Walter Cox’s images of Ireland

I had made a speculation in my first post that my book’s first page had either been ripped out or there was torn material in the binding. Interestingly enough as I was looking into my archival project, I found a digitized copy of the 1810 edition of The Irish Monthly Magazine or Monthly Asylum for Neglected Biographies on Google Books, and had my speculation confirmed. The first page had been taken from the book.  Rather than starting with a title page, the collection of magazines actually first addresses the reader with an image of Lt. Hepenstall, pictured below who will go on to be the main focus of January’s edition.

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Having become more familiar with The Irish Magazine and its publisher, Walter Cox, the revolutionary fueled publication takes relatively renowned figures of the time, many of which would have been cheered by the British ruling class, and flips their story. These characters are shown as enemies to the state of Ireland, assisting Britain in their rule over Ireland when their focus should be on liberation in their positions of power.  The biographies focus on figures that the general public could and probably did know about, far from “neglected” in the sense of absence. By presenting an uncharacteristic depiction of them, Cox needed a way to quickly influence readers’ perceptions so as they would take his descriptions more seriously, especially when in contrast these figures were presented as almost heroic by British loyalists. By commissioning engravings, Cox begins to shape any one reader’s opinion before they even reach the text.  The stark difference in a reader’s mental image of a person versus the actual image they can see creates disillusionment.

Johnathan Senchyne notes in his article Bottles of Ink and Reams of Paper how Brown’s own liberation is directly correlated to his freedom of movement in printing production, his ability to take his plates with him and travel with his reproducible story.  Snechyne writes, “The stereotype plates in Brown’s traveling case remind us that producing oneself as a free subject in print and in life is embedded within a set of material textual practices— practices that are (as the double meaning of stereo type suggests) also constitutive in processes of racialization” (Senchyne 141).  Although Cox himself was not a slave, he felt one with his country of Ireland under British rule. He himself believed in revolution and printing these images was his act of rebellion, his push back against the colonizer by demeaning their prized figures and supposedly “bringing truth” to the story of their lives, which had gone for so long “neglected”. In the same way that Brown asserts his freedom in moving alongside his story prints, Cox can assert his own by working against the powers that be, by creating and circulating images that work directly against the “images” trying to be portrayed by the privileged class.

In the 1810 volume, these engravings do not begin every monthly edition, but every few months. Whether this is because it is a serialization or it was a monetary concern I still do not know. Ironically in the 1813 volume of The Irish Magazine there is an engraving preceding every month’s edition, almost serving as a cover image. These images also differ in that they illustrate a scene, see below, rather than highlight a single individual such as Hepenstall above.

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Further into its brief print run, which would go from 1807 until 1815, possibly The Irish Magazine had more funding and could afford a monthly engraving seeing as there are not “images” that are used throughout the text.

Although there aren’t pictures accompanying the text, only preceding it, there are fascinating discrepancies in the images used throughout the collection of magazines. There does not seem to be a uniform format in terms of separating stories, font sizes for headlines, or ornamentations.  Probably the most differentiation comes in the flourished section breaks. Rather than an asterism, or a simple line, sections of the magazine are separated by what appears to be a creation of the magazine ( –oooooo—).  This image has numerous variations though, the number of “o”’s fluctuating between six and nine. When there are nine, the fifth “o” is typically capitalized to “O”, creating an almost diamond essence,                    “—oooOooo—“.  Oddly enough though, this collection of symbols only appears throughout the January edition and once in the February edition of the 1810 Volume. Wondering if this was maybe a pattern that phased out throughout 1810 specifically, its remnants caught up in the serialization of the year’s collection I looked to the 1813 volume. Again, this collection the section break only appears in the January edition and seemingly nowhere else in the text.

Finally, one of the final sections of each monthly edition includes original poetry submitted to The Irish Magazine. This page almost presents itself as a secondary title page despite being well into the text (see image below). This creates a separation between the magazine itself, and the poetry being presented. This seems not like its own section, but rather, its own secondary publication by creating the image of a new title page, with bold and large fonts designating “Original Poetry For The Irish Magazine” and thick lines between text. The specific designation of the “for”, as well as the separation from the main text, leads me to believe that Cox didn’t necessarily want his own writing and publication to be associated with this style of writing or their authors, who are also presented at the end of each title. Already often being charged, imprisoned and fined for libel for the content of his own writing in The Irish Magazine this separation also ensures a safeguard for Cox should any of the poetry also include falsehoods or slanderous statements.

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