Printing Press Research

A large black Albion printing press in front of a framed copy of the Nationalist & Leinster times newspaper

An Albion Printing Press, 1856, currently on display in Carlow County Museum. It was used for decades by local newspapers The Nationalist and the Leinster Times.

How printing started

Printing was not invented by Johannes Gensfleisch Alias Gutenberg instead, it was actually in China that, about 600 years after Christ, the first one sided prints were made. By about 150 years after Christ, the Chinese had also invented paper, the most important medium for printing.

The power of knowledge was, as result of Johannes Gutenberg’s idea, no longer the privilege of only a few. From now on information was not passed as a result of human communication alone. It developed into an asset which was available when needed, could be carried around and was easy to come by. Gutenberg’s idea was to widen the horizons of printing, to become flexible, versatile, and independent. Gutenberg’s “system” was an ideal combination of multiple individual well-thought out inventions, completely equal with modern technical complexes. Letters which could be varied as required, a metal mould, a manual casting device, a special alloy, a press, printing ink with particular properties and a certain kind of paper- only with this combination was success possible.

Printing was called the “black art” in the beginning as people could not understand how someone could produce books so quickly or how they could all be exactly alike, people feared printing and thought it derived from Satan yet despite this the use of printing became very popular and quickly spread all throughout Europe.1

Different types of printing

  1. Letterpress printing- With Letterpress printing, the printing parts are raised. The flat type form is inked with small rollers, then the impression cylinder, which carries the sheet of paper, rolls over the printing surface.
  2. Rotary relief printing- This process is mainly used by daily newspapers. Here, too, the printing parts are raised but the type form is round. The impression cylinder presses the paper against it.
  3. Offset printing- Offset printing is based on the physical law that water and oil repel one another. The printing surface is treated photographically and chemically so that the printing parts absorb ink and all the other parts repel it. In offset printing a zinc aluminium plate bearing the type form is wrapped round a cylinder and first prints onto a rubber cylinder, which then prints onto paper. Because the type form does not come into contact with the paper (hence “off set”) it is possible to produce large numbers of copies.
  4. Rotogravure printing- This is used mainly for producing coloured magazines with a high circulation. The printing parts are carved into the surface of a copper cylinder. After the whole cylinder has been inked, a scraper, or doctor blade, moves across the surface, and only the ink on the engraved parts of the cylinder remains and is taken up by the paper.2

Printing in Ireland

Printing did not arrive in Ireland until 1551 when Humphrey Powell printed The Boke of Common Praier. This first book in Irish type was paid for by Elizabeth I and was probably manufactured in London.

In 1571 an unidentified printer printed Aibidil Gaoidheilge Agus Caiticiosma, the first book using the Irish character.3

In the 1800’s, the newspapers cost sixpence each- quite a lot of money in those days- one penny of which was a special “tax on knowledge” put there to inflate the price so that lower orders would not be able to purchase papers and be influenced by their ideas into anti-government activity. Published weekly, and very rarely bi-weekly, their circulation normally varied from 3,000 upwards.4

Local printing

It is not known exactly when the printing press was established in Carlow… it was early in 1770, when the “Carlow Journal” was founded by William Kinnier, Kinneir or Kinnear, as it was variously spelled.5

The founders of the Nationalist and Leinster Times, Patrick Conlan and his brother John extended the circulation of the newspaper through counties Carlow, Kildare and Laoighs. On the death of Patrick Conlan at an early age of 46 his brother John continued for some time to direct and edit the Nationalist.6

References:

  1. ‘A History of Irish Printing’, National Print Museum, https://www.nationalprintmuseum.ie/
  2. ‘How the job is done’, Hans-Werner Klien, The Nationalist and Leinster Times 1883-1983 p.13
  3. ‘A History of Irish Printing’, National Print Museum, https://www.nationalprintmuseum.ie/
  4. ‘Carlow Newspapers 1828-1841’, Brother P.J. Kavanagh, M.A., Carloviana 1975 p.26-28.
  5. ‘Printing In Carlow’, Brian W. Keogh, Carloviana 1994/1995 p.12.
  6. ‘How, where and when they founded: The Nationalist’, William Ellis, The Nationalist and Leinster Times 1883-1983 p.2

 

This piece has been researched and written by Andrea Istrati, Transition Year Student, St. Leo’s College, Carlow as part of her work experience in Carlow County Museum. The Transition Year ‘Be Involved Volunteer Programme’ is organised by the Carlow Volunteer Centre.

 

‘Granny’s Christmas Pudding’ by Katherine Anne Monica McGill.

In our first blog of 2015 Katherine Anne Monica McGill outlines her project ‘Granny’s Christmas Pudding’, an installation that took place in Carlow County Museum from February to July 2014. It was previously part of a series of installations by Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) students in Visual Carlow in December 2013.

 

Granny’s Christmas Pudding’ installation of White table with several items on it including two glass boxes containing leaves and an open notebooks and pen between them

View of the ‘Granny’s Christmas Pudding’ installation on the Museum’s ground floor.

 

‘Granny’s Christmas Pudding’ was an installation acknowledging obsolete and disappearing information and skills.  Our modern world has superseded a lot of the old ways; others are lost to us now because people – like my Granny – have gone to their eternal reward.  Such people took with them the expertise they carried so easily at their finger-tips.  With the flippancy of youth, I omitted to garner such skills before it was too late, and now I do my best to recall them from hazy childhood memory.  I imagine this is a common experience, as applicable to other people as it is to me.

 

Ground floor of Carlow County Museum with two glass display cases or Vitrines

View of the installation on the Museum’s ground floor gallery.

 

The installation itself comprised fallen leaves I collected in Autumn 2013 from beneath the trees at Carlow College (St Patrick’s College) in Carlow town, and a notebook in which I wrote the information in “joined up” handwriting.  I used an old fountain pen and ink.  It remains with Carlow County Museum for future reference. Visitors were encouraged to collaborate in the display by including in the note book any disappearing skills they recalled.  Using Gregg shorthand (itself also a disappearing skill), I wrote various data on the leaves.  Older people might remember learning this by rote in their primary school days. Younger people might be intrigued to re-discover it. Included, for example, are old conversion tables of weights and measures.  These now seem so quaint: quarts, minims, bushels, perches, roods and leagues; old legal tender (pounds, shillings and pence), Morse code (long and short sound signals representing letters and numbers), some poetry, and commonplace prayers in Latin.  This project augmented my own knowledge: how to bone shoes was definitely new to me!

Most important of all, I discovered that Carlow people of a certain age remember with affection drinking Corcoran’s Mineral Waters, so I particularly appealed for anyone who might know the recipes or their whereabouts to include this in the notebook.

 

A close up photo of brown leaves with writing on them, Granny Christmas pudding

Close up of the writing on the leaves.

 

Why write on leaves?  Because they naturally become brittle and disintegrate, so the skills and information the leaves carried are once again apparently lost.  The project also echoed papyrus (another plant leaf) used by ancient peoples to record their important information.  Even though the information has been decoded, some of it is still obtuse to us today.

On the last day of July 2014, when the New Year’s leaves were fluttering on the trees at Carlow College, members of Carlow County Museum kindly agreed to crumble the leaves of the installation at Carlow College grounds.  The process was recorded by Museum staff.  It was a fitting end to a display inaugurated in February.

 

Dermot Mulligan and John McDarby standing under a tree in Carlow College with their hands in the air throwing leaves on the ground

Carlow County Museum staff Dermot Mulligan & John McDarby crumbling the leaves in the grounds of Carlow College.

 

My heartfelt thanks are given to Dermot Mulligan, Museum Curator and the staff of Carlow County Museum for their enthusiasm for my installation; to Cora Cummins, Print Tutor at IADT Dun Laoghaire and Emma Lucy O’Brien of Visual Carlow for their initial invitation to consider a Carlow project.  Visual Carlow is thanked for lending some equipment.  The visitors to Carlow County Museum are especially thanked for their many contributions to the notebook.  Thirty pages of responses exceeded my most optimistic expectations.  I hope they enjoyed their visits to this wonderful Museum and their collaboration.

And what of Corcoran’s Mineral Waters?  All is not lost, apparently.  Unlike my Granny’s Christmas pudding, it seems there is yet someone in Carlow who may hold the precious knowledge.  Perhaps some day soon people will be able to say with relish again “Ah, Corcoran’s!”

Katherine Anne Monica McGill under took this installation as a 3rd year student on the Visual Arts Practice course in Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT). The aim of this four-year course is to educate and inspire student artists through an integrated and multidisciplinary experience, helping them to create a comprehensive portfolio of work, tested against ‘real world’ situations. Carlow County Museum was delighted to host Katherine’s work.

 

Five Carlow County Museum staffs and Volunteers standing in front of a big glass display case holding leaves in their hands

Museum Staff and volunteers with Katherine at the instillation of the exhibition. (L to R) Brid Brett, Liam O’Rourke, Katherine Anne Monica McGill, Deirdre Hennessy and William Fallon.

 

‘Mike the Man of the Rás ‘73’ (Part 2 of 2) Dermot Mulligan

This is part two of a Blog ‘Mike the Man of the Rás ‘73’, part one was published last month. In May 2013 Carlow County Museum unveiled a special temporary exhibition to mark the fortieth anniversary of Carlow man Mike O’Donaghue winning the Rás Tailteann (now the An Post Rás), Ireland’s premier bike race in 1973. This Blog gives a summary of Mike’s great win and some career highlights. Continue reading

‘Sojourn’ a visual art exhibition among Museum displays

Saidhbhín Gibson outlines her project ‘Sojourn’; a solo exhibition that took place in Carlow County Museum in June 2013. It was launched during Éigse Carlow Arts Festival and supported by Carlow Arts Office.

Interior image of Carlow County Museum, which includes a large bell, a Pulpit and Saidhbhín Gibson: ‘Comfort and Joy’

Saidhbhín Gibson: ‘Comfort and Joy’, 2013 located in the Museum’s first floor gallery

 

The exhibition ‘Sojourn’ was the outcome of a longstanding interest to exhibit a body of work in a museum context. This project was installed among the displays at Carlow County Museum creating a trail through the building offering carefully planned juxtapositions between the artworks and the museum’s historical artefacts.

One such piece in the exhibition was ‘Merit’. It was placed amid the Museum’s ‘Mike – the man of the Rás’73’ display. It contained a lively, rotund lichen (Usneas subfloridana) atop one end of a speckled tree bark. At the other end there was a brightly coloured insignia, similar to that which features on certificates. This circular shape mirrored the form of the organic matter while also linking in with the brightly coloured cycling jerseys featured in the museum’s exhibition. The artwork suggested a celebratory status of the organic matter.

Saidhbhín Gibson: ‘Merit’, tree bark with lichen and yellow piece of paper , abstract art

Saidhbhín Gibson: ‘Merit’, 2013 located in the Museum’s temporary exhibition gallery.

 

‘Lichen gilt’ was another piece in the exhibition that contained similar collected material but of a different species and format. The edge of a decoratively printed saucer was adorned with a Candelaria concolor lichen. The small organic matter contained a number of colours and gave the impression it had been hand painted onto the pottery. The piece was fittingly displayed on a dresser in the museum’s kitchen installation. Many of the pieces in the exhibition brought the outdoors inside to inhabit our surrounds and indeed, be viewed along side the preserved and protected.

Saidhbhín Gibson: ‘Lichen gilt’, 2013, ceramic plate edged with lichen in Carlow County Museum

Saidhbhín Gibson: ‘Lichen gilt’, 2013 located in the Museum’s ground floor gallery.

 

Saidhbhín Gibson: 'Chuck’ a white frame with a smaller photo frame of a brown bird in Carlow County Museum

Saidhbhín Gibson: ‘Chuck’, 2013 located in the Museum’s ground floor gallery.

 

Carlow Cathedral pulpit: No. 85 on the Ireland in 100 objects trail

 

January 2014

Last year the wonderful publication ‘A History of Ireland in 100 Objects’ by Fintan O’Toole won the Best Irish Published Book of the Year in the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards. The book is based on the weekly series that was published in the Irish Times newspaper which featured a different object each week. The project was undertaken in association with the National Museum of Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy.

Carlow County Museum’s first floor exhibition gallery featuring the nineteenth century Pulpit and banner.

Carlow County Museum’s first floor exhibition gallery featuring the nineteenth century Pulpit and banner.

All of the objects are part of public collections both here in Ireland and abroad. We are delighted in Carlow County Museum that the magnificent 19th century hand carved pulpit from Carlow Cathedral has been included in the list. The pulpit was removed from the Cathedral in the mid 1990s as part of its major renovations. The pulpit is now on display on the first floor of Carlow County Museum, it is by far our largest object standing at approximately twenty feet. Pop in and have a look for yourself.

Last December Dr. Louise Nugent, Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland visited the Museum and has written a piece about the pulpit. We are delighted to share it with you. Thanks Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland for writing this piece.

Pilgrimage In Medieval Ireland

I am  getting a copy of Fintan O Toole’s  A History of Ireland in 100 Objects as an Xmas present,  I cant wait.  The book like the title says  tells the history  of Ireland through 100 artefacts. The chosen objects take us through the history of people in Ireland over 7,000 years, from a simple fish trap of the earliest inhabitants of the island to the first mass-produced microprocessor.

Off the back of this book there is a historic trail which allows the visitor to go and see the objects at the museums they are housed at. Last week as I happened to be in Carlow for the launch of the Carlow Archaeological and Historical Society Journal Carloviana,  I  began the trail with object No 85 which is housed  at the Carlow County Museum.

The trail does not demand you to start with any one object  and it really allows…

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