There are many obvious technical imperfections in the printing of the original Proclamation which can be understood in the context of the danger, stress, time pressure, and limited resources available to Michael J. Malloy and Liam O’Briain (O’Brien) the Compositors and Christopher Brady the printer at the time of printing the Proclamation on the Morning of the 23rd of April 1916 Easter Sunday.
The fact that they managed to print 1000 copies on the old worn out Otley Wharfdale Printing Press where the text almost fills the sheet and due to the lack of type set, had to complete the printing in two halves is a testament to their skill and ingenuity.
An Otley Wharfdale Printing Press at the National Print Museum Beggars Bush Dublin.
There have been two previous published accounts dealing with the printing and identification of the Original Proclamation, Joseph J. Bouch “The Republican Proclamation of Easter Monday 1916” published in 1935 and John O Connor’s “The 1916 Proclamation published in 1986”. Bouch had the opportunity to speak to some of the men involved, O Connor repeats much of Bouch’s detail and adds an interview with Kathleen Clark the wife of Tom regarding the drafting of the proclamation. Both publications concentrate on the drafting and printing of the Proclamation and although Bouch endeavoured to identify the peculiarities in the original Print and provide information on the typographical errors, some details are misinterpreted or omitted from his accounts and subsequently all are repeated by O Connor.
A fundamental error in both publications are :- Bouch displays the “enhanced version” in his publication, and O Connor displays the “The Proclamation of” in his publication as representative of the Original Proclamation and neither mention any errors in the substituted line Irish Republic most common in viral prints.
Here we set out the uniqueness of the original 1916 Proclamation of The Irish Republic which is undoubtedly the most important document in the History of the Irish Republic.
The Paper used was a standard Double Crown nominally measuring 20 x 30 inches in size (51cm x 76cm). It was a very common size and readily employed at the time for theatre and auction posters etc.
Bouch had learned from Molloy that that the paper was all of uniform texture, a cheap line of paper which the Mill had in stock. This was in nature a bargain, and it was similar paper to that usually used in the printing of the James Connolly’s Workers Republic. O Connor repeats Bouch to say that the paper was of poor quality white in colour with a slight greyish tinge and so thin that it would quite easily tear.
The paper was purchased by Connolly from the Swift Brook Paper Mills in Saggart, south Co. Dublin. The Mill had previously won awards for the quality of its paper in 1882 and 1887. It was recognised as a producer of high quality paper which was used in the production of bank notes and stamps. The Mill was well known for the manufacture of paper using linen rags as an ingredient, and early in the morning a string of carts, heavily laden with paper, left the mills on their way to Dublin. They would return in the evening laden with sack of rags. It should be born in mind that the paper was produced during the Great War when linen as a raw material would have been extremely scarce as it was used for the manufacture of bandages and this fact may go some way in explaining the quality of the paper from the Swiftbrook Mill which had such a high reputation. The Mill Closed in 1971. The Originals that we have examined have obviously changed in various degrees depending on the exposure to the elements light, humidity, etc and vary in colour from bluish grey to brown. The paper is thin, resembling news print paper but is unbounded, cockled in effect and tactile to the touch.
The line width should be 18 ¼ inches is reported by both authors, and in literature produced by Auction houses to authenticate Original copies, but in the original copies that we have measured at Trinity College Dublin, the National Library of Ireland, and private collectors the Line width is 18 inches.
Both authors explain that the text length varies due to the fact that it was printed in two halves, between 28 ¾” and 29 ½”. The spacing between the two half prints varies for example in the copy in the National Museum and Trinity college is 5/8” (16mm) whereas in the Leinster House and NLI copies is 5/16” (8mm). This is due to the Proclamation being printed as two separate prints on the same page due to the lack of type set.
The Heading POBLAHTNAH EIREANN was printed in plain wooden type.
The two line spacing that follow, on the next line are broken on the right hand side.
In the line THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT there are 3 “O” which are in a non-serif type.
The most important omission by Bouch and O Connor is with regard to the fifth Line IRISH REPUBLIC the “R” in IRISH is obviously damaged on the bottom right leg and also to a lesser extent is the “R” in Republic. The “C” in REPUBLIC is an “O” that has been inserted on its side and converted to a “C” due to the shortage of fount type, although reported to be of a smaller font case this is not so, because it is on its side it appears to be raised and smaller than the other type in the line. It is this line that has been repaired or substituted in the majority of viral prints.
TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND contains 3 “O” 2 of which are the correct fount and one is in a non-serif type.
The “E” in “THE” is actually an “F” converted to an “E” with sealing wax due to the short supply of type. Sealing wax is a soft substance and would not stand up to the rigours demand of 1,000 prints, but Bouch says that Brady informed him that his memory on this particular point was clear. There is a heavy overprint of the “E” in Ireland which has covered the decorative tail on the “L”.
In Line 7 the De Vinne fount is used in the “r” in the word right, and again in Line 24 prosperity. There are in total 7 De Vinne fount “e”s, in the whole text. Line 9 the “e” in the word the, Line 14 ever, extinguisged people. Line 28 representative and line 35 in the words discipline and readiness. There is also a De Vinnie “t” in line 30 in the word trust.
In the third line of the third paragraph the two “t”s in “not extinguished” are both of a smaller and different fount type than is used in the main body of the text, that of Great Primer, Antique No.8. (as identified by James Mosley) The “it” and “t” in of the on the next line appears to be of the same wrong fount type as is the “t” “in the face” in line 17 of the same paragraph possibly Old English or Abbey.
There are also two wrong fount “t”s in by the on line 14 and to the in line 19.
It is with the letter “e” in the main body of the text where the compositors had the most difficulty. Bouch counted 23 wrong fount “e” in the first print section and O Connor says anyone who takes the trouble to count them will find 23 wrong “e”s, this count of 23 is also quoted by Auction houses to authenticate Original copies. As well as the 7 De Vinne wrong fount “e”s as mentioned above there is a total of 25 wrong Abbey fount “e”s in the third paragraph making a total of 32 wrong font “e”s in the whole text.
Line 12 – The, Line 15 – asserted, Line 16 – times three hundred years they asserted, Line 18 – hereby the sovereign independent,Line 19 – we pledge, lives, the lives.
In the first line of the sixth paragraph there is an inverted “e” in the word “the”.
There is a space missing in line 36 between the words worthy and of.
Throughout the text there is varying amounts of shading, inking, and smudging most notably in most Originals, “the” at the end of Line 13.
It is these intricacies in the original Proclamation that enhance the impact of the visual print and add to the uniqueness of the 1916 Proclamation as they demonstrate the urgency of the printing, the danger, the stress, and limited resources available to Michael J. Malloy and Liam O’Briain (O’Brien) the Compositors and Christopher Brady the printer, at the time of printing.