Ireland has been gripped by commemorations of the Easter Rising in the last month. The Rising took place from the 24th April to the 29th April 1916 in Dublin. A packed programme of events and activities took place across Ireland and in Irish communities further afield to commemorate this centenary.
In March 2016, addressing a colloquium at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, the Irish Ambassador to the United Kingdom, his Excellency Daniel Mulhall, emphasised the transnational and inclusive nature of the commemoration programme in his opening remarks. The 1916 Rising had a global impact with ripples felt as far as Asia and India. This is reflected in the range of events taking place in the United Kingdom, supported by the Irish Embassy.
In military terms the Rising was a failure and had consequences for the people of Dublin with 415 people killed, the majority of whom were civilians.
Turning to the documentation of the Rising, there are a number of interesting documents within the Library’s collections relating to the Rising. The British Library does not hold an original broadside of the Proclamation of an Irish Republic. Nevertheless, later examples of the document were acquired retrospectively.
The earliest example of a version of the proclamation in the British Library’s collections, can be found at C.S.A.24/3.(1.). This is interesting from a bibliographical stand point because it is the first entry under the new heading in the British Library Printed Catalogue to 1975:
Provisional Government of the Irish Republic 1916. Miscellaneous Public documents.
That the Library classified this proclamation as a public document and gave the document the C.S.A., official publication pressmark prefix, which originates from the 1890s, is of particular interest. The third factor which is of interest is that this version of the proclamation is the only item in the green bound guard-book which is embossed on the spine in gold.
IRELAND. PROCLAMATIONS, ETC.
Although the red (purchase) stamp appears on the reverse of the document, because of the way it has been mounted in the volume it is unclear when the item was acquired. It appears to read 15 May ‘59. The volume itself bears the British Museum binders stamp B.M.1961 on the inside of the rear board. These dates indicate that this item, as with other ephemera relating to 1916 Rebellion, was acquired retrospectively.
The second example of the proclamation is a more ornate affair. It is a single sheet dating from 1941, measuring approximately 325mm x 255mm. The text of the document is laid out in the same fashion as the original, but the type face has been standardised, removing the anomalies from the original, and the list of signatories has been centred rather than justified to the right as in the original. What is most striking about this item are the portraits of the seven signatories surrounding the text and connected by the decorative boarder. At the bottom centre surround in a circle is the Irish Army sunburst emblem, designed by Eion MacNeill, and interestingly it is reproduced without the inscription "Óglaigh na hÉireann" or Irish Volunteers.
The third document is a piece of contemporary ephemera which traces its lineage to the focal point of the rebellion. Dated Tuesday April 25 1916, on the last page of the first issue of Irish War News it is an article headed:
“Stop Press (Irish) ‘War News’ is published to-day because a momentous thing has happened. The Irish Republic has been declared in Dublin and a Provisional Government has been appointed to administer it is affairs.”
The article goes on to name the signatories of the proclamation as the Provisional Government while outlining the situation in Dublin from the rebel prospective.
The Rising, or more particularly the centenary of the events in Dublin a hundred years ago, is being explored and represented in new ways thanks to technology and the work of colleagues at Trinity College Dublin and the Bodleian Library Oxford. In the last year they have built and curated a collection of websites related to the commemoration.
These have been archived as part of the open UK Web Archive. To have the opportunity to build this collection of Irish and UK websites is an exciting prospect for the future of web published content. This endeavour illustrates how the internet is not confined by national boundaries. The work on the Easter Rising collection exemplifies how archivists working together can build a contemporary collection which provides a range of perspectives from all corners of the .uk and .ie domains.
Archiving websites about anniversaries and centenaries such as Easter 1916 is of prime importance because such sites can be transient and are soon overwritten or taken down. Archiving them creates a research resource for the future which offers scholars and anyone interested the opportunity to explore and examine the response to this centenary on the published web.
The Easter Rising collection is currently a growing part of the UK Web Archive special collections where it can be freely consulted online.
By Jeremy Jenkins, Curator Emerging Media, The British Library
Bouch, Joseph J. “The Republican Proclamation of Easter Monday, 1916,” Bibliographical Society of Ireland, Publications vol.5. no.3 1936. General Reference Collection: Ac.9708/2 [A reissue].
The Easter Proclamation of the Irish Republic, MCMXVI
Dublin : Dolmen Press, 1960. General Reference Collection: Cup.510.ak.37
The Easter Proclamation of the Irish Republic 1916,
[S.l.] : Dolmen Press, 1976. Document Supply Shelfmark: D76/23312