News | January 21, 2024

National Library of Ireland Acquires The O’Brien Press Publishing Archive


Ciara Kerrigan, Ivan O'Brien, Dr Audrey Whitty and Colette O'Flaherty

The National Library of Ireland has announced the acquisition of The O’Brien Press Collection and its archive which includes first edition titles from Marita Conlon-McKenna, Éamonn McThomáis, Eoin Colfer, Siobhán Parkinson, Polly Devlin, Frank McGuinness and William Trevor.

Dating back to the establishment of the Irish family-run publishing house in 1974, the collection contains thousands of items, including manuscripts, first editions of O’Brien Press titles, and pieces of original artwork.
It has been acquired by the National Library from Ivan O’Brien, whose late father, Michael O’Brien – a powerhouse in the world of publishing in Ireland, as well as internationally – set up the publishing house in 1974.

Celebrating almost 50 years in Irish publishing, the extensive collection runs from 1974 to the end of September 2023. It comprises more than 100 boxes of editorial material, such as annotated manuscripts, texts and related papers, approximately 75,000 items of correspondence and 1,500 pieces of original artwork. Director of the National Library of Ireland, Dr Audrey Whitty said: “The O’Brien Press Archive is a significant and comprehensive record of almost 50 years of Irish writing, publishing and book illustration. It will be of interest to a wide range of scholars, including writers and illustrators, literary scholars and historians. It is particularly poignant to receive this collection, which in large part is due to the skill of Michael O’Brien, who died last year.

“I thank Ivan for gifting this wonderful archive of Irish literary history to the National Library and I look forward to sharing it with the public once the archive has been assessed, conserved and catalogued.”

Managing Director of The O’Brien Press, Ivan O’Brien added: “When the press was founded in 1974, there was little in the way of an indigenous publishing industry here. The O’Brien Press began at Michael’s kitchen table and, with the help of an army of dedicated and creative staff over the years, it has evolved into one of the country’s leading independent publishers.

“We are delighted that future researchers will have the opportunity to trace the massive changes over the lifetime of the press and how the process of creating books has been transformed by waves of technological change. Having our archive homed in the National Library was his longtime wish and we know that he would be incredibly proud today.”