Monday, September 7, 2015

Birthday, Or--The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From The Tree

     I had a birthday a short time ago, and I want to share this amazing gift from my son.  I can always count on a unique and usually Irish themed gift from Christy.  Over the years he has given me a lovely bodhoran, hand crafted and signed by political prisoners, a year's subscription to An Phoblacht, and an Easter Lily badge to name a few.

     When I opened this present I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at, the cover with it's psychedelic colors and design could easily grace any 60's counter culture tome. As soon as I saw the Gaelic word "Saorstat" though, I knew exactly what it was, another wonderful Irish gift from my youngest child-- the Official Handbook of the Irish Free State.  This photo really doesn't do justice to the vibrancy of the poly-chrome colors, and there is more on the back; inside are wonderful woodblock engravings by Irish painter Harry Kernoff and etchings by Irish painters Sean O'Sullivan, Paul Henry and others.

     This unabashedly Irish book published by an Irish publishing house, on Irish paper, with illustrations by Irish artists, was published in 1932 and edited by Bulmer Hobson who wrote the introduction:
   The treaty of 1921 and the establishment of Saorstat Eireann marked the opening of a new epoch.  For the first time since the middle ages the needs and wishes of the Irish people now shape the policy of an Irish government.  We in our day have seen what generations of our people hoped in vain to see--the victorious outcome of the struggle for national independence... and the longest and most evil chapter in Irish history has been closed. 

     It's thirty three chapters on diverse topics such as the importance of the Irish language, music, folklore, history, the constitution and land ownership were written by some of the top scholars of the time.  Chapter fourteen is devoted to the economic challenges facing "the Gaeltecacht", the Irish speaking district in the west.  There are150 pages of ads in the back section and they offer an intriguing look at 1930's Ireland.  If you can find a copy in a library or antique book store, I think you'll enjoy thumbing through it.

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