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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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Fergus O’Ryan covers

October 19, 2011

In Monavalla, Joseph Brady, Gill & Son, (1963). Cover design: Fergus O’Ryan

Legends of Killarney, Donal O’Cahill, published by author, (n.d. 8th ed.). Cover design: Fergus O’Ryan

Fergus O’Ryan RHA ANCA (1911-1989) is better known today as a painter but he spent most of his working life as ‘a professional designer and commercial artist’ as a 1949 catalogue described him.

He worked with McEvoy’s Advertising Services in Dublin in the early 1940s and in 1943 he was with the Rank Organisation working at the Theatre Royal. He became art director and remained there until it closed down in 1962, designing backdrops and scenery as well as cinema posters. From there he went on to teach lithography at the National College of Art until his retirement in 1976.

His paintings, though well executed, are quite anodyne and hark back to Impressionism. What little I’ve seen of his commercial and print work is much more interesting. I would quite happily have a print of the In Monavalla cover on my wall. The character on the cover looks like the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit although I’m not sure if that was the intention.

63 pieces of O’Ryan’s commercial work sold as part of a lot of ’60s and ’70s Irish Sweepstakes advertising art in 2005.

Freemantle Mission, Seán Ó Lúing, Anvil Books, (1965). Cover design: Joe O’Byrne

The mystery of the Casement ship, Captain Karl Spindler, Anvil Books, (1965). Cover design: Joe O’Byrne

The Clanking of Chains, Brinsley MacNamara, Anvil Books, (1965). Cover design: Joe O’Byrne

Above are three covers for Anvil Books designed by Joe O’Byrne in 1965. The post-nominal initials MIAPI after his credit for the Fremantle cover were the vital clue to who he might be. A member of the Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland, O’Byrne was working for O’Kennedy Brindley when he designed these covers, on the side, for Anvil. He later went on to found his own advertising agency, O’Byrne Associates, which gave Brennan’s Bread their distinctive yellow and red wrappers and the slogan “Today’s Bread Today”.

Anvil Books specialised in Irish history with a heavy leaning to Republican themes. The Clanking of Chains stands out for being a novel. O’Byrnes’ design echos MacNamara’s most infamous work, Valley of the Squinting Windows, placing a figure in a window as the only illustration in a predominately typographic treatment. To my mind, the Fremantle Mission is the most striking cover of the three. The orange of the sun really jumps out from the rust background.

The Book of Famous Irish Spy Stories, Daniel O’Keeffe, Irish Pocket Books (1956). Design: M.G. (Michael Gallivan)

The Book of Famous Irish Ghost Stories, Edited by Daniel O’Keeffe, Irish Pocket Books (c. 1956). Design: Michael Gallivan. (Courtesy of Larry Hynes)

Memorable Irish Trials, Kenneth E.L. Deale, Irish Pocket Books (c. 1956). Design: Osborne. (Courtesy of Larry Hynes)

Valentine Vaughan Omnibus, R. Thurston Hopkins, Grafton (1947). Design: unknown

A Case Book of Ghosts, F.W. Gumley & M.P. Mahon, Northern Whig (1971). Design: unknown

Triúr don Chómgargadh, Eoghan Ó Grádaigh, Sáirséal 7 Dill Scéalta Mistéir Uimhir 5 (1968). Design: Úna Ní MhaoilEoin

Ruathar Anall, Eoghan Ó Grádaigh, Sáirséal 7 Dill Scéalta Mistéir Uimhir 3 (1962). Design: Seoirse Mac Aodhagáin

Genre fiction has never really taken hold with Irish publishers. The zealous censorship of publications during the first few decades of the State probably played a role but it is more likely that there just isn’t a big enough population to sustain indigenous mass market paperbacks. The above examples of crime, mystery and horror covers display a charming amateurishness.

The first three are from The Mercier Press’ Irish Pocket Books imprint which operated in the mid-fifties. Michael Gallivan illustrated the first two and the third is by a mysterious ‘Osborne’. I’m afraid I can find no information on either artist. Larry Hynes kindly provided two of the examples which he included in a beautiful poster design celebrating 21 years of Charlie Byrne’s book shop in Galway.

There are 24 years between the next two examples, 1947’s Valentine Vaughan Omnibus and A Case Book of Ghosts from 1971, although the latter cover could easily be from the same period. Unfortunately, I don’t own a copy of the Valentine Vaughan book. The October 2010 issue of Book and Magazine Collector, from which the image is taken, estimates it’s value at £150-£200 sterling! The book is set in London but was published in Dublin by Grafton.

The final two covers are from Sáirséal agus Dill’s Scéalta Mistéir (Mystery Stories) series from the sixties. Úna Ní MhaoilEoin presents a rather naive rendering of a smoking pistol on the fifth book in the run, Triúr don Chómgargadh. I previously posted another of her designs for the series, An Masc. Ní MhaoilEoin wrote and illustrated a number of travel books for Sáirséal agus Dill during the sixties including An Maith Leat Spaigiti? (Do You Like Spaghetti?) (1965) and Turas Go Tuinis (Trip to Tunisia) (1969). According to Manchán Magan the Sunday Dispatch described her books as the most amusingly outspoken books ever to have appeared in the Gaelic language.

Dialann Deoraí, Dónall MacAmhlaigh, An Clóchomhar (Third Edition, 1970). Cover design: Seán Ó Brádaigh

An Dá Thaobh, Eoghan Ó Ceallaigh, An Clóchomhar (1968). Cover design: Seán Ó Brádaigh

Dónall Óg, Seosamh Ó Duibhginn, An Clóchomhar (1960). Cover design: Seán Ó Brádaigh

Ag Scaoileadh Sceoil, Seosamh Ó Duibhginn, An Clóchomhar (1962). Cover illustration: Ristreard Ó Cearbhaill. Cover design: Seán Ó Brádaigh

I’m not sure if the Seán Ó Brádaigh who designed these covers is the same Seán Ó Brádaigh who was Sinn Fein’s Director of Publicity and the editor of An Phoblacht. I have a feeling that it is but I would be very interested to have it confirmed.

Seosamh Ó Duibhginn was one of the founders of An Clóchamhar which began publishing in 1958. Dónall MacAmhlaigh’s Dialann Deoraí from 1960 is easily the imprint’s best known book It is the definitive account of life as an Irish navvy in 1950’s England. It was published in English as An Irish Navvy, Diary of an Exile.

You can see another example of Ó Brádaigh’s work here.

B’Fhiú an Braon Fola (Front), Séamas Ó Maoileóin, Sáirséal 7 Dill (1958). Cover design: Anne Yeats

B’Fhiú an Braon Fola (Back), Séamas Ó Maoileóin, Sáirséal 7 Dill (1958). Cover design: Anne Yeats

An tSraith ar Lár, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Sáirséal 7 Dill (1967). Cover design: Anne Yeats

An tSraith Dhá Tógáil, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Sáirséal 7 Dill (1970). Cover design: Anne Yeats

An tSraith Tógtha, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Sáirséal 7 Dill (1977). Cover design: Anne Yeats

Codladh an Ghaiscigh, Máire Mhac an tSaoi, Sáirséal 7 Dill (1973). Cover design: Anne Yeats

Anne Yeats (1919-2001) was the daughter of poet WB Yeats and a niece of painter Jack B Yeats. She studied at the Royal Hibernian Academy Schools before working at the Abbey Theatre as chief stage designer. From the early 1940s on she concentrated on painting but over the years she created many covers for Irish language publishers Sáirséal agus Dill.

Much less retrained by commercial considerations than other contemporary publishers, Sáirséal agus Dill’s cover designers were free to explore styles which didn’t have to fit with markets or genres. Most of their designers were primarily artists who dabbled in book design and illustration as an extra income stream. The work that they created has a timeless quality that is lacking from a lot of covers where commercial considerations are foremost.

These examples of Yeats’ designs cover a twenty year period from 1958. It would be hard to guess the year that any of them was designed just from looking at the cover. Particularly strong is the illustration on B’Fhiú an Braon Fola which wraps around to the back. The book is an account of Séamas Ó Maoileóin’s involvement in the Rising, War of Independence and the Civil War. The title translates as ‘The drop of blood was worth it’ but Yeats’ gory depiction is far less glorious.

Less obviously figurative but equally striking is the cover of Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s An tSraith ar Lár. The grey background is in fact a metallic silver ink which really sets off the rough pen and ink illustration.

Cor Klaasen Exhibition

Thank you to everyone who came along and supported the Cor Klaasen exhibition. The reaction was great and it was a pleasure to be able to present such a strong body of work to a wider audience. I would very much like to thank the Klaasen family for being so open and enthusiastic about sharing Cor’s work. You can view photos of the exhibition and opening here. I hope to add much more of his work to the website, www.corklaasen.com over the coming weeks.

Poetry Leaving Certificate Anthology, WJ Steele, Fallons (1969). Cover design: Cor Klaasen

Introducing English, Augustine Martin, Gill & Macmillan (1970). Cover design: Cor Klaasen

Léamh Só, Proinsias MacSuibhne, Fallons (1972). Cover design: Cor Klaasen

Thank you to everyone who came along to the Culture Night exhibition in Mary’s Abbey. It was a very enjoyable night in a wonderful historic setting. I was delighted to be asked by Ruth Kelly to take part in the event and it was great to share the evening with Donny Keane, whose ‘Life thru my Mobile Phone’ proved to be a personal and witty view of Dublin and beyond, and my brother Barry McCormack who finished the proceedings perfectly with song.

Since then I have been working through Cor Klaasen’s amazing archive of work and selecting pieces for the upcoming exhibition. Above are two examples of his abstract geometric work and also a beautiful two colour overlay illustration for the cover of Léamh Só. The image on the poster for the exhibition is adapted from an illustration on the cover of another book from the same period – When the Saints…

The opening is on Wednesday 3 November from 6-8pm and all are welcome. Brian Lalor, printmaker and editor of The Encyclopedia of Ireland will open the exhibition.

The exhibition will run from Thurs 4 – Wed 10 November inclusive and will be open daily from 11–5.

 

Cor Klaasen: Jackets, Covers & Sleeves

Venue: Adifferentkettleoffishaltogether, 18 Ormond Quay Upper

Times: Daily 11 – 5pm. Thurs 4 – Wed 10 November inclusive

Opening: Wednesday 3 November, 2010, 6 – 8 pm. Guest Speaker: Brian Lalor

Sponsors: The Netherlands Embassy, Gill & Macmillan and Hudson Killeen.

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