Fine Irish Bindings

The aim of this project, suggested by the late Vincent Kinnane, formerly of the Department of Early Printed Books, is to reconstruct images of Irish Bookbindings which were destroyed when the Four Courts was shelled during the Civil War in 1922. The 149 volumes destroyed were the Journals of the Irish House of Lords and the Irish House of Commons. They were described as "probably the most majestic series of bound volumes in the world". Fortunately some were photographed, in black and white, and rubbings were taken of a great many by Sir Edward Sullivan. The aim of this project is to form colour images of the bindings. The following image is an index to 9 full images of Irish Bindings taken from "Irish Bookbindings" by Maurice Craig, No. 6 in the Irish Heritage Series published by Eason's. Click on an image to see the enlarged version.

"Book 7" is believed to be by the binder of the destroyed volumes. "Book 8" and "Books 9" are photographs of rubbings of two of the destroyed volumes. "Book 8" shows a grid of small squares which was made by the finisher to guide him in the placing of the gilt tooling.

The bindings are made with tools such as those shown below:

Fig. 1 is a symmetrical flourish used by the Parliamentary Binders and by other Irish binders but not,apparently, elsewhere.
Fig. 2 is an asymmetrical flourish which exists in both a right- and left-handed version.
Fig. 3 is a closed and inflected flourish.
Fig. 4 is a Flame-Plant used by the Parliamentary and other Irish binders.
Fig. 5 is a rose used by Parliamentary Binder B and other Irish binders.
Fig. 6 is a cross-over in shield.
Fig. 7 is a large trophy used by the Parliamentary and other Irish Binders and was re-cut several times.
Fig. 8 is a Cornucopia used by Parliamentary Binder B and later by other Irish Binders


Designs can be made from simple tools called gouges which arcs of a circle and pallets which are straight lines. The figure below, from Bookbinding Techniques by Pamela Richmond, shows a simple design and the tools from which it was made. Initially the project should start from these simple tools and construct the figure.

It is important to try to maintain the form produced by manual use of the tools rather than build a stylised model of a complete binding. Larger elements, such as the jugs in Book 7, can be produced using these or similar tools. Hence complete bindings can be produced. The principal aim of the project is to endeavour to produce images of what the destroyed Parliamentary bindings looked like. They should appear as if they produced by humans using gouges and other tools.