Object: Half-copy of the 1916 Proclamation
National Archives of Ireland
Object title: Half-copy of the 1916 Proclamation, taken from the printing press in Liberty Hall and given to the police. It ended up in the Chief Secretary’s Office Registered Papers, where it can be found today. The proclamation is accompanied by correspondence explaining where and when it was obtained, and responding to Mr. T Lyster, Director of the National Library, who wanted to acquire a copy for posterity to keep in the Library. Reference number CSORP/1916/8086/1/2/2A/3.
Physical characteristics: 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.
Object Description: The Proclamation was printed in Liberty Hall on Easter Sunday 1916 (23 April) by Christopher Brady, Michael J. Molloy and Liam O’Briain. Because of a shortage of type set (the metal letters and numbers used to create the print), it had to be printed in two halves so they could re-use the type set. They printed 1000 copies on a worn-out printing machine. Here’s Michael J. Molloy in a later statement to the Bureau of Military History:
“As the compositors took to the challenge on setting out different paragraphs of the Proclamation with what was an unknown mixed bag of Type Set it was realised that there would not be enough Type Set to complete the document, and the only option was to print it in two separate halves. Even at that the compositors had to manufacture a “C” from an “O” in REPUBLIC, an “E” from an F in THE and substitute a different type “e” as they ran out”.
The DMP Superintendent reporting on the matter, Owen Brien, reveals that the half-copy was taken from the press in Liberty Hall on 9 May 1916.
How is the object associated with the Easter Rising 1916 and in what way does it make a unique contribution to our understanding of the event?
The half-copy of the Proclamation tells us graphically what the actual physical process in its printing was like, with the printers having to reset the type for each half. It makes clear what pressures were endured to produce the most famous Irish document in history.