Printing the commemorative broadside at Distillers Press, Dublin. Photo: Jamie Murphy
May 22 2017 Posted: 11:00 IST

A new symposium and broadside print commissioned by NUI Galway to commemorate the bicentenary of Thomas Moore’s Oriental epic poem, Lalla Rookh 

The 200th anniversary of the publication of the renowned Irish poet, author, and songwriter Thomas Moore’s Oriental epic poem, Lalla Rookh, will be celebrated this week with an academic symposium on Moore’s work and the release of a new commemorative broadside letterpress print.

To mark this occasion, NUI Galway lecturer Dr Justin Tonra has organised an international symposium on the poem and Moore’s broader work, to take place at Marsh’s Library in Dublin, where Moore completed research for his debut poetic collection, Odes of Anacreon, on Saturday 27 May. The symposium programme includes a range of prominent Moore scholars from Ireland and abroad who will present current research on Moore and Lalla Rookh. In addition, the School of Humanities at NUI Galway has supported the commission and publication of a limited-edition commemorative broadside letterpress print, which will be officially launched at the symposium and donated to civic, public, and cultural heritage institutions around Ireland to celebrate the occasion of this anniversary.

In the nineteenth-century, Thomas Moore was Ireland’s unofficial national poet: the Bard of Erin. Best known for his Irish Melodies, a collection of lyrics set to traditional Irish airs, Moore was a writer whose reputation dwindled during the Gaelic Revival, but whose complexity has received renewed attention from scholars in recent decades in the form of biographies, essay collections, journal articles, dedicated conferences, and nationally and internationally-funded research projects.

Dubbed “the cream of the copyrights” by its publisher, Thomas Longman, Lalla Rookh was an immediate commercial success, selling out six editions within six months of its initial publication. Longmans would eventually publish almost 100,000 copies of the work, including editions illustrated by prominent artists such as John Tenniel and Daniel Maclise.

Lalla Rookh has enjoyed a rich cultural afterlife, with parts of the work set to music by Robert Schumann, Charles Villiers Stanford, and Anton Rubenstein, and numerous theatrical adaptations taking inspiration from Moore’s writing. As a major reference point in the genre of Romantic Orientalism, the work has maintained a prominent position in scholarly accounts of the poetry of the Regency period, and its depictions of the dangers of political demagoguery and appeals for religious tolerance still have a powerful and durable resonance. Despite its Oriental setting the work reflected many of the cultural and political issues of nineteenth-century Ireland, with readers finding many echoes of “Erin” in “Iran.”

In addition, Dr Tonra has collaborated with Jamie Murphy and Niamh McNally of the Distiller’s Press at the National College of Arts and Design in Dublin to produce a limited-edition commemorative broadside letterpress print of the famous song, “Bendemeer’s Stream,” from Lalla Rookh, which was frequently set to music after the poem’s initial publication. Given the particular prominence of print and illustration in the history of Moore’s work (a topic which will be addressed at the symposium), a contemporary print representing Lalla Rookh is a fitting commemorative gesture.

The newly-commissioned illustration was inspired by nineteenth-century luxury bindings of Lalla Rookh, and achieved through the process of pressure printing. This is an image-making technique where different objects are placed behind the press sheet during printing to create textures and patterns in the illustration. For this print, rose petals of the Irish variety Rosa Anna Livia are used to shape the illustration and echo the song’s floral themes.

The commission and production of the print is made possible by the support of the Civic Engagement Fund of the School of Humanities at NUI Galway.

Tickets for the symposium are priced at (€10-20) and available at https://lalla-rookh.eventbrite.com

To read a copy of the first edition of Lalla Rookh, visit: http://bit.ly/lallarookh 

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