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Winter, The Salvage Press (2016)

{Ed Note: This article is from Books and Vines contributor dlphcoracl, and includes photos of two editions of the work from dlphcoracl and myself. I have had the pleasure of meeting Jamie Murphy a couple times and am thrilled to finally have work of his in my collection. As you will see in this article, his work is outstanding!}

Winter is the most recent publication from The Salvage Press, a small private press in Dublin, Ireland, dedicated to the craft of fine letterpress printing with Jamie Murphy as sole proprietor.   Although its aim is to preserve the art and craft of letterpress printing (now 660 years old) Murphy wants to drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century by utilizing modern design techniques and bold, experimental use of types and typography, collaborating with a range of talented Irish artists for his illustrations.

Murphy initially comes to his craft from the design aspect, studying The History of Art & Design and Visual Communication at the National College of Art & Design in Dublin (first class honors degree).  It was not until four years later that he decided to pursue a more hands-on approach, completing a two year MA in Design program (2010-2012) in letterpress at Ireland’s premier letterpress facility, the Distillers Press in Dublin, while apprenticing to master printer Sean Sills.  Further study in the operational, commercial aspects of letterpress was undertaken in the United Kingdom at the Typoretum.  Murphy then decided to own and operate his own press, publishing his first book The Works of Master Poldy in 2013 – Molly Bloom’s reminiscences of Leopold Bloom’s strange and amusing thoughts and observations during his now-immortal one-day odyssey in Dublin, as part of the LiberateUlysses Project.

The initial idea of Winter, a collection of World War I poetry from 14 Irish poets, began in the latter half of 2014.  From the start, Dr. Lisa Griffith (currently at Dublin City University) was chosen to serve as editor, entrusted with selecting the collection of poems for Winter.  She also wrote a cogent introduction placing these poems in historical context with regard to the Republic of Ireland’s nationalist movement and its concurrent struggle for independence from Great Britain.  Noted Irish artist David Rooney had already drawn the illustrations for the book. Since then, it has proceeded in fits and starts.  Murphy has been working and publishing several other books simultaneously with his work on Winter,  including a major effort, Imagination Dead Imagine, to celebrate the 50th year of its release by Samuel Beckett in 1965.  Additionally, the Winter project seemed to take on a life of its own as Murphy’s ideas with regard to integrating and balancing broadside editions of the poems alongside the more traditional book format resulted in several design changes along the way.

Winter is an important addition to the canon of World War 1 war poetry, typically associated with a group of British poets which includes Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke, etc., because the Irish soldier/poet was different from his British counterpart in several ways.  Most of the British War Poets came from the upper strata of British class and were educated at private preparatory schools followed by University of Oxford or Cambridge University.  For example:

Ironically, the best known of the British War poets came from a humbler background, Wilfred Owen: Birkenhead Institute; Shrewsbury Technical School.  By contrast, the Irish poets included in Winter  are from more varied backgrounds, giving their poetry a different feel, often more direct and heartfelt.

When Great Britain declared war against Germany on August 4, 1914, Ireland was in turmoil, in the midst of a burgeoning movement toward independence.  There were several political cross-currents which made the decision to enlist under the command of British officers a difficult and conflicted one for Irish men.  An understanding of the historical background is necessary for a fuller understanding.

The Acts of Union of 1800 formally brought Ireland into the United Kingdom but at a cost.  It abolished the Irish Parliament, substituting representation in the British Parliament.  Because Irish politicians had little voice Ireland was exploited and its concerns, primarily poverty and hunger, were ignored, resulting in mass exodus of younger Irish citizens abroad.  Opposition to this arrangement strengthened the hand of the Irish nationalists, for whom nothing short of total independence and a free Republic of Ireland would do, giving rise to the Irish Home Rule movement and formation of the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) under Charles S. Parnell in 1886. During his IRP tenure the First Home Rule Bill was introduced in the British Parliament to little avail.  A second attempt in 1893 was passed by the House of Commons but defeated in the House of Lords.  These unsuccessful attempts at achieving self rule using traditional parliamentary methods led to the rise of more extremist nationalist groups, e.g., the Gaelic League and the Sinn Fein League,  who became convinced that a truly independent Ireland could only be achieved with armed conflict and guerrilla warfare.

This view and movement were not supported by the minority Protestant Northern Ireland (Unionists) who mistrusted rule under a Catholic majority united and independent Ireland, forming the Ulster Volunteers in 1913 as a response.  The nationalists in Southern Ireland countered with formation of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and the Irish Volunteers.  Ireland was about to erupt in civil war which was put on hold by the onset of World War I.  The civil unrest and animosity in Ireland was not merely restricted to North (Protestant unionists) versus South (Catholic nationalists).  Equally deep divisions amongst the Catholic South arose around the question of how best to achieve Ireland’s independence from Great Britain.  A sizable number still held to the belief that it could be achieved slowly over time, working through political channels, avoiding bloodshed.  Based upon prior failures in the unsympathetic and indifferent British Parliament, the militant nationalists felt otherwise, so much so that the most militant faction of the IRB (the Supreme Council) decided to take advantage of Britain’s involvement in World War I by launching their own military action against Britain.  Shortly after WW I began representatives of the IRB sought to secure help from Germany.  Although Germany rejected the idea of sending their own troops to the west coast of Ireland and joining the IRB against the British, they agreed to ship armaments and ammunition to the Irish Volunteers. Thus, the Irish recruit had a difficult choice – either enlisting under British command and joining the Allied forces or joining the rebellion by the IRB and Irish Volunteers, aligning himself (de facto) with Germany against the British.

The political conflict in Southern Ireland regarding the best path toward achieving Home Rule and self-determination was temporally put on hold during World War I.  However, these conflicts again came to the forefront after the war’s conclusion, centered about the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921.  The Irish Republican movement and Sinn Fein resumed their guerrilla warfare against the British between 1918 and 1921.  On the political front, Sinn Fein won the general election in 1918, promising they would secede from Great Britain, declare an independent Irish Republic, and thumb their noses at Parliamentary solutions, Home Rule, and half-a-loaf promises of self-government and independence.  The Anglo-Irish Treaty was more of the same – it gave the Irish Free State (the 26 counties of Southern Ireland) considerable independence but at the cost of being required to dissolve the Republic declared in 1918 and a requirement that Irish members of Parliament swear allegiance to the British monarch.  It also confirmed the partition of Ireland between North and South. This was viewed as unacceptable by Irish Republicans and nationalists, who now had the support of the Irish people behind them following the Easter Rising.  The proverbial straw that broke the Treaty’s camelback was the inclusion of the British monarch in the Free State’s constitution.  At this point, any commonality between the pro and anti-Treaty sides dissolved and the bitter Irish Civil War (1922-1923) ensued.  Similar to the American Civil War (The War Between the States), the Irish Civil war divided friends and families, creating bitterness that lasted for several decades after the Irish Civil War ended.  This is captured in an award-winning film directed by Ken Loach entitled: The Wind That Shakes the Barley (see here for the trailer), winning the Palme d’Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.

Despite the political turmoil in Ireland and ambivalence regarding which side to take, Irish recruitment was heavy both at war’s onset and throughout the conflict.  As Dr. Lisa Griffith explains in her Introduction to Winter:

At least 140,000 Irish Volunteers enlisted in the British Army to fight.  A small number remained behind convinced that enlistment would not succeed in gaining autonomy for Ireland.  They were convinced that Ireland needed to become a republic and that the only way to do so was to engage in an armed revolt.  In the first twelve months of the war 80,000 Irish men enlisted in the British Army… Over the course of the war 210,000 Irish men had enlisted and the war had entered every home on the island, in one way or another.

Why did so many Irishmen enlist to fight?  Unionists saw it as an opportunity to prove their loyalty while nationalists believed that they could defend Home Rule through enlistment.  Some must have felt pressure from their peers to join.  For others the financial considerations weighed heavily.  A soldier’s wage increased the living standards of many Irish homes.  National duty played on the minds of some Like Francis Ledwidge, a committed nationalist, who wrote in his poem ‘CALL TO IRELAND’:

We have fought so much for the nation, In the tents
we helped divide; Shall the cause of our common
fathers, On hearthstone lie denied?

But people did not just enlist for political reasons and there were many reasons for joining the army.  For some boys this was an adventure, a right of passage.  A large number of recruits were eighteen and under.

The Easter Rising took place in April 1916 during Easter week and the British used overwhelming force to crush the rebellion within a week.  Heavy civilian casualties resulted from British use of heavy artillery, incendiary shells, machine guns, and a “shoot anything that moves” mentality .  The leaders of the Rising were executed over a ten-day period in May resulting in a turning point with Irish public sentiment shifting decidedly against the British government, aligning themselves with the nationalist forces demanding full independence.

When news of the Easter Rising reached the Irish recruits under British command in 1916, many had misgivings about their decision, particularly when the gruesome details of the daily executions of the rebellion leaders in early May became known.  Many would ask themselves:  “Why am I fighting for a country that has so little regard for Irish life when my countrymen are fighting against this country for a free Republic of Ireland, self-determination, and self pride?”

It is not surprising that these cross-currents and political forces made the World War I experience different for the Irish soldier than it was for his British or American counterpart, and even less surprising that it is reflected in his or her poetry.  Thus, Jamie Murphy’s rationale and motivation for publishing Winter.

The three illustrations by David Rooney effectively frame the collection of nineteen poems.   The frontispiece is a nostalgic scene of a well-dressed woman waving farewell to a soldier standing on the deck of a steamship departing for war.   In the first of two scraperboard illustrations at the beginning of the poems an Irish soldier crouches in a trench with a mixed look of fear and shell shock.  The second illustration, placed after the final poem, depicts a scene after the war has ended.  In an act of renewal a thresher works a field which was formerly the site of battle.  Below ground, hidden from view, all that remains of the dead Irish soldier is his badly decomposed helmet.

The edition of Winter is complemented and enhanced by the addition of broadsides in which the same poems have been reprinted in a different, more experimental format.  Because of their informal, freestanding nature it is easy to take the broadsides for granted as “add ons” or throw-ins”.  However, a careful study of the broadsides will reveal Jamie Murphy’s design creativity and technical virtuosity at the letterpress necessary to produce them, combining chunky wooden type with traditional and varied forms of lead type with addition of color.  Pushing beyond the traditional forms and limits of letterpress editions has been a hallmark of The Salvage Press from the beginning.  In the first book published under the new Salvage Press logo, ’The Works of Master Poldy ’ (2013),  pages with traditional type and sentence structure are interposed with pages that are a riot of different colors, types, sizes, and shapes, with words placed and organized in unconventional arrangements.  This bold, experimental work with type and page design, which can be traced back to Murphy’s undergraduate work at the National College of Art & Design in Dublin, differentiates his work from many other small private presses and it has become part of the Salvage Press’ publishing DNA.

Mr. Murphy designed, typeset by hand, and letterpress printed Winter, with assistance from Michael Simpson, Jordan Huysmans, and Ruairi Conaty. The type is 12 point and 18 point Caslon Old Face, cast into founts by Neil Winter at The Whittington Press, and printed on Zerkall 225 gsm mouldmade. The edition was bound by Tom Duffy and his team in Dublin’s Five Lamps. The 40 standard editions are quarter bound in cloth with printed Hahnemuhle paper sides, accompanied by  a cloth bound portfolio containing experimental  settings of ten of the featured poems in folded broadside format; The 26 Deluxe editions are housed in a solander box, quarter bound in Pentland goat with printed Hahnemuhle paper sides, accompanied by  a cloth bound portfolio containing experimental  settings of each of the poems in folded.

Because this project was nearly three years in the making, many copies have already been reserved and purchased prior to release of this publication.  Bibliophiles and readers interested in purchasing a copy are encouraged to do so sooner rather than later because most Salvage Press books appear only sporadically in the secondary market.

About the Edition

Pictures of the Edition

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Winter, The Salvage Press, Slipcase containing the book ‘Winter’ and a clamshell box with folded broadsides (Standard)
Winter, The Salvage Press, ‘Winter’ Covers and Spine (Standard)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Solander Spine (Deluxe)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Solander Front (Deluxe)
Winter, The Salvage Press, ‘Winter’ on left, Clamshell with Broadsides on Right (Deluxe)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Covers and Spine of ‘Winter’ (Deluxe)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Illustration #1
Winter, The Salvage Press, Title Page
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Text #1 (Contents)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Text #2 (Introduction)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Macro of Sample Text #2 (Introduction)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Text #3 (List of Poets 1)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Text #3 (List of Poets 2)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Text #3 (List of Poets 3)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Illustration #2
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Text #4 (Poem – Francis Ledwidge, The Call to Ireland)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Macro of Sample Text #4 (Poem – Francis Ledwidge, The Call to Ireland)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Text #5 (Poem – Patrick MacGill, It’s a Far, Far Cry)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Text #6 (Poem – W.B. Yeats, An Irish Airman Forsees his Death)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Text #7 (Poem Header)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Text #8 (Poem –  C.S. Lewis, Death in Battle)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Macro of Sample Text #8 (Poem – C.S. Lewis, Death in Battle)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Text #9 (Poem Header)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Colophon
Winter, The Salvage Press, Clamshell of Broadsides (Standard)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Clamshell of Broadsides Opened (Standard)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Clamshell of Broadsides (Deluxe)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Clamshell of Broadsides Opened (Deluxe)
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Broadside #1 – George Russell
Winter, The Salvage Press, Macro of Sample Broadside #1 – George Russell
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Broadside #2 – Thomas Kettle
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Broadside #3 – C.S. Lewis
Winter, The Salvage Press, Macro of Sample Broadside #3 – C.S. Lewis
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Broadside #4 – Patrick MacGill
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Broadside #5 – W.B. Yeats
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Broadside #6 – G.A. Student Kennedy
Winter, The Salvage Press, Sample Broadside #7 – Katherine Tynan
Winter, The Salvage Press, Macro of Broadside, Winifred M. Letts, The Call to Arms in our Streets
Winter, The Salvage Press, Macro of Broadside, W.B. Yeats, An Irish Airman Forsees his Death
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