ARB and the Irish

Smith's Cork History title pageThe Archives & Rare Books Library has received additional volumes restored through UC Libraries’ Preservation Services and national book conservators.  The most recent volumes that have returned represent the Irish history holdings.  ARB has an excellent collection of Irish history, literature, and drama that garners frequent use from students and researchers in a variety of fields, particularly English, history, European studies, and ethnology. The William J. Lawrence Notebooks on the History of the Irish Stage, for example, is a collection of 99 original hand-written research notebooks on Irish theatre from the 17th to the 20th centuries that were compiled by theatre critic Lawrence in the early 1900s.  These holdings attract scholars from around the world to the UC campus to conduct cultural research on Ireland.  Additionally, one of the outstanding segments of ARB’s Irish materials is the Knott-Radner Collection of over 700 items in the Irish Gaelic tradition, including many very rare items from the Irish Revival period before World War I.

An engraving showing the city of Cork from Smith's Cork History

An engraving showing the city of Cork from Smith's history of Cork

The four books that are back in ARB’s stacks include work by conservator Amanda Buck on a 17th c. book and an 18th c. two-volume title.  The Present State of Ireland (SpecCol RB DA925.P7) was published in London in 1673 and contains a history of ancient Ireland, along with a contemporary description of its principal towns.  It also includes a fold-out map.  The book’s original binding was dismantled and then re-backed with calf.  The crushed corners were restored, along with some minor repair on the text block, and new handmade endpapers were added.  The new work on the binding was dyed to match the original.  Buck also restored The Ancient and Present State of County and City of Cork, published in Dublin in 1774 (SpecCol RB DA990.C79S6). She removed the original bindings and then rebound the volumes with full calf over raised bands.  Buck did hand gold-tooling on the spines and added French handmade endpapers.  The result is an absolutely beautiful pair of books.  This important history of Cork, one of Ireland’s main ports in the 18th c., contains many fold-out views of the county and city, including the one illustrated here of Cork City.IMG_0467

For Thomas Leland’s three-volume History of Ireland (SpecCol DA910.L532), a London publication from 1773, Anna Radford of Etherington Conservation Services in North Carolina, repaired the deteriorated corners, re-attached loose endpapers, and repaired the binding that had suffered severe abrasion of the leather.  Using Japanese tissue and paste, along with colorants, Radford made these volumes come alive while still retaining the 18th c. original bindings.

Chronicles of EriThe Chronicles of Eri, being the History of the Gaal Sciot Iber: or, the Irish People by Roger O’Connor in London in 1822 (SpecCol RB DA930.O18), was conserved by Frank Lehmann.  Lehmann laced new linen cords through the text block into boards, used handmade endpapers, sewed new headbands, and bound the two volumes in calfskin binding and marbled papers.  The spine is gold-tooled and the original UC bookplates that indicate the volumes were part of the seminal Robert Clarke collection that formed the UC Libraries in the 19th c., were soaked off and re-attached to the new bindings. Chronicles of Eri title page His work is extraordinary, and the volumes look almost exactly as they would have been in 1822.

It is great to have these books back home and to have the beautiful conservation work done on them, but most importantly it is gratifying to know these books are physically fit again and that they will continue to be used for teaching and study for a very long time to come.

–     Kevin Grace