1916 Centenary Publishing Heats Up

As noted by John Bowman in a welcoming address for the inaugural Edward Carson Lecture at Iveagh House, Dublin last night (Thursday 29th March 2012), the period between 1911-23 went as quickly for those living them as 2000-12 has gone for us. Yet that same period was packed with momentous events and movements the like of which seem to make our own times less impressive.

Irish publishers have not been slow to publish titles to take advantage of the upcoming centenaries. Mercier, Irish Academic Press and others have published Titanic related titles for instance and RIA published a beautiful book looking at 1911 only last year.

Two new series from Irish publishers are targeted more particularly at the 1916 Rising. The O’Brien Press offers the more structured series, 16 Lives, complete with attractive marketing materials and a high profile launch in the GPO in Dublin last night.

The major new biographical series aims to be informative, authoritative, accessible and is the first ever complete series of biographies of the sixteen men executed after the 1916 Easter Rising. 16 Lives is written by historians and, in some cases, by descendants of the sixteen leaders.

The First three titles in the series, those on James Connolly by Lorcan Collins, Joseph Plunkett by Honor O Brolchain and Michael Mallin by Brian Hughes have been published with more to follow each year up to 2016.


New Island’s series, 1916 In Focus had, in contrast, a less high-profile launch at The Distillery Building on Church street with the publication of Paul O’Brien’s, Crossfire: The Battle Of The Four Courts, 1916.. Perhaps that’s appropriate because the series, rather than looking at individuals or the grand strategy of 1916, puts the emphasis on ‘micro-histories of the Rising,’ in an effort to ‘make the macro picture that bit more textured, detailed and true to life.’

New Island plans several more titles in the series, including a second by O’Brien in September called Field Of Fire: The Battle Of Ashbourne, 1916.

With Mercier Press in the process of re-issuing both its Dan Breen & Ernie O’Malley classics and reissuing a number of biographies of leading republicans of the period under an Irish Revolutionaries series it seems Irish publishers are hoping commemoration is a good bet in the years ahead.