Ioldánas: Irish Crafts Exhibition, Irish Section World Crafts Council (1970). Design: unknown

Transportation in Dublin, An Foras Forbartha (1973). Design: Dara Ó Lochlainn Associates

Here are two booklet covers from the early Seventies. The first is a catalogue for an exhibition of Irish Crafts and the second is a report on transportation in Dublin.

The Ioldánas Irish Crafts Exhibition was organised by the Irish section of the World Crafts Council to coincide with the fourth general assembly of the World Crafts Council in Dublin, 1970. Despite Ireland’s impressive craft lineage (the cover image is a 3,500 year old gold lunula), Ida Grehan in The Irish Times was disparaging of the whole endeavour asking “will it be up to the high standard of Trinity College Library where Picasso, Lurçat and a succession of international artists have been exhibited?” (The Irish Times, May 27, 1970). Nevertheless, the exhibition was a success and directly led to the establishment of the Crafts Council of Ireland the following year.

The font on the cover is Helvetica, still a fresh and modern face in 1970. The rest of the catalogue utilises the beautiful Colmcille typeface, designed by Colm Ó Lochlainn with Karl Uhlemann at the Sign of the Three Candles.

The second cover, Transportation in Dublin, was designed by Colm Ó Lochlainn’s son Dara’s design agency. Although it is from 1973 it feels very sixties. This is no doubt due to the use of  Sans Serif No 7 (the digitised version is more commonly called Bureau Grotesque) by Stephenson Blake, a quintessentially British typeface popular in the 1960s. Also, the cars in the photo look a little out of date. I have a feeling the photo is from a few years earlier although it may be a reflection of the recession of the seventies beginning to bite with motorists making do with the old car rather than splashing out on a new model.

Many of the recommendations in the report were implemented, including the East Link bridge and the M50 motorway. The “Possible Underground System” has yet to materialise.

Drámaíocht in Éirinn, Theatre in Ireland, Micheál MacLiammóir with illustrations by Norah McGuinness 1950


The Ossianic Lore and Romantic Tales of Medieval Ireland, Gerard Murphy 1955

Saga and Myth in Ancient Ireland, Gerard Murphy 1955 (front)


Saga and Myth in Ancient Ireland, Gerard Murphy 1955 (back)

Above are the covers of three booklets in the Irish Life & Culture series published by Colm Ó Lochlainn’s Sign of the Three Candles. Norah McGuinness illustrated the first example while the other two are uncredited. Ó Lochlainn (1892–1972) was a printer, publisher, typographer, uilleann piper, Gaelic scholar, ballad collector, choir director and Professor of Language and Literature in UCD. Along with giving the designer Karl Uhlemann his first job at the Three Candles press, he also employed Seamus Ennis there for many years and introduced him to Professor Seamus Ó Duilearge of the Irish Folklore Commission. Ó Lochlainn’s son Ruan inherited his father’s interest in design and music. He designed the cover of Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance while also playing keyboards and saxophone on the album.

I love the typography on these covers. While the designs appear effortless there is real craft at work here. The back cover which I’ve included shows the logo of the Cultural Relations Committee of Ireland which no doubt financed the publication of the series.

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