The original printed text, produced in circumstances of personal danger to all those involved and achieved only by overcoming formidable material difficulties, is a rare and fragile document, of which the evident technical imperfections today enhance respect for those who completed it.
It is therefore astonishing that there are more copies of Viral prints of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic in circulation on the world wide web, and in print form, in various shapes and sizes from postcards to posters, than there are copies of the original. These viral copies are so prevalent that they are being accepted as true representations of the original. James Mosley from the University of Reading who first coined the expression “Viral Print” has an excellent and in depth study on the typography of the Proclamation and the viral copies which is available at http://typefoundry.blogspot.com post 6th January and 17th September 2010 and http://typestack.com/uncategorized/the-image-of-the-proclamation-of-the-irish-republic-1916/.
Below we describe four of the most prevelent of these enhanced imitations for the real thing.
Gill Sans version
The most common Viral version of the Proclamation in circulation is the “Gill Sans version” where the poor quality wood type set of
in the Original is replaced by the Gill Sans Extra Bold Typeface first made in England in 1931,
15 years after the original printing date.
There is no explanation, or reason, why this line above all others should have been replaced with such a familiar fount and from a later time period. The origin, and printers, of this “Gill Sans version” have not yet been identified, but it was obviously first printed post 1931. Although many other areas of the original print are battered or stressed these areas and all other intricacies’ of the print are left unchanged. This Viral “Gill Sans” version is appearing on the web with increased frequency where size and scale are not relevant in perception to the Original. The BBC displays it on its history page detailing the 1916 Rising and by implication endorses it as an authentic image. It is also endorsed by implication by Irish Museums as a faithful copy of the original for sale at the gift shop, where originals of the Proclamation are on display in the same Museum. Kilmainham goal and the National Print Museum are such examples. The Gill Sans version is also for sale on the web in various reduced sizes, it is an element in posters that commemorates the seven signatories and the Easter Rising; it appears on t-shirts and mugs; and it is available on a reduced scale, framed, for hanging at home, from many Web sites, based on both sides of the Atlantic, that are dedicated to the Irish republican movement.
The first widely distributed enhanced reproduction of the proclamation was published in the Sinn Fein Rebellion Handbook printed by the Weekly Irish Times dated the 13 May 1916 and in several subsequent early editions. This enhanced version was also published in many other early printed books such as “Dublin and the Sinn Fein Rising” issued by Wilson Hartnell & Co. Dublin.
The image was vastly “improved and enhanced” by spotting out any imperfections as was common practice at the time. This practice of retouching was employed to remove dust and other imperfections picked up on the photographic plate and so to produce “a clean print” for reproduction.
The top right and left of the reproduction drops downwards probably due to the focal capacity of the lens of the camera employed to make up the image.
As well as cleaning up the image, many letters are repaired the “P” in POBLACHT has been enlarged or redrawn, such as the two “R”s in line 4 and the distressed “E” in line 5.
The two decorative “O” also in line 5 have been filled in to match the two plain “O” in the same line. Also in line 5 the left hand tail of the decorative “L” in IRELAND which was distorted by the heavy print of the proceeding “E” has been restored.
To the majority of people who had not seen an original at the time or since, these printed versions in the papers represented to them a faithful representation of what was printed in Liberty Hall on Easter Sunday morning.
This retouched version has formed the basis of numerous reproductions in printed form and a multiplication of copies can be found on the web again where size is inconsequential. Unfortunately it appears to be given official endorsement as it appears on the Wikipedia web site, and incredulously The Department of the Taoiseach’s web site. It was also displayed by JJ Bouch in his 1935 “The Republican Proclamation of Easter Monday 1916”
“The Proclamation of” Version
All other Viral versions appear to be variants of the first two, most notably those that have “The proclamation of” added as the heading to the Gill Sans version which is totally fictitious and again appears to be endorsed by wikisourse and is available for download from the Seomra Ranga website, a resources for the Primary School Teachers in Ireland. It is shown, inexplicably, as an image of the heading to the genuine Proclamation in the most recent reprint (1999) of John O’Connor’s book, “The 1916 proclamation” which is for sale in all Museums displaying Original copies.
This version is also available for sale in many Museums and gift shops in a reduced print size, on T-shirts, Mugs and other collectable artefacts.
The Kansas Version
Kansas Sinn Fein An Phoblacht
There are also more carefully retouched examples, of which the above three are quite skillful; but these are open to the same objection: the retouching of selected parts, however skilfully done, has produced a false image of the original.There is no doubt that these images bear the same parent form, the creasing of the paper and the tear marks, we could suggest that the An Phoblacht version was the first to be produced with the reduced damage of the paper. The An Phoblacht image displays the Gill Sans versions but this has been replaced by the retouch version of Irish Republic in the Sinn Fein and The Kansas version..
The Tom Clark Dungannon website displays what appears to be a version of the Kansas University viral version of the Proclamation, it can also be seen on many republican websites with the photographs of the signatories along side.