Irish 'glorious dead' book for sale
A rare set of the books of “the glorious dead” – listing the almost 50,000 Irish men killed in the first World War – has turned up for auction. The eight-volume Ireland’s Memorial Records 1914-1918 is one of only 100 copies printed in Dublin in 1923.
A full set is stored permanently in the Irish National War Memorial Gardens at Islandbridge in Dublin and was shown to Queen Elizabeth when she visited the site during her State visit to Ireland last year.
Over 3,000 pages list the 49,435 names of all “the Irishmen who fell in the Great European War”. Where known, the date and place of death, rank, regiment, age and place of birth of each soldier is given.
They came from all 32 counties, with Antrim – more than 5,000 dead – suffering the greatest number of casualties. Dublin lost 4,800 men and Cork 3,000, but virtually every town and village in the country was affected.
The books were printed privately in Dublin for the committee of the Irish national war memorial by the publishers Maunsel and Roberts. They are profusely illustrated with Celtic imagery by Harry Clarke, the Dublin artist best-known for his stained glass work.
The project cost £5,000 – a huge sum at the time – which was raised by public subscription.
Although published to official indifference from the new Free State government, the records received extensive coverage in The Irish Times.
In November 1923, in one edition, the paper devoted six pages to the project, featuring many extracts, and said “the volumes are masterpieces of Irish artistry”.
The paper commented on the “democracy of death” and said in the list of names: “The heirs to Irish mansions have equal glory with the children of the Dublin slums.”
Of the 100 copies printed, some were sent to London, including to King George V and the House of Commons; others were given to institutions in Dublin including Trinity College, the National Library of Ireland, Marsh’s Library, The Law Library, King’s Inns and the Royal Irish Academy
Rare book auctioneers Mealy’s said the “scarce” item – a set of all eight volumes – would be auctioned in Dublin on Wednesday and is expected to fetch up to €5,000.