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Dracula, Bram Stoker, translated into Irish by Seán Ó Cuirrín, Oifig Díolta Foillseacháin Rialtais, 1933. Design: AóM (Austin Molloy). Courtesy of John Moore/Little Museum of Dublin

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Sídh-Scéilíní don aos óg (Fairy Stories for the Younger Generation), Pádraig Ó Bróithe, Oifig An tSoláthair, 1939 (2nd ed. 1946). Design: AóM (Austin Molloy)

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Lough Derg, Alice Curtayne, Burns, Oates & Washbourne, 1944. Design: AóM (Austin Molloy)

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Various covers designed by AóM (Austin Molloy) for Oifig An tSoláthair/Oifig Díolta Foillseacháin Rialtais from: Boston College University Libraries: Free State Art: Judging Ireland by its Book Covers

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Left: Cogadh na Reann (War of the Worlds), H.G. Wells, Oifig Diolta Foilseachain Rialtais, 1934. Design: AóM (Austin Molloy). Right: Cú na mBaskerville (Hound of the Baskervilles), Arthur Conan Doyle, Oifig Diolta Foilseachain Rialtais, 1934. Design: V.P. (Victor Penney)

I am delighted to share this little-seen cover for the 1933 Irish language edition of Bram Stocker’s Dracula. The deceptively simple design is by Austin Molloy (1886–1961) who signed his work AóM (Austin Ó Maolaoid). The three-colour design employs two shades of green and a yellow, a colour choice which we wouldn’t associate with the gothic or horror genres today yet is quite effective here. This fascinating chronology of Dracula covers shows that Molloy’s work is among the earliest illustrated covers and that the iconography we now associate with the book was in its infancy when he tackled the commission. There is no sign of any visual influence from Nosferatu (1922) or the first official film adaptation (1931) in Molloy’s design.

Austin Molloy was born in Castleknock, Dublin in 1886. He attended the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art between 1909 and 1916 where he befriended fellow student Harry Clarke. The two made a sketching trip together to the Aran Islands in 1909. As a student, Molloy contributed cartoons to Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin newspaper for 1 shilling and 6 pence per week. His cartoon work also appeared early on in Charles E. Kelly’s Dublin Opinion which began publication in 1922. In 1923 he took over teaching Harry Clarke’s illustration and layout course at the Metropolitan School of Art. Between them they taught a generation of talented designers who made their mark in the ‘thirties and ‘forties. These included George Altendorf, Olive Cunningham, Richard King, Victor Penney and John Henry.

Molloy was a prolific book cover artist and above is a small selection of his work. His main client was An Gúm (The Scheme) which was a government initiative started in 1925 to publish books in Irish. Under the Oifig Díolta Foillseacháin Rialtais (Government Publications Office) and Oifig An tSoláthair (Stationary Office) imprints, An Gúm published numerous titles. These included translations of works by English, American and European writers as well as original Irish books. It is interesting to see Molloy employ the same art deco-style lettering on the covers of Ben Hur, Iain Áluinn and Dracula.

Molloy also designed the cover for the Irish translation of another popular classic – H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds (Cogadh na Reann) while Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles (Cú na mBaskerville) is graced by cover art from Victor Penney, one of Molloy’s more talented students from the Metropolitan School.

It is great to see Dracula’s Dublin-born creator being celebrated in the form of the Bram Stoker Festival. As part of this year’s festival the Irish language first edition of Dracula (above), along with other key foreign first editions, will be on view at the Little Museum of Dublin from the 25th of October until the 25th of November in an exhibit titled “Dracula: Life after Death”.

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Lá agus Oidhche, Micheál MacLiammóir, An Gúm (1929). Jacket design by Micheál MacLiammóir.

Ceo Meala Lá Seaca, Micheál MacLiammóir, Sáirséal 7 Dill (1952). Jacket design by Micheál MacLiammóir.

Aisteoirí Faoi Dhá Sholas, Micheál MacLiammóir, Sáirséal 7 Dill (1956). Cover design Micheál MacLiammóir.

As a designer Micheál MacLiammóir (1899-1978) is best known for his stage sets and costume designs for the Gate Theatre, which he founded in 1928 with Hilton Edwards. He also worked as an illustrator providing designs for magazines and books. Above are examples of three jackets which he designed for his own books.

The jacket of Lá agus Oidhche from 1929 is masterful and as good an example of book cover design as you are likely to find from the 1920s. The playful illustration of the title (Day and Night) shows the influence of Aubrey Beardsley albeit with cruder rendering. In fact, it is this rougher line which makes it much less of a period piece.

The other two examples are from the 1950s and don’t have the same inpact as Lá agus Oidhche Indeed, it is hard to believe that the cover of Aisteoirí Faoi Dhá Sholas is from the same hand.

Culture Night 2010 – Mary’s Abbey

As part of Culture Night this Friday, I am putting together an exhibition of Irish book cover design from the late 20s up until the 1970s. It will include a lot of covers which I have yet to feature on the blog. It will take place in Mary’s Abbey, Meetinghouse Lane, off Capel Street from 6-9pm. If you are in the Capel Street area on friday night please drop in. There will also be a projection of photographs entitled “Life thru my mobile phone” and music by Barry McCormack from 8.30.

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