Rescuing the Irish Parliamentary Journals – The 2017 Sol. M. and Mary Ann O’Brian Malkin Lecture

Date: 12 July 2017
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: UVA Special Collections
Lecturer: Philip G. Maddock - Book Collector

I have been collecting Irish bookbindings for more than thirty years. The “Holy Grail” of Irish bookbinding is the Irish Parliamentary Journals, 149 volumes of which were lost in the 1922 destruction of the Public Records Office in Dublin. As my own collection of eighteenth-century Irish bindings grew, I realized that many of the tools used on my bindings were also used on the parliamentary journals and could be used as patterns to generate copies of the original tools. Over the past two decades, more than 300 Irish bindings have been scanned at high resolution (1200 dpi) and the individual tools extracted to form a database of individual Irish finishing tools. A digital reconstruction in Photoshop of one of the journals, depicted in Maurice Craig’s book Irish Bookbindings 1600–1800, was very helpful as an investigative stimulus but was aesthetically disappointing. Fortunately, prior to their destruction the Irish Parliamentary Journals had been recorded in multiple rubbings and twenty photographs by Sir Edward Sullivan.

Nine years ago I was introduced to Trevor Lloyd, a bookbinder based in Ludlow, UK. He had prior experience in refurbishing eighteenth-century Irish bindings with the tools made by Stewart Field of Bristol. More than 400 hand tools, rolls, and pallets have been made, and, based on the Sullivan rubbings, these were used to reproduce fourteen of the most representative and important Irish Parliamentary Bindings.

In this lecture I describe the technique and instrumentation used for scanning the bindings. I review the written notes that Sullivan made at the time he took the rubbings, and I discuss the technical issues that had to be solved in order to complete this project. High-resolution images of the tool extraction process and of the resulting fourteen volumes of journals will also be shown.