Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Provincial binders

Whilst the league of Dublin-based bookbinders may present some names familiar to us, e.g.: Mullen, Cavenagh and Bellew to name but a few, once in a while we stumble across a name that is not so familiar. Binding a fine copy of our second edition of Annals of the kingdom of Ireland (Dublin : Hodges, Smith, 1856) is the work of a Kilkenny binder known only by his last name: Landy.

The binding is a half leather affair with marbled boards, and a delicate foliated scroll across its spine bands.

If you would like to view/ consult this item, or indeed any item from the Mac Fhinn Collection, please submit an online request or contact the staff of the Special Collections Reading Room in the Hardiman Building at

Monday, 18 August 2014

Minutes and Moments in Galway History - Galway Urban District Council Archives

As part of the Local Authority Collections of the Hardiman Library Archives, the minutes books of  Galway Urban District Council, ranging from 1899-1922, cover a key period in the development of Galway city and its environs. The Urban District Council was set-up after the 1898 Local Government Act, it replaced the Board of the Galway Town Commissioners. As an 'Urban District Council' rather than a 'Corporation' the body was subordinate to Galway County Council, in administrative terms this put Galway City on the same level as towns such as Athlone and Clonmel. 

Galway Urban District council was responsible for the upkeep of Galway'’s roads, street lighting and the collection of tolls. Unlike it predecessor body the Galway Town Commissioners it was also responsible for the provision of 'social housing'. During the period covered by this collection a number of housing schemes in Galway city were undertaken by the Urban District Council, including the construction of 'working class' homes in Henry Street. The period covered by this collection also saw the replacement of the tram service to Salthill with a bus service.

The minute books of the Galway Urban District Council also include a number of references to political events of the time including The First World War, The Conscription Crisis and the War of Independence. One such entry on 18 July 1918 sees a request for assistance made to The Galway U.D.C. from the Irish Recruiting Council, regarding recruitment into forces fighting in the First World War. The Galway U.D.C minuted that they were willing to meet and hear the request from the Irish Recruitment Council. A following meeting, dated, 1 August 1918, notes that Colonel Arthur Lynch M.P. addressed the meeting on behalf of the Irish Recruitment Council and explained the necessity of having voluntary recruiting carried out in order to obviate the necessity of conscription. 

18 July 1918

A resolution passed on 17 June 1920 explicitly stated that the Urban District Council recognised "the authority of Dáil Éireann as the duly elected Government of the Irish people".
17 June 1920
So much economic, social and political evidence can be gleaned from such documents. When considering one of the duties and responsibilities of the Galway U.D.C. was upkeep and maintenance of roads within the district, even details regarding condition of the roads can steer researchers toeards information regarding population growth, increase in number of vehicles in Galway City at the time and even the impact the First World War was having by increasing military traffic in the region. An entry from Aril 1919 gives reasons as following for degrading of road conditions:

 ". . . .That the traffic from the County districts over the roads within the Borough boundary has been considerably increased in recent years, and that to this has been added a large volume of Army motor traffic which resulted in increased expenses in the repair and up-keep of the roads."

17 April 1919
All these images are from volume LA4/3 and are from just one volume of a series of four which are a vital and unique resource for a study of the period of key development in Galway and indeed nationally at the time. A full description can be seen here:

Monday, 11 August 2014

Finding that needle in a haystack

Last week, I wrote about the centuries of unsigned bookbindings which lie in our Special Collections and the difficulty of pinning down the year/ location/ craftsman involved. Our collections are not unique in this. There can also be a difficulty in pinning down bibliographic information, often the result of scant title-page and colophon detail, and printers’ devices can be used to fill such gaps in information. With issues of provenance, however, the types of clues provided (signatures, initials, stamps, bookplates, armorial detail, ex-libris) and the sources of information used to identify them (search engines, bibliophile indices, censuses, street directories, image databases) can be wide and varied.
Take this detail from Joseph Cooper Walker’s A historical essay on the dress of the ancient and modern Irish (Dublin : George Grierson, 1788).

A gilt stamp, located at the top of the item’s ornately tooled spine, is the only ownership mark on the item. The tools of the rare books cataloguer then come into play and, after much refining of possible search terms, an exact match is found and the mystery solved: in this case the previous owner was Charles William Bury, 1st Earl of Charleville (1764-1835).
Some provenance mysteries are unsolvable, and usually result from the effacement of ownership marks, such as is seen here on the title-page of René Descartes’s Principia philosophiæ (Amstelodami: Ludovicum & Danielem Elzevirios, 1656).

Other mysteries remain unsolved, however, such as the mysterious provenance of our copy of De occvlta philosophia libri tres. Markings and signatures, all curious and barely legible, including a red wax seal, may or may not be contemporary with the item’s 1533 publication date, and may result from more than one owner. This cataloguer is stumped.

If you would like to view/ consult any of the above items, please submit an online request or contact the staff of the Special Collections Reading Room in the Hardiman Building at

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

More bindings from the Special Collections

With items dating back to the mid C15th, the style of bindings in NUIG’s special collections range from blind-tooled velvet and fragile sheepskin to simple stabbed quires and alum-tawed boards. Items are rarely signed, which was the norm during the early years of hand-printed book production, but this does not take away from the craftsmanship evident in many items. Thankfully, the method of using toolmarks to identify individual bookbinders or to, at the very least, narrow down the era and possibly location of a binding, is making the work of the rare books cataloguer somewhat easier
An example of fine unsigned C18th work binds Some familiar letters between Mr. Locke, and several of his friends (London: A. and J. Churchill, 1708). The ‘Cambridge panel’ style of blocked binding is used here, a style which came into vogue in the late C17th and remained popular until the middle of the C18th, and generally used three panels of patterned leathers. This binding employs three separate leather panels offset by tulip cornerpieces. The outer and centre panels are sprinkled, whilst the middle panel is marbled. Blind-tooling, the usual form of decoration in the ‘Cambridge panel’ style, completes the binder’s work.

A variation on the ‘Cambridge panel’ style has been used to bind The indictment, arraignment, tryal, and judgment, at large, of twenty-nine regicides, the murtherers of His Most Sacred Majesty King Charles the Ist, of glorious memory (London: J. Walthoe, 1724). Sprinkled leather is used again here in the outermost and central panels, whilst the middle panel is of unsprinkled leather and framed by a blind triangular stamp. The motif is repeated around the rims inside the covers.
If you would like to view/ consult either item, or indeed any of the bindings in our collections, please submit an online request or contact the staff of the Special Collections Reading Room in the Hardiman Building at

Scheduled Downtime for Library Catalogue on Tuesday 26th August from 16:00 - 20:00

Library Catalogue Maintenance

Access to some Library services will be interrupted on Tuesday 26th August from  16:00 -20:00 to facilitate an Oracle Database upgrade.  
  • Access to the catalogue will be as normal, but real-time item location information will be impaired for a time.
  • No self-check facility for borrowing of items will be available
  • Books may be returned via the book sorter
  • Booking of Group study rooms will not be possible
  • Placing of Hold requests will not be possible
  • No online renewal or online fines payment facilities will be available.

If you have any queries about this upgrade activity, please contact the Service Desk Tel. x5777, 

Friday, 1 August 2014

Book of the month

During August, we present to you Ireland's memorial records, 1914-1918: being the names of Irishmen who fell in the Great European War, 1914-1918 (Dublin : Maunsel & Roberts, 1923). Compiled by the Committee of the Irish National War Memorial, with decorative borders by Harry Clarke (1889-1931), this eight volume set was created to preserve and commemorate the memory of the thousands of Irishmen who died during the war. The volumes cover the entire island of Ireland, north and south, and contain the names of 49,647 individuals. It was compiled under the direction of the Earl of Ypres, and serves as a lasting memorial to the thousands of Irishmen who died during the Great War.
Corner detail

Later scholars have noted, however, that there are other Great War casualties from Ireland whose names are not included in the memorial records.
For details of other useful sources on this period, we refer you to our guide to sources on Ireland and the Great War: copies are available in the Special Collections Reading Room.
If you would like to view/ consult this item, please submit an online request or contact the staff of the Special Collections Reading Room in the Hardiman Research Building at