Exhibit | April 6, 2017

"Burning Books" Exhibition Opens at Dublin Castle

burning-books.jpgThe Office of Public Works is delighted to announce the official launch today, 5 April 2017, of ‘Burning Books’ - an exhibition detailing the reproduction of 14 volumes of the Irish Parliamentary Journals dating from the 1700’s which were destroyed during the Irish Civil War in 1922.

In the last decade of the 19th century the book collector and amateur book binder Sir Edward Sullivan was shown a collection of 149 large volumes in exquisite bindings that had been stored, unnoticed, over many years in the Public Records Office in Dublin.  They were in fact the Journals of the Houses of Lords and Commons of the old Irish Parliament, that ceased to exist after the 1800 Act of Union.

Sullivan made rubbings of all 149 volumes and photographed 20, intending to publish a large monograph on the subject.  He did not receive enough financial support for this, but did succeed in publishing a small volume, Decorative Book-Binding in Ireland, which was published in 1914 by the Sette of Odd Volumes in London.

We are very fortunate that the National Library of Ireland had Sir Edward’s rubbings, as in 1922, the Public Records Office was destroyed by an explosion and all of the magnificent 149 bindings housed there perished in the flames that engulfed the building.  In 1990 Philip Maddock, a book collector, inspired by images displayed in Maurice Craig’s work ‘Irish Book Bindings 1600-1800’ started to build up a visual database of Irish hand tools used in the book binding process with a view to making a digital reproduction of one of the lost Irish Parliamentary Journals.  This digital reproduction of Commons Journal 1757 was produced in 2006. 

Edward Bayntun-Coward, who carried out a review of this digital reproduction, introduced Maddock to Trevor Lloyd, a renowned bookbinder and restorer.  Subsequently, Lloyd made copies of books in Maddock’s collection to gain experience and knowledge as to how to reproduce accurate copies of the Irish Parliamentary Bindings.

Fourteen volumes of the 149 bindings were reproduced and are on display in Dublin Castle from April 3 to September 1, 2017. Also on display are the tools used in the process, as well as examples of 18th century Irish bindings and some of the printed editions of the Lords and Commons Journals in presentation bindings. 

It is particularly apt that this fascinating exhibition is being facilitated by the OPW at Dublin Castle where six of the volumes are - through an exceptionally generous gesture on the part of Philip Maddock and the Georgian Society - to remain indefinitely.  It is also noteworthy that the OPW was responsible for the construction of the Public Record Office behind the Four Courts, where the original Parliamentary Bindings rested for so many years.