talking points, highlighting as it does the whole remarkable story of how the Proclamation was printed with the story of its many charming flaws.

This remarkably unique 250 limited edition Proclamation copy is reproduced on 260 GSM water colour paper and is mounted on a mottled pine green suede backing which is set behind glass in an aged black wood mahogany style and handmade frame. Each Proclamation comes with a numbered Certificate of Limited Edition from The Walton Collection and a printout of the historical notes.

Historical Notes:

There are a number of fascinating details about this unique copy of the iconic 1916 Proclamation. For much of this detail I have relied on the remarkable research carried out by James Mosley and published on his TypeFounder blog in 2010 (details below). Mosley, who is an expert in the history of typefoundry has bought a new and keen print historian's eye to the evolving history of the Proclamation however he was not aware when writing his findings of the existence this version which is what appears to be a unique  copy of the Proclamation, most likely printed shortly after the rising. This copy and a second half-size version  were found in among my grandfather's extensive collection of pamphlets, posters and newspapers from Easter Week 1916 and the weeks immediately following the Rising.

Based on Mosley's reviews of other later copies this version has the same font in headline title as the original proclamation (not the Gill Sans font that was used in copies made later - Gills sans font only became available post 1928) however this version is smaller (630mm x 455m) than the original (760mm x 510mm) which was printed on poor quality Double Crown paper. This version also is printed on poor quality paper which is incredibly similar to other posters in our possession from 1916. It may indeed have been printed from the same source of paper as the original Proclamation but a comparison with the original would need to be undertaken.

The tail of 'R' in Irish( Republic) which was damaged and clearly impacted in the original version has been touched up similar to later copies in 1916 and 1917. The bottom tail of the 'E' in the (TO THE PEOPLE of IRELAND) appears slightly different to the other 'E's' in the same line. This 'E' had been repaired in the original Proclamation with the application of sealing wax to an 'F' but remained flawed. The corrections to the tail of the 'E' in this version appear to be different to both the August 1916 Irish Times Sinn Fein Handbook version, and the 1917 copy produced by the women of Irish Citizen Army to commemorate the first anniversary of the Rising. Both of these copies, until now were considered to be the oldest known copies of the Proclamation.

The font of the original Proclamation text is identified by Mosley as Antique No.8 a 19th Century font which was still commonly in use. However the printers in Liberty Hall on Easter Sunday evening ( Michael Molloy, Liam O' Brien and Christopher Brady ) ran out of letters within the first 3 paragraphs of text so a different font (Abbey Text) was used for the letter 'e' in the last lines of the third paragraph (lines 16-19). An inverted 'e' appears in "the" in the first line of the last paragraph (line 32) while a De Vine font 't' is found in "to" in line 32. De Vinne text is also used for "Signed on Behalf of the Provisional Government" below the last line (line 38). Knowing that the poster was printed in two halves we can also see that the paragraph spacing between lines 20 and 21 differs to the other narrower paragraph spacing throughout the text and are identical to the original Proclamation. All of the these same flaws and characteristics from the original Proclamation can be seen in this version

What is most interesting about this copy of the Proclamation is that it differs from the first known reproductions which appeared in the Irish Time's Sinn Féin Handbook and is undated but based on a printers imprint in a copy of the Sinn Féin Handbook in the British Library is dated August 1916. In that reproduction, according to Mosley," the image of the Proclamation has been very thoroughly improved, especially in the lines of the heading, where there is much redrawing. The damage to the two 'R’s' in line 4 was eliminated. The improvised 'E' in line 5 was completely redrawn to match the others, and the two inconsistent 'O's' in the same line were made more like the others by filling in their decorative indents, though nothing could be done to make their different widths equal. The counter (the enclosed space) in the 'P' of "POBLACHT" was enlarged horizontally. One last, small-scale piece of retouching in line 5 is worth noticing. The lower left-hand serif of the 'L' in "IRELAND" failed to print well because the 'E' to its left was higher, perhaps because it was less worn. At all events it prints heavily. The retouched carefully restored the imperfect serif on 'L'."

The main and most obvious point of difference between the Sinn Fein Handbook version and this copy is that this version still has the indented decorative O's as per the original Proclamation. It is also differs to the later version published by " small group of women attached to the Irish Citizen Army " in Easter 1917 to commemorate the first anniversary of the Rising and published by the well known Dublin printer, Joseph Stanley, who (according top Bouch's book on the subject written in 1936 ) claimed to have reprinted using the original font type case that was used in Liberty Hall , including capturing most of its same errors. As Mosley suggests , this is most improbable ("nonsense") and a nearly impossible task. Mosely sensibly suggests it was more likely a story made up by the printer to keep the women of the ICA happy. While the print on the first 5 lines on the 1917 version has clearly been touched up , albeit keeping the indentation on the O's as per the original Proclamation (in contrast to the Sinn Fein Handbook version). Most curiously the inverted letter 'e' has been corrected on line 32, however in our copy it has not . In addition, in the 1917 Version, the 'M' in Eamon Ceannt's signature , which had been printed heavily and obscured by some dirt in the printing process, has been incorrectly touched up as 'N' however in our copy this incorrect correction is missing and it remains correctly as an 'M' .

All these typographic facts, including the exact line spacing of these copies, point to the high probability that the Handbook versions and the 1917 version were reproduced by photographic process and touched up as it would have been very difficult to find and reproduce the exact fonts and errors of the original. This runs contrary to Joseph Bouch's paper on "The Republican Proclamation of Easter Monday 1916" published in 1936 stating the copies were reprinted using the original type fonts. Although he spoke to many of the printers involved, as James Mosley states "Unfortunately it is all too clear that there were limits to his (Bouch's) understanding of the materials and processes used in printing, and this occasionally makes it unwise to rely on his text." . Of Michael O'Connor , who wrote a narrative in 1986 on the printing of the Proclamation , and relied on Bouch for a lot of his detail, Mosley states " O’Connor evidently used other sources too, including some more recent ones, and the additional detail he provides is useful. But one wishes that he could have said what they were and brought some critical judgement to bear on them."

Most notably, writing in 2010, Mosley states that "The inevitable conclusion is that the ‘reprint of 1917’ was not printed from reset typecase at all but was produced by means of a photographic process, either a line block or (perhaps more likely in this case, given the size of the sheet) photolithography. The "improvement" to this image is similar to that of the Sinn Fein Rebellion Handbook: a redrawn 'E' is substituted for the adapted 'F', the damaged 'R' of IRISH is repaired and, as noted above, the inverted 'e' in the sixth paragraph is corrected, making this the only known reproduction of the Proclamation in which this was done. The 'M' in the name of Eamonn Ceannt among the signatures, obscured by dirt in the original printing, is mistakenly retouched as 'N'. All the variable spacing of the original is exactly reproduced, and the wrong-fount letters of the original are all in their places. The questions that are raised concerning Bouch’s own account of this version are hardly worth pursuing at length, since no original copy is known to survive today."

At the time of writing Mosley was not aware of The Walton Collection and the two, identical (in print typography) but variant in  size, copies which my Grandfather had collected and were found together. While I am very open to observations from more learned experts in this field I believe, that based on Mosley's expert assertions, and that my grandfathers copy does not have the corrected inverted 'e' or a wrongly touched up 'M' of the 1917 copy, and nor does it have the corrections to the indented decorative 'O's' of the  Sinn Féin Handbook version of August 1916 , it is reasonable to assume that this copy predates these copies ,and was corrected and touched up entirely independently of those copies.

In addition see the below extract from Bouch's 1936 book:

If my assumptions are correct, putting these observations together this copy was therefore most likely  printed in the weeks shortly after the Rising in 1916 (see also the similar logic I have expressed in for the half-size copy) .

The genuine ageing and poor paper quality of the original of this copy, which is very similar in paper quality to other dated 1916 posters, also supports this belief. A comparison with the paper of the original Proclamation may even indicate that it was printed on a similar source of paper to the original.

 It is also worth remembering that Martin Walton was quite senior in the IRB (having taken Collins seat on the IRB Supreme Council after Collins death) and would have had more access than most to people and sources at a senior level within the Volunteers and IRB, and that he went on to accumulate a remarkable collection of over 12,000 books and memorabilia, mostly on Irish History, so the fact that we find this copy of the Proclamation in his 1916 collection of posters and newspapers is quite fascinating. As mentioned previously  this collection also includes another half scale version of the Proclamation which is identical to the version in the O'Hegarty Collection of the Spencer Research library of the University of Kansas which was, until now, believed to be the only such copy in the world. So now we have discovered the only second copy of this version in The Walton Collection . Even more interesting is that this half-size version is identical in every way but size to this larger 625 mm x 450 mm version, the only difference being the paper it was printed on. Either version could be a copy of the other. We don't know where either copy came from or how my grandfather obtained them but both versions being found together seems more than a coincidence and to be a unique addition to the history of  Proclamation copies. 

Regrettably I have been unable to contact James Mosley and given he was elderly on his last visit to Dublin in 2010 from the UK where he lived I can only assume that sadly he is no longer with us. But his excellent work and research is, so for two fascinating reads of Mosley's Blogs on "The Image of the Proclamation of the Republic 1916", go to:  


 I welcome any additional information or observations interested parties can provide.


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