Conference Report

With the programme for the annual conference finalised and booking now open for the 2017 Print Networks Annual Conference, here’s the report of last year’s conference held at the University of Galway from Helen Williams, a doctoral student at Edinburgh Napier University who received  the postgraduate fellowship. Helen will be presenting her paper ‘Mr O’Connor, famous Chartist, visits town': reporting Chartism in south west Scotland at the 2017 conference on 21 July.

Print Networks

The theme of the 2016 Print Networks conference, held at the Moore Institute in the National University of Ireland at Galway was British and Irish Print Networks. The conference organising committee at NUI had put together a wide-ranging programme, covering the life-cycle of print from production, via the lives of printers, the funding sources and distribution methods of publishers, illustration, book trade links, to the reception and consumption of texts, and from the eighteenth to the twentieth century.

There were two sessions on day one – the morning one started late enough for those of us who were new to the town to find our way to the Moore Institute. K A Manley spoke about the range and variety of circulating libraries in Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. He was followed by Paul Rooney who discussed the publication and reception of James Duffy & Co's mid-nineteenth-century 'Library of Ireland' and the business of publishing specifically for the Catholic market. After lunch we heard from Andrew Carpenter on the interpretation of subscription lists for eighteenth century publications – which is a much more complex matter than it looks on the surface. Valerie Rumbold about the publication of almanacs, and Molly O'Hagan Hardy updated the conference on the project to digitise a card file held by the American Antiquarian Society, listing the names of individuals involved in the early years of America's printing and allied trades.

The afternoon was completed by Charles Benson's fascinating keynote lecture on the integration of the booktrades in Ireland and Britain in the early nineteenth century looked, among many other things, at the practicalities of book distribution – the introduction of steamships sailing across the Irish Sea in 1817 meant that new publications were no longer delayed by weeks of adverse winds. Large publishers such as Longmans and Oliver & Boyd distributed their publications to Irish booksellers, who might themselves visit London to organise the import of their stock. Type and machines were also imported, and printers and bookbinders working in Ireland had often been trained elsewhere. The database of individuals involved in the book and related trades now contains close on 6,000 names.

The morning of the second day began with a session of two papers. Alberto Gabriele looked at the links between the Irish book trade and the colonies, particularly Australia, in the later part of the nineteenth century, once the route via Suez opened. Illustrated papers in Australia not only depended on shipping for news, but also reported on it – with dramatic images of shipwreck appearing in the Illustrated Australian News. The career of an Irish nationalist printer, Matthew Walker, who was active in the trade in Carlow and Dublin at the end of the nineteenth and in the early twentieth century was examined by Teresa Breathnach with illustrations of publications from contemporary presses.

This was followed by a work-in-progress session, of five short presentations on the nineteenth century periodical press, and the reception of cheap print in Italy and Ireland, a seventeenth century London printer, and an update on the British Book Trade Index.

After lunch there was a session of two papers, the first presented by Lucy Collins, who looked at the publication of Irish poetry in the early years of the twentieth century, and illustrated her talk with images illustrating the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement and examined the different publication styles of the Irish and London-based publishers. The final paper of the conference, by James M'Kenzie Hall took us back nearly a hundred years, examining the publication and distribution of works consisting mainly of topographical engravings of Irish landscape and buildings in the first half of the nineteenth century. European travel had been restricted during the Napoleonic Wars, and advances in the technology of reproducing images meant that edition sizes could be larger to enable more people to go on the early nineteenth century equivalent of a 'virtual Grand Tour'.

Finally, in the conference's final keynote lecture, Tom Mole spoke about the ways in which the republication of Romantic poetry within anthologies, very popular in the Victorian period, altered the reception of poets' works, by stripping away the context in which they had originally appeared, and in some cases making changes to suit the new publishing context. The popularity of anthologies meant that the majority of some poets' output was marginalised in favour of individual poems and extracts from longer works that fitted these collections of highlights, thus censoring output in the act of increasing its circulation.