Ireland, The Proclamation of the Independence of the Irish Republic, 1916

Lot Closed

July 9, 01:24 PM GMT


50,000 - 70,000 GBP

Lot Details



Poblacht Na H Eireann. The Provisional Government of the Irish Republic to the People of Ireland. [Dublin: Christopher Brady, Michael Molloy and Liam O'Brien, 23 April, 1916]

single sheet, text size 736 x 463mm (paper size 760 x 510mm.), THE ORIGINAL PROCLAMATION OF INDEPENDENCE OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC, printed in a variety of fonts on a single sheet, preserved in custom-made clamshell box, professionally repaired in the late 1990s (removed from previous mount and washed, archivally backed, newly re-mounted on thin Japanese paper), some discoloration, triangular tear (repaired) affecting first 15 lines, other closed and repaired tears to upper right section, a few nicks at the edges, a few other small tears and remains of creases

ONE OF A SMALL NUMBER OF SURVIVING COPIES (PROBABLY LESS THAN 50) PRINTED AT LIBERTY HALL, DUBLIN ON EASTER SUNDAY, 1916, MARKING THE BEGINNING OF THE "EASTER RISING" AND EFFECTIVELY INAUGURATING MODERN IRISH HISTORY. Although 2,500 were intended to be produced only around 1,000 were actually printed; and of these, the vast majority were destroyed in the storming of Liberty Hall and the chaotic events in the surrounding streets. Of the utmost rarity, the proclamation is undoubtedly the most important document in the history of the Irish Nation, containing the first aspirations of the Republic as well as being a Proclamation of Independence. 

The tragic events of Easter 1916 in effect initiated modern Irish history and led eventually to the foundation of the Irish Free State and later the Republic of Ireland. The text of this document was read from the steps of the General Post Office, Sackville (now O'Connell) Street, Dublin, on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, by Pádraig Pearse, who, with Thomas J. Clarke, Seán Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Eamonn Ceannt, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett, the instigators of the Rising, were the signers of the Proclamation. Pearse is credited with the authorship of the document, with amendments made by Connolly and also probably by MacDonagh. The original manuscript, which did not survive the Rising, was handed to Connolly by MacDonagh at the meeting of the Military Council at Liberty Hall, Dublin on Easter Sunday morning. Three men, Christopher Brady, the printer, and two compositors, Michael Molloy and Liam O'Brien, handled the printing. According to Bouch, these men were kept under virtual arrest by Connolly, in case the Hall were stormed by the British, in order it might be seen that the three men were working under duress. In such straitened times, the quality of the printing and paper was not paramount, and the three workers had to improvise to print off the required 2,500 copies. In fact, because of shortage of paper, it would seem that only 1000 were printed on the somewhat dilapidated "Wharfdale Double-Crown'' press operated by Brady. The printing press was not the only problem. There was insufficient type for the whole document and a number of different (and in some cases inappropriate) fonts had to be used. It was run through the presses twice: the text from "Poblacht'' to "among the nations'' (end of the third paragraph) was printed first. The type was then broken up and reset for the second half of the document ("The Irish Republic'' to "...Joseph Plunkett.''). As a result the spacing between the upper and lower sections varies between 8mm and 16mm. In the present copy it is 14mm. The second section was in the press when it was found by the British soldiers on 27 April 1916. Some examples were printed by the British and used as evidence against the conspirators. The finished documents were strung up around the centre of Dublin on Easter Monday. One was held in place by stones at the foot of Nelson's Column where it might be read by the passing populace.

The document soon passed into history as a moving symbol of the violent events of Easter week 1916 and those terrible days. It was reprinted soon after. In 1935 Joseph Bouch attempted to collate the bibliographical evidence to ascertain the original printing. He established six main points which characterise the first issue: size and quality of paper; the styles of typography; measurement of the length of line; differences in spelling and typographical inexactitudes (or idiosyncrasies). The present exemplar corresponds to Bouch's criteria, and has the typographical peculiarities identified by others later. 

As with the American Declaration of Independence, the Irish Proclamation is of literary worth as well as historical interest. Pearse himself was a poet and writer and the text mingles lofty, deftly expressed idealism with Christian Socialist principles. In its emphasis on freedom of the individual, and equal rights and opportunities for all, the document is a twentieth-century expression of its American predecessor. Indeed, a transatlantic debt is acknowledged with a phrase which echoes the "banished children of Eve" of the popular Catholic hymn Salve regina ("...she now seizes that moment...supported by her exiled children in America...''). Unfortunately, the next line, in which the assistance of the "gallant allies in Europe'' is recorded, meant that the British, at war with Germany, would have to stamp out the rebellion at their back-door. They did, and with considerable brutality. In less than one week the rebellion was at an end and by the following week, Pearse and his fellow signers had all been executed. Connolly was shot seated, being unable to stand because of his wounds.


J.J. Bouch, 'The Republican Proclamation of Easter Monday, 1916', The Bibliographical Society of Ireland, (Dublin, 1936, reprinted, 1954)

Brennan-Whitmore, Dublin Burning (Dublin, 1996)

M. Caulfield, The Easter Rebellion (Dublin, 1963; reissued, 1995)

Thomas M.Coffey, Agony at Easter (London, 1970); N.Grant, The Easter Rising (London, 1972).

John O'Connor, The Irish Proclamation, Anvil Books, (Dublin, 1986; revised 1999)

Ruth Dudley Edwards, The Seven: The Lives and Legacies of the Founding Fathers of the Irish Republic, 1916


James Dugan, Philadelphia; sale from his estate, Freeman's auctions, 1997; acquired by present owner in 1998

The military historian and World War II correspondent James Dugan (1912–1967) was the author of eight non-fiction titles, and is best known for his underwater explorations, collaborating with Jacques Cousteau. He died in June 1967 in a deep diving accident whilst using an experimental submersible.

When purchased in 1996 the Proclamation was mounted on early stiff card. This was subsequently removed and the Proclamation carefully washed and repaired by the respected Williamstown Art Conservation Centre in Massachusetts in February 1999 (conservation report available upon request).

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Please note the following amendments to the printed catalogue: Please note this item will be sold under normal VAT rules and VAT will be charged at the standard rate on both the hammer price and the buyer's premium. A single dagger symbol is therefore applicable. For more information, consult section 3 of the VAT & OTHER TAX page in the back of the printed catalogue. Please note the provenance text for this lot varies slightly from the printed catalogue.