Seminar on 17th-20th century print culture

The seminar focused on the illustrated book over a period of over four hundred years, and offered a hands-on experience for students at the Centre for Creative Arts and Media in GMIT Galway.

The oldest book we looked at was an account of the proceedings at the Irish Parliament in 1634 under Wentworth, which sowed the seeds of the rebellion of 1640. The book was printed in Dublin in 1636 by the ‘Society of Staioners’ and has a gorgeous baroque frontispiece, a full heraldic page and lovely head and tail pieces and decorated initials. We also saw Josiah Burchett’s Naval Battles, printed in London in 1720, with engravings from James Thornhill and George Vertue and maps by Herman Moll. Also from the early 18th century was a missal printed in Lyons in 1735, with full pages of music printed in two colours. This formerly belonged to the Rev. Peter Ward, who was a chaplain in the Duke of Wellington’s army during the Napoleonic wars in Spain. In 1811 Henry Brocas was involved in the creation of a facsimile edition of Pacata Hibernica, an account of the Elizabethan Wars in Ireland, complete with maps in the style of the 1633 original.

The star of the day was the 1822 Heath edition of the works of William Hogarth, considered to be the last prints from the original plates, showing the wealth of technical brilliance achieved by 18th century engravers. The Expositor magazine more than made up for its lack of technical skill through the exuberance of its illustrations and advertisements for the Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace of 1851. Finally we looked at a masterpiece of the 20th century private press, Leonard Baskin’s 1968 edition of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence, illustrated with superb wood-engravings by Baskin himself.