Print played a key role in the formation of cultural and political identities in Ireland in the run up to Easter 1916. The growing artistic, cultural and political movements established recognizable visual identities and independent styles in print. They commissioned advertising and stationary, which communicated their individual political identities in the hope of attracting new recruits.
In 1571 the first book in Irish was printed. Since that time a significant volume of mainly religious work was produced using the Irish character, however it was through the work of the Gaelic League that Irish type came into common use. Michael O'Rahilly was instrumental in the design and use of Irish type for this purpose. By 1916, he had succeeded in convincing the Munster and Leinster Provincial and Hibernian banks, along with the Provincial Bank of Ireland, to print cheque books in the Irish language.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, academic studies started to translate a number of Gaelic texts, which contained the legends and myths of Ireland. The heroes from Ireland’s pre-historic tales were the source of inspiration for those nationalistic organisations seeking to create symbols of Irish nationhood. This resulted in the introduction of mythical figures such as Fionn Mac Cumhaill and his Fianna and warrior emblems of the sunburst or the sword of light into the titles, letterheads and print stationary of the organisations.
One of the most notable examples would be the change in style of print of the masthead of the newspaper An Claidheamh Soluis (The Sword of Light). By 1916, the newspaper had become more militaristic in its outlook. This was stylistically reflected in print with the inclusion of a sword driven horizontally through the letters of the title.
Alternative political programmes were profiled in the United Irishman and Sinn Féin; cultural nationalist ideals were prominent in An Claidheamh Soluis and The Leader; while more explicitly seditious ideas were found in The Republic and Irish Freedom. Arthur Griffith’s pamphlet The Resurrection of Hungary and James Connolly’s book Labour in Irish History were influential texts on Ireland’s economic and social potential respectively.