St. Brigid of Ireland (also called St. Brigid of Kildare) is the patron saint of travelers, poets, and printing presses. I have a personal devotion to her, and I think she sometimes guides my steps in return.
One of the great things about traveling by yourself is that you get to do whatever you want to do without thinking about whether or not someone else will enjoy it. I found myself in Dublin for a few days, and, being by myself, I was able to have one solid day of lit-nerding around. I mean, what else would you do in Dublin? It’s a UNESCO City of Literature, the hometown of writers like James Joyce and Samuel Beckett (both of whom spent a rather large portion of their lives trying to outrun the specter of Ireland – but we’ll gloss over that), and the location of Trinity College, which houses the Book of Kells. It doesn’t matter what kind of literature you’re into, there’s something for you in Dublin.
Including a printing museum.
The National Print Museum is dedicated to the printing industry in Dublin. As a student of the history of print, I thought I’d take a walk out there and see what it was all about. To be honest, it’s little more than a glorified garage, tucked away in the back corner of an apartment complex. But, what a glorified garage it is.
Inside, there are two parts of the museum: The ground floor is occupied by the permanent exhibit, and the upper level has space for educational events and the like. It was the permanent exhibition which caught my attention, though.
The main floor of the museum is occupied by printing presses, including movable-type presses, Linotype, Monotype, and even more modern roller presses. One of the really cool things they had was a recreation of the original Gutenberg press, which was used on the TV show The Tudors. I’d actually played on a couple of these presses before (perks of being a book history student), and the explanations on display in the museum for how they worked and what could be accomplished with them were excellent.
In the permanent exhibition, a section had been dedicated to the 1916 Proclamation, which was incredibly important in Irish history. It was the publication of this proclamation which marked the beginning of the 1916 Rising, perhaps the most famous of all Irish attempts at establishing home rule. It was the first large-scale attempt to oust the British from Ireland since the eighteenth century. For years afterwards, the 1916 Rising would be the model for Irish independence movements.
The exhibition shows how the 1916 Proclamation was printed and also reveals some sneaky details about the equipment that was used by giving visitors a crash-course in typography (the study of type). The type of press it was printed on, the kind of movable type the printers had to hand, and the time schedule they were operating on are all discussed and enlightened in the exhibit.
On the whole, this exhibit is very interesting for anyone interested in printing. Not only are the types of presses and types on display with excellent descriptions. It also does a good job of showing the progression of printing technology, specifically in Ireland, one of the major centers of printing and literature in the West up to the 20th century.
The National Print Museum is a bit out of the way, but if you’re like me, it’ll be well worth the trip out there!
Visiting the National Print Museum:
Getting there: Buses number 4 and 7 have stops nearby, or you can walk (about 45 minutes from O’Connell Street Bridge).
Admission: FREE! Always a good thing.
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 9 AM to 5 PM, Saturday and Sunday 2 PM to 5 PM
Website: Check out the National Print Museum website here.
Good to know: Dublin is a UNESCO World City of Literature, meaning that the city has contributed substantially to the world’s literary heritage. That means that there are plenty of things for lovers of literature to do around town!