Local distribution networks for print in Munster and South Leinster during the eighteenth-century.


In this paper a map of print culture in the Munster and South Leinster region will be outlined and discussed. The empirical foundation for the study is a database of over 700 individuals involved in the print trade, concentrating on production and distribution, more than on the creative input of authors, although sometimes the lines are blurred. During the seventeenth century there was little printing activity, but there were several ports on the south and south-west coast where printed items were imported. Merchants were not solely reliant on Dublin for the provision of printed matter, trade could be carried on independently with England and the continent. Raymond Gillespie has noted 120 merchants importing books from Bristol to the south of Ireland between 1590 and 1612.[1] Books were imported at Youghal and Dingle from England, Holland and France in 1699 and 1700.[2] In 1723 the chief coastal trading towns were Cork, with 690 ships, Waterford with 176, Limerick with 71, Youghal with 51, Kinsale with 44, Baltimore with 38, Rosse with 27, Wexford with 21 and Dingle with 6.[3] Waterford was described as ‘wealthy, populous and well situated for Trade’ where ‘Ships of a large Burthen may come up to, and safely lie at the Kay.’ Limerick too was considered ‘an elegant, rich and populous city, whose trade is very considerable; for though its Distance from the Sea is about fifty miles, yet Ships of Burthen may come up to the very Walls.’ The extensive international trading networks built up by merchants in the ports meant a steady flow of information and foreign news coming in which could be harnessed to provide newspaper content. By the early decades of the eighteenth century newspaper enterprises were initiated in many port towns. Port towns received news independently and often in advance of the capital, for example the American newspapers regularly arrived at the port of Cork from transatlantic shipping, thus providing a scoop whenever important events were taking place in America.


Members of the book trade:

To identify those involved with the production or distribution of print media in Munster and South Leinster information has been gathered from a wide variety of sources including printed books, newspapers and other printed items, advertising, subscription lists, local histories and memoirs, etc. Nine counties have been included, all of Munster plus Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford, roughly one-third of the country. The time frame covers from the earliest reference to bookselling or printing by named individuals to 1824, the year of publication of Pigot’s Directory.[4] Included are all names that have a connection with the trade. In the case of certain booksellers, printers, papermakers and newspaper proprietors quite a lot of information is known and research has been published on them, in other cases a single reference only indicates their involvement. Ancillary trades such as engraving, mapmaking, etc. have been included. Not all are exclusively involved with the book trade, included are innkeepers, post masters, merchants, apothecaries and shopkeepers who were agents for newspapers, or who acted as subscription agents for books or periodicals.


Variations in trading patterns can be discerned from one county to another. In some counties, such as Carlow, Clare, Kilkenny, Limerick, Waterford and Wexford, evidence shows the main activity is in the county town, with general traders in other towns acting as agents for newspapers and books. In Cork, while the city shows the greatest concentration of booksellers and printers, other towns showed steady activity for the distribution of print media. Youghal featured in the early seventeenth century when a bookbinder was working there[5], and from the 1770s two printers and several booksellers were in evidence. In Kerry Tralee shows the main concentration of printers and booksellers, with agents in Killarney, Ballylongford, Castlemain, Castleisland, Listowel and Dingle from the 1760s. Tipperary is the most unusual county with a greater spread of specialist activity across towns in the county: Clonmel was the most important and book trade personnel can be identified from the 1720s and 1730s, with significant activity also in Cashel, Carrick-on-Suir, Thurles, Tipperary town, Roscrea and Nenagh at different times during the eighteenth century.


Those selling books in Clonmel sourced their stock from Dublin and from booksellers in the nearby counties. Evidence shows Clonmel as the earliest town in the county to have agents taking imported books. For example, in 1710 William Connor was subscription agent for the London publication The tryal of Doctor Henry Sacheverell,[6] and in 1720 George Bagwell was susbcription agent for Increase Mather’s Sixteen sermons, published in Dublin.[7] From about 1763 to 1773 Robert Dudley, described as a merchant, was active in Clonmel, acting as agent for Finn’s Leinster Journal, published in Kilkenny, in 1767 and 1768. In 1763 he subscribed to George Roberts’ Juvenile poems, published in Limerick, and ten years later he subscribed to 25 copies of James Jenkins’ Juvenile poems, published in Waterford.[8] At the end of the century various members of the Gorman family were booksellers in Clonmel. William Gorman was subscription agent for the Vulgate Bible printed in Dublin by Richard Cross in Dublin in 1790.[9] Thomas Gorman was printer and bookseller at Shakespeare’s Head, Main Street, Clonmel, from the 1790s to about 1811. In 1796 he subscribed to 25 copies of Rev. Joseph Moroney’s Sermons, published in Dublin, and his bookseller’s label appears in another work published in Dublin in the same year: Joseph Reeve’s Practical discourses.[10] He was agent for the New Magazine, published in Dublin in 1799, and the Cork Mercantile Chronicle in 1802.[11] He first published the best selling title The pious miscellany, a selection of 25 Irish poems, by Tadhg Gaelach Ó Suilleabháin in 1802.[12] In 1810 he was agent for The Hibernian preceptor by George Wall, published in Parsonstown (Birr, County Offaly).[13] The following year he issued his own publication of Samuel Fennell’s Original poems.[14] Ellen Gorman is listed in Pigot’s Directories as bookseller and stationer in 1820 and 1824.[15]

At the lowest end of the scale of print distribution were news hawkers and pamphlet sellers, chapmen and ballad sellers who plied their trade throughout the countryside, and postmen and couriers who delivered the newspapers and periodicals. Very little is known of these men and women. Mary Pollard, in her Dictionary of members of the Dublin book trade, notes only 75 hawkers out of the total of 2,190 names, and they are known for other reasons.[16] The same is true in Munster, individuals such as John McCormick, a blind news hawker in Cork, are known only because of falling foul of the law, or those unfortunates, such as one Carty of New Street, Cork, who met an untimely end.[17] John Wesley, in his journal, mentioned Nicholas Butler, a ballad sheet vendor in Cork, who incited the people against Methodist preachers in 1749 and 1750.[18] Advertising shows that printers aimed specific titles at chapmen, offering discounts for bulk sales. In some cases pedlars may have worked on their own account as small-time traders, in others they were employed by the printer or his/her agents. Postboys and couriers were employed directly by newspaper proprietors. In 1770 William Flyn’s unnamed courier was accused of theft in Youghal, but his innocence was proved and Flyn printed a notice in The Hibernian Chronicle thanking the ‘Ladies, Chief Magistrate and Gentlemen of Youghal, who so kindly interested themselves in behalf of his courier’.[19]


Provincial newspapers provide one of the most valuable sources for the identification of individuals involved with the print trade. They tend to be long-lasting, covering years or decades. Enterprises established by printers, they favour news and advertising connected with the industry. In an attempt to increase and facilitate circulation they established drop-off points in different places for the delivery of papers and they highlighted these networks in their advertising. In themselves they also constitute a unique artefact, containing as they a do a variety of content in different forms: news items, advertising, public notices such as proclamations, the assize of bread, ports news, social notices such as births, marriages, promotions and deaths, literary content such as essays, prose and poetry. From their first appearance in manuscript form news sheets became an important means of disseminating information. County and city officials and those involved in trade came to depend on the regular supply of news from home and abroad. Because of their serial nature and the immediacy of their content newspapers helped to keep country areas in regular contact with nearby towns and the wider world.

Advertising came into its own with the newspaper press, linking small villages to the regional capitals and the metropolis. Suddenly advertisements reached a large audience, widely dispersed around the country, creating a demand for luxury goods such as books, patent medicines, fine clothing and millinery, wine, tea and fruit, services offered by craftsmen or those in the professions, and events such as theatrical performances, horse races, balls and masquerades. On a grander scale advertising for the sale or letting of property and the services of pedigree horses constituted a major percentage of notices. Political news from London and Dublin was relayed via the press. From early on many newspapers displayed a political orientation; the supply and control of information could be manipulated for political purposes. By the end of the eighteenth century radical political views were aired through the press, provoking fear in government officials and leading to the supression of the opposition press.

From the second decade of the eighteenth century regional newspapers began to be established, the earliest is the Limerick News Letter, founded in 1716. However, neither the infrastructure nor the financial supports were sufficient to keep the early ventures in business. It was not until the late 1730s that the conditions were right for some towns to have a viable newspaper, the most long-lasting being the Belfast News Letter, begun in 1737 and still in existence. A general rise in literacy, accompanied by an increase in inter-regional trade, and an extension of the market for luxury goods, facilitated the spread of provincial newspapers from mid-century. Local newspapers, in their turn, supported trade and commerce with larger towns and with Dublin. At one penny per issue, or 5s. to 6s. per annum, subscriptions to newspapers were within the range of many in the smaller towns by the second half of the eighteenth century. Papers could be shared among neighbours and friends, and their contents made known to all, irrespective of literacy skills. Several major towns had stable newspaper publishing businesses from this period: Limerick from 1739, followed by Cork in 1753, Waterford in 1765 and Kilkenny in 1766. By the last quarter of the eighteenth century many smaller towns supported a newspaper, sustained by advertising and subscriptions gathered in their hinterlands: Clonmel from 1772, Tralee from 1774, and Ennis from 1778. Wexford had a newspaper in 1776 and another in 1777, but there was no lasting enterprise in the town until 1787.[20] The newspaper proprietor’s network of subscription and advertising agents in the surrounding towns played a major part in the success of the venture and an identification of their contacts and business partnerships greatly adds to our knowledge of trade in a region. From the beginning newspapers were aimed exclusively at an English language readership. For Irish speakers in town and country all reports and advertising had to be translated or otherwise mediated. The newspaper, therefore, may have also helped to further erode the Irish language in the towns.

Distribution networks:

From at least mid century newspaper proprietors in Munster sought to extend the circulation of their newspapers to neighbouring counties. Greater circulation meant increased costs, but also ensured greater scope for advertising, the life-blood of a newspaper. Agencies were set up in the main towns in the region to gather subscriptions, take in advertising and organise delivery of the newspapers. These agents were booksellers, sometimes even other newspaper proprietors, but in many cases the agent was the post master or a local business person. The agent would have received commission on advertising taken in, and a discount on newspapers and other goods such as periodicals, books and patent medicines, and may even have received a salary from the newspaper proprietor, as evidenced by the business records of the English Hampshire Chronicle in November 1778.[21] The distribution circuits of newspapers had areas of overlap, for example in the 1760s and early 1770s the distribution networks for The Hibernian Chronicle from Cork, Finn’s Leinster Journal from Kilkenny, The Limerick Chronicle, The Waterford Chronicle and The Hibernian Gazette from Clonmel had a broad area of intersection.

To exemplify the deep market penetration which a successful newspaper allowed, it is proposed to examine the distribution of The Corke Journal, published in Cork by Eugene Swiney from 1753 and The Hibernian Chronicle published in Cork by William Flyn from 1769. The Corke Journal was the first successful long-lasting newspaper issued in Cork, which continued for about 20 years. Published by Eugene Swiney in Paul Street, Cork, from December 1753, it targeted ‘the Corke and Munster Gentlemen and Ladies’. In his advertisement for the new venture Swiney hoped to make the paper ‘instructive, useful and amusing’.[22] He considered it ‘the first attempt to establish a good newspaper’ in Cork.[23] The importance of foreign news was stressed from the beginning: ‘it shall contain the freshest advices, foreign and domestick; and when pacquets do not arrive, it shall be composed of history, essays, letters, &c. the newest and most agreeable that can be had in London &c.’[24]


Distribution of the Corke Journal 1754

Swiney was willing to commence production as soon as 300 subscribers were enlisted. It was published twice a week and country subscribers could have their copies collected in town or delivered by courier at an extra charge. Readers in Youghal, Bandon and Kinsale would have their papers delivered on the day of publication as soon as the printer had 100 subscribers in each town.[25] The cost was 10s. English per annum compared to 6s. English to city subscribers. A difference of 4s. in the cost per subscriber amounted to £20 per hundred subscribers per year. This sum paid the salaries of one or more couriers, possibly maintained a team of horses, and allowed a percentage of the profits to the local agent. Four months after its launch Swiney employed a courier to take copies of The Corke Journal to Clonmel and ‘to drop them at any house on the road, seal’d up and directed for all such gentlemen as are pleased to subscribe for the same, at the price of half a guinea (10s.6d.) per annum’.[26] Subscriptions were taken in Clonmel, Clogheen, Castlelyons, Rathcormack and Kilworth. Two agents were described as merchants,[27] and one, Patrick Brennock in Clonmel, was also subscription agent for Jer Calwell’s Seven Sacraments published in Waterford about 1750-51.[28] By June 1754 Swiney offered to deliver the Dublin newspapers with The Corke Journal for 24s. per annum. Delivery was made to Kinsale, Bandon, Mallow, Midleton, Carrigtwohill, Castlemartyr, Youghal, Rathcormack, Fermoy, Kilworth and Clogheen. Couriers may not have worked exclusively with the newspaper, in 1754 Swiney’s courier to Kinsale was robbed of a quantity of sugar outside Philip Stacpole’s grocery shop, in Barrack Street, Cork, which ‘he had bought for persons in Kinsale’.[29]

William Flyn established his newspaper, The Hibernian Chronicle, in Cork in October 1769. He printed 2,000 proposals in September, and when he had attracted ‘a respectable number of ladies and gentlemen’ as subscribers he launched the venture.[30] The paper was published twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, at the price of one penny per issue, or five British shillings per annum to town subscribers, and a half guinea (10s.6d.) per annum to country subscribers, for this sum Flyn included a title page and index at the end of the year.[31] His customers were encouraged to settle their accounts at the assizes in Cork.[32] The newspaper was distributed widely using the Post Office network. For circuits not covered by the Post Office Flyn found it necessary to employ couriers whom he paid quarterly.[33] By early 1770 agents were in place in the major Cork towns: Youghal, Cloyne, Midleton, Castlemartyr, Mallow and Kinsale, and by the middle of the year he had an agent in Killarney, Co. Kerry. These agents were not booksellers but an innholder, a merchant, an apothecary, a cooper, two post masters, and a teacher.[34] By 1772 The Hibernian Chronicle was circulated by couriers to 26 towns in Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Kerry, “besides a great number to the different post-offices in the kingdom”.[35] At Flyn’s retirement from publication of the paper in April 1802 his successors renamed the newspaper The Cork Mercantile Chronicle and increased its publication to three times a week.[36]


Distribution of the Hibernian Chronicle 1772

The distribution networks formed to convey newspapers to subscribers outside the main towns could be used for other commodities and for new newspaper projects. In 1773 William Bingley, printer from London, made a circuit of Ireland establishing agents for the Independent Chronicle and Bingley’s London Journal.[37] Munster agents were found in Cork, Kerry (Killarney and Tralee), Limerick (Limerick and Rathkeale), Tipperary (Tipperary, Cashel and Clonmel), Kilkenny and Wexford (Ross, Wexford, Enniscorthy and Gorey) to take subscriptions and organise delivery of the papers. The agents were the local newspaper proprietors: John Ferrar in Limerick, Edward Collins in Clonmel, and Edmund Finn in Kilkenny, the bookseller Ellis Chandlee in Cork, and merchants or other business people in towns that had no specialist bookseller. It is notable that agents were established particularly in towns that did not have a local newspaper at this period. Two years later, in 1775, William Flyn formed a business link with Bingley for the sale of The Hibernian Chronicle in London, Bingley was appointed to sell the paper and take in advertising.[38]

A provincial newspaper created a network by which books and periodicals could be distributed to the smaller towns and country places. The regular delivery of a paper ensured a constant audience for the advertisements carried in its pages. The agents for the newspaper took in subscriptions and orders for books and other commodities advertised. For example James Craswell, a merchant in Killarney, was agent for The Corke Journal, The Hibernian Chronicle, and in 1773 Craswell was appointed one of Bingley’s Irish agents for the Independent Chronicle and Bingley’s London Journal.[39] He acted as subscription agent for John Brenn’s book-keeping in 1767, and when William Flyn published Poulsons’ Moral and divine observations by subscription in 1775 James Craswell was on the subscription list.[40] John Furzer, post master in Kinsale, and with his sisters, linen draper, hosier, haberdasher, and distributor of stamps, was agent for The Hibernian Chronicle, he subscribed to Temple’s History of the general rebellion, published in Cork in 1766, and to Fitzgerald’s Cork remembrancer in 1783.[41] Mrs Furzer became agent for The Waterford Herald in 1792, Miss Furzer subscribed to Dodd’s Essays and poems in 1770, and was agent for The Cork Mercantile Chronicle in 1802.[42]


The role of the Post Office in the distribution of newspapers was crucial from the earliest days, but in the second half of the eighteenth century private couriers were also used to distribute newspapers on the day of publication to towns not well served by the post.[43] Gathering news from home and abroad the newspaper printer used his/her contacts in the smaller towns to distribute the papers deep into the countryside. The newspaper opened up channels or used existing ones to convey other print media, such as monthly magazines and book catalogues offering books, pamphlets, schoolbooks, subscription editions, expensive books sold in parts, as well as stationery, patent medicines and fancy goods. Customers could order from catalogues and books would be delivered to the agent’s shop with the newspapers.

Newspaper readership is difficult to quantify, and individual readers hard to identify, except in rare circumstances. In the countryside gentry, clergy, landowners and their agents took out subscriptions to Dublin and local newspapers, and often also to monthly periodicals, all of which were made available to guests and visitors. We know that Jonathan Swift visited one Mr Matthews in Thomastown, Co. Tipperary. He had a room ‘fitted up exactly like a coffee-house, where a bar-maid and waiters attended to furnish refreshments at all times of the day. It was furnished with chess-boards, Backgammon Tables, Newspapers, Pamphlets &c. in all the forms of a City Coffee-house’. Touring Ireland in 1776 Rev. Dr Thomas Campbell mentioned a ‘public news or coffee-room’ at Castletown House, Co. Kildare, provided by Thomas Conolly for the ‘common resort of his guests in boots’. The accounts from Castletown show numerous bills for newspapers. [44] A ledger of accounts covering the years 1781 to 1813 is held in the National Library of Ireland and it itemises the newspapers and periodicals supplied to individuals, coffee houses, the administration and businesses and shows the range of titles imported from London for the market.[45]

In the towns gentlemen, clergy, merchants and traders were the likely subscribers to local newspapers. Advertising the copyright of the Belfast Newsletter in 1794, the print run was estimated at over 3,000 copies, it was calculated that each copy would be read by six persons, making a readership of over 19,000 per issue.[46] Print runs are generally not known and 3,000 may have been an optimum, but even calculating with smaller print runs the potential readership was extensive. Each single issue of a provincial newspaper could reach some thousands of readers or listeners, bringing international and domestic news, metropolitan and local advertising. Newspapers were not as ephemeral as they are today, they tended to be passed on to other readers. Their life was longer than just one day and they were sometimes kept for long periods and even bound into volumes, a fact which has contributed to the survival of many titles. A letter from a reader to the Freeman’s Journal in 1771 states: ‘The Freeman’s Journal being a paper more like than any other to be laid by and kept for future reading and service, makes it the best paper for any useful essay or discovery to be inserted’.[47] From 1769 The Hibernian Chronicle, issued in Cork, published a title page and index at the end of the year, making it suitable for binding and retention.

Images courtesy of Dublin City Library & Archive (www.dublincitypubliclibraries.ie )

[1] Raymond Gillespie, ‘The book trade in southern Ireland, 1590-1640’, Books beyond the pale: aspects of the provincial book trade in Ireland before 1850’, Gerard Long, ed. (Dublin, Rare Books Group of the Library Association of Ireland, 1996), p. 4.

[2] M. Pollard, Dublin’s trade in books 1550-1800 (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1989), p.160.

[3] Wyndham Beaves, Lex Mercatoria Rediviva: or, merchant’s directory (Dublin, printed for Peter Wilson, 1754), pp 494-6. Dublin was the largest port with 1,834 ships.

[4] The commercial directory of Ireland … for 1820-21 &22, Manchester, published by J. Pigot, 1820; Pigot and Co.’s city of Dublin and Hibernia provincial directory, Manchester, J. Pigot and Co., 1824.

[5] Bartholomew Larking, listed as free of the city of Youghal in 1639. Richard Caulfield, The council book of the corporation of Youghal (Guildford, J. Billing and Sons, 1878), p. 211.

[6] Dublin Intelligence, 24 June 1710; 1 July 1710.

[7] Dublin Courant, 4 July 1720.

[8] George Roberts, Juvenile poems on various subjects (Limerick, printed for the author by John Cherry, 1763). James Jenkins, Juvenile poems on several occasions (Waterford, printed for the author by Esther Crawley and Son, 1773).

[9] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 27-31 March 1790.

[10] Joseph Morony, Sermons, and exhortations for the whole year (Dublin, printed by T. M’Donnel, 1796).

[11] Cork Advertiser, 3 August 1799. The New Magazine (Dublin, John Gough, 1799). A catalogue of the Bradshaw collection of Irish books in the University Library Cambridge, 3 vols (Cambridge, 1916).

[12] Richard Sharpe, ‘Tadhg Gaelach Ó Suilleabháin’s Pious miscellany: editions of the Munster bestseller of the early nineteenth century’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 114C (2014), pp 235-93.

[13] George Wall, The Hibernian preceptor (Parsonstown, John Bull, 1810).

[14] Samuel Fennell, Original poems (Clonmel, printed by T. Gorman, 1811).

[15] Pigot’s Directory, 1820; 1824.

[16] M. Pollard, A dictionary of members of the Dublin book trade 1550-1800 (London, Bibliographical Society, 2000).

[17] John M’Cormick, blind news hawker, murdered his wife, Corke Journal, 18 November 1754, while Carty, news hawker, fell down stairs drunk and died, Corke Journal, 15 March 1754.

[18] D. A. Levistone Cooney, The Methodists in Ireland: a short history (Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Columba Press, 2001), pp 36-7. Wesley’s Journal 20 July 1749 and 14 April 1750.

[19] Hibernian Chronicle, 23 July 1770.

[20] Surviving issues of Irish newspapers have been located and listed in James O’Toole, Newsplan: report of the Newsplan project in Ireland (Dublin, The British Library/National Library of Ireland), 1992. Newspapers also form part of the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC).

[21] C. Y. Ferdinand, ‘Local distribution networks in 18th-century England’, in Spreading the word: the distribution networks of print 1550-1850, Robin Myers and Michael Harris, eds (Winchester, St Paul’s Bibliographies, 1990), pp 131-49.

[22] Corke Journal, 7 December 1753.

[23] Corke Journal, 24 June 1754.

[24] Corke Journal, 14 December 1753.

[25] Corke Journal, 11 December 1753.

[26] Corke Journal, 8 April 1754.

[27] Patrick Brenock, merchant, Clonmel; Denis M’Grath, Clogheen; Atfield Bell, Castlelyons; Andrew Morrogh, merchant, Rathcormack; Edward Griffith, Kilworth. Subscriptions were taken at the Bowling Green Kinsale.

[28] Jer Calwell, Seven sacraments, advertised in The Oeconomy of human life (Waterford, printed by Jer. Calwell, n.d. [1750-51]).

[29] Cork Journal, 15 August 1754.

[30] Hibernian Chronicle, 23 October 1769.

[31] Hibernian Chronicle, 31 December 1770; 2 January 1772.

[32] Hibernian Chronicle, 30 March 1772.

[33] Hibernian Chronicle, 16 July 1772.

[34] Thomas Shea, cooper, Youghal; John Scanlan, teacher and land surveyor, Cloyne; Mr Barry, innkeeper, Midleton; William Hamilton, Midleton; Robert O’Brien, apothecary, Castlemartyr; John Furzer, post master, Kinsale; Kennedy Hayes, post master, Mallow; James Craswell, merchant, Killarney.

[35] Kinsale, Bandon, Bantry, Skibereen, Clonakilty, Rosscarbery, Berehaven, Skull, Mallow, Buttevant, Charleville, Limerick, Youghal, Midleton, Cloyne, Castlemartyr, Lismore, Tallow, Cobh, Passage, Macroom, Killarney, Shanagh, Castleisland, Tralee and Dingle. Hibernian Chronicle, 2 January 1772.

[36] Hibernian Chronicle, 25 March 1802. Cork Mercantile Chronicle, 26 April 1802. Newsplan.

[37] Hibernian Chronicle, 30 August 1773; 6 September 1773.

[38] Hibernian Chronicle, 31 August-4 September 1775. ‘Cork, printed by William Flyn at the Shakespeare, near the Exchange and sold by W. Bingley, opposite St. Dunstan’s, Fleet Street, London, by whom advertisements for this paper are received…’

[39] Hibernian Chronicle, 18 June 1770. Corke Journal, 2 April 1770. Hibernian Chronicle, 6 September 1773. Freeman’s Journal, 19-21 October 1773.

[40] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 7-11 March 1767. James Poulson, Moral and divine observations (Cork, printed for the author, and sold by William Flyn and Thomas White, 1775).

[41] Richard Lucas, The Cork directory (Cork, printed for the author by J. Cronin, 1787). Hibernian Chronicle, 14 May 1770. John Temple, History of the general rebellion in Ireland (Cork, printed by Phineas and George Bagnell), 1766. John Fitzgerald, Cork remembrancer (Cork, printed by J. Sullivan, 1783).

[42] Waterford Herald, 4 February 1792. J.S. Dodd, Essays and poems (Cork, printed by Eugene Swiney, for the author, 1770). A catalogue of the Bradshaw collection, ii, p. 873.

[43] Máire Kennedy, ‘Eighteenth-century newspaper publishing in Munster and South Leinster’, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 103 (1998), pp 67-88.

[44] Thomas Sheridan, The life of the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Swift, Dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin, 2nd edition (London, 1787), p. 355. Thomas Campbell, A philosophical survey of the South of Ireland: a series of letters to John Watkinson by Rev. T. Campbell (Dublin, 1778), p. 55. National Library of Ireland: Ms. 3939-3940, tradesmen’s receipts, Thomas Conolly, 1778-1795.

[45] National Library of Ireland: Ms 42,103, ‘Ledger of accounts furnished by an agent supplying members of the British army, civilian and ecclesiastical establishment in Ireland … 1781-1813’.

[46] Freeman’s Journal, 20 December 1794.

[47] Freeman’s Journal, 2-5 February 1771.


Eighteenth-century newspaper publishing in Munster and South Leinster.

Very little research has been conducted into provincial newspaper publishing in eighteenth-century Ireland. Munter’s History of the Irish newspaper has a cut-off date of 1760, a period when provincial newspaper publishing was becoming widespread; his emphasis, accordingly, is on the Dublin trade.[1] Madden’s History of Irish periodical literature devotes two chapters to the identification of provincial newspapers, and a discussion of their ownership and political orientation.[2] The significance of the pioneering provincial newspaper ventures of the first decades of the eighteenth century lies in the very fact of their existence; information on their operation is often scanty, and drawn from later sources. A general rise in literacy, accompanied by an increase in inter-regional trade, and an extension of the market for luxury goods, facilitated the spread of provincial newspapers from mid-century. The major towns in the Munster/South Leinster region had stable newspaper publishing businesses from this period: Limerick from 1739 and Cork from 1753, followed by Waterford in 1765 and Kilkenny in 1766. By the last quarter of the eighteenth century many smaller towns supported a newspaper, Clonmel from 1772, Tralee from 1774, and Ennis from 1778. Wexford had a newspaper in 1776, but there was no lasting enterprise in the town until 1787.[3]

Apart from some early periodical publishing in the mid-seventeenth century, the earliest regular news-sheets were issued in Dublin in the late seventeenth century.[4] Printed and manuscript newspapers were imported from England and the continent in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and were used as copy by the Dublin printers. News was mainly concerned with foreign wars and reports from foreign courts. Local news did not form part of the earliest newspapers. A small number of advertisements began to appear in the newspapers in the late seventeenth century, but they did not occupy a significant portion of the papers until the 1720s.

The most fruitful source of information on provincial newspaper publishing is in the newspapers themselves. They carry advertisements, announcements, apologies, complaints and pleas from the printer to his/her readers and potential readers. The volume and type of advertising and the longevity of the paper also point to its success or failure in the market. The newspaper proprietor’s network of subscription and advertising agents in the surrounding towns played a major part in the success of the venture and an identification of their contacts and business partnerships greatly adds to our knowledge of the book trade in a region. The Journals of the Irish House of Commons provide another rich source as printers, papermakers and others in the book trade petitioned Parliament for monetary aid to maintain and expand their businesses.

The economics of newspaper publishing in the Irish country towns in the mid-eighteenth century differed in several respects from practice in the capital. The main difference lay in access to raw materials and the extra costs that were often involved in transporting them. Access to current news could also be a problem for some inland towns, where newspaper printers were forced to wait for the arrival of the mail and other newspapers for fresh news. Sea-port towns had the advantage in terms of news gathering and importation of materials. Distribution of newspapers to country areas was a costly undertaking for both Dublin and provincial printers. The dispersed nature of Irish provincial readership involved substantial delivery costs and difficulty in exacting payment of debts.

After 1774 the introduction of the first Stamp Act, whereby a tax was placed on newspapers, pamphlets and advertisements, changed the economic equilibrium of many newspaper ventures. The basic elements of a newspaper business, however, remained the same in town and country: provision of one or more printing presses, skilled labour, and a supply of paper; the need to raise revenue from advertisements, and to enlist subscribers.


In many Irish country towns the first recorded imprint is a newspaper, and the first printer the producer of that newspaper. The initial outlay was relatively modest: a second-hand wooden hand-press complete with a set of type, a journeyman and an apprentice to operate it, a compositor, often the proprietor himself, perhaps with the help of his wife, and sufficient paper to produce a four-page issue. News was gathered from the Dublin and London newspapers, and from any nearby provincial newspapers. Several ventures were begun in the first half of the century which were unable to last, most likely due to inadequate support from subscribers and advertisers.

Newspaper editors published proposals for printing the newspaper, giving an outline of the contents of the paper, its expected usefulness, its frequency, cost and distribution, and inviting subscribers and advertisers. The level of initial interest determined whether the project was viable. Advertisements for a new newspaper title were placed in other provincial newspapers and in the Dublin press. It is also likely that fliers or prospectuses were distributed by hand or posted up, but such ephemeral items have not survived. A Dublin newspaper could be sustained by metropolitan sales alone, although most were also distributed to country readers. A provincial newspaper, however, needed a wide circulation in the surrounding counties in order to make up a sufficient readership.


John Senex, A new map of Ireland, 1720.

In February 1771 Francis Bray of Fethard, Co. Tipperary, published proposals to print a newspaper in Clonmel, to be called the Clonmell Journal. It would be published twice a week and it was aimed at readers in ‘the extensive and opulent County of Tipperary’. The paper would contain foreign and home news and prices from the markets in Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Limerick. Subscriptions were charged at the standard rate of 8s.8d. in town, 11s.4½d. elsewhere, or 1d. for a single paper, and were collected by agents in Tipperary, Cork, Kilkenny and Waterford.[5] Response must have been slow, as another notice published in March acknowledged the support of some subscribers, and requested new subscribers to send in their names.[6] There is no surviving copy of this paper, and the establishment of the Hibernian Gazette, printed in Clonmel by Edward Collins in 1772, indicates that it failed to raise sufficient support to become viable.[7] Busteed and Knox attempted to set up a rival newspaper to the Leinster Journal in Kilkenny in 1779. It was to be issued twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and would cost a half guinea in town and 14 English shillings in the country. They offered a reduced rate for advertisements. It seems that nothing came of the project, however, and the Leinster Journal remained as Kilkenny’s only newspaper until the publication of the Kilkenny Chronicle in 1812.[8]


Masthead from the first issue of The Hibernian Chronicle, published in Cork by William Flyn.


Masthead from Finn’s Leinster Journal, printed by Mrs Catharine Finn from 1777.

The printing business was very much a family affair, dynasties of printing families were common, such as the Griersons, King’s printers in Dublin. Marriage alliances were frequent between those in the book trade. Wives and daughters must have taken an active role in the businesses as they were in a position to take over on the death of fathers, brothers and husbands. Often the business was kept in trust by a widow until her son came of age, or until she remarried, but there are numerous instances of printing and bookselling enterprises flourishing under the direction of a woman.[9] Catharine Finn successfully ran the printing and bookselling business in High Street, Kilkenny, after her husband, Edmund Finn, died on 7 April 1777, leaving her with seven small children.[10] She continued to publish the Leinster Journal until 1799-1800 when her son, Michael’s, name appears on the imprint. In that time she extended its circulation, through the Post Office, to all parts of Ireland and to England.

Little is known of those who worked for the provincial printers; notices advertising for apprentices or journeymen yield no follow-up information. For example, in 1792 Nicholas Byrne, near the Quay in Waterford, proprietor of the Waterford Herald, advertised for a journeyman printer, who was capable of working ‘at press and case’, who understood the business, and was sober and attentive. He was offered constant employment and a good salary.[11] Newspaper printers frequently advertised for apprentices, Edmund Finn’s advertisement for an apprentice to the printing and bookselling business in 1767 specified ‘a lad of reputable Parents, with a tolerable share of education’.[12] In 1770 William Flyn, proprietor of the Hibernian Chronicle, at the sign of the Shakespeare in Cork, advertising for an apprentice to the printing business gave no indication of what type of person was required.[13] In 1788 Christopher Taylor, printer of the Wexford Herald advertised for ‘a smart lad, who had a tolerable Education’.[14] Foster Parsons, proprietor of the Ennis Chronicle, had room for one apprentice in 1791, ‘a smart lad on reasonable terms’.[15]

Our knowledge of employees is often derived from notices of their desertion from the master printer. In 1769 Daniel Casey, aged 15, apprentice to Edmund Finn, ‘eloped from service’ with four years of his apprenticeship to serve.[16] Michael Sullivan, apprentice to William Flyn in Cork, ‘eloped’ several times in 1772, stealing some of Flyn’s stock of books and offering them for sale. In his notice printed in the Hibernian Chronicle Flyn warned masters of ships that Sullivan might ‘change his name and indent for America’.[17]

Provincial printers often started their businesses by acquiring a second-hand printing press, which could be purchased easily and relatively cheaply. Once acquired a press tended to have a long and fairly trouble-free life; its wooden parts could be easily repaired locally. Prosperous Dublin printers renewing their presses would dispose of older models, printers retiring from business or whose business had failed would sell the press and type fonts to realise capital. A good second-hand press and chases could be got for about 12 guineas in the 1780s.[18]

Wooden hand press from The cabinet of useful arts and manufactures (Dublin, 1821). Newspaper seller from The cries of Dublin (Dublin, St Sepulchre’s Press, 1971).

Type was one of the most expensive requirements for a newspaper publisher, and one that had to be replenished fairly frequently if printing standards were to be kept up. First-time provincial printers often started with used and worn type, and upgraded their stock as the venture became successful. It is estimated that type accounted for about two-thirds of the cost of the printing-house plant.[19] When George Wilson produced his Historical remarks of the city of Waterford about 1736 he pleaded indulgence for ‘the Antiquity of [his] Types’ and appealed to potential purchasers to ‘encourage the Sale of what is Printed, I shall by that means speedily have a new font of Letters to do Business to the satisfaction of those that Employs […] George Wilson’.[20] John Veacock began business in Waterford in 1791 having purchased the printing equipment of Matthew Power, who was forced to sell to meet his debts. The equipment included a large printing press, complete with printing furniture, a range of type fonts including Long Primer with Italic, Small Pica, Pica with Italic, English with Italic Great Primer, Double Pica, two-line Great Primer, four-line Pica etc. and ‘upwards of 100 well executed cuts, for Songs &c.’[21]

In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries type was usually imported from Holland or England. From the first decade of the eighteenth century type began to be cast in Ireland by dedicated typefounders.[22] A mixture of Irish and imported type fonts was used by many printers. In making up a set of type fonts for a newspaper in 1786 Stephen Parker, typefounder in Dublin, supplied Long Primer, Roman and Italic, and Brevier, Roman, as the main fonts with lesser amounts of Pica, Roman and Italic, Script, and two-line Primer, Brevier and Pica. Four hundred pounds of Long Primer, Roman and Italic, cost £30, the whole set of letter coming to nearly £60, substantially more than the cost of the press.[23] An advertisement placed in the Waterford Herald in 1791 offered for sale a ‘font of second-hand Long Primer, sufficient for a Newspaper (has been used for that purpose) and a font of Double Pica’.[24]

Proprietors often drew their subscribers’ attention to the fact that they had invested in new fonts of type. William Flyn, bookseller, printer and proprietor of the Hibernian Chronicle in Cork, issued an apology to his subscribers in May 1770 for the poor quality of one issue of the Hibernian Chronicle due to dust getting mixed in with the printing ink. He assured his readers that in future the newspaper would be printed to their entire satisfaction as he had ‘at a great expense purchased a complete collection of quite new types, which shall appear in his paper before the 20th of the month’.[25] Foster Parsons, printer of the Ennis Chronicle, informed his subscribers in 1791 that he had ‘at considerable expense enlarged the circulation of his correspondence, and purchased an elegant fount of New Types, the arrival of which he hourly expects’.[26] In 1792 Anthony Edwards, bookseller, stationer, printer and proprietor of the Cork Courier informed the public that he had ‘lately made a large Addition to his Printing Type’ which would enable him to execute all kinds of printing work.[27] He claimed that his type came from the best foundry in Europe.[28]

Constant supplies of paper were necessary for business to expand. In Dublin paper was imported directly from abroad, mainly from France, Holland and Britain.[29] Several paper mills were situated in the suburbs, especially at Rathfarnham, Templeogue, Tallaght, Kilternan, Chapelizod, Donnybrook, Co. Dublin, Newbridge and Celbridge, Co. Kildare. Imports of printing and writing paper rose steadily from the last quarter of the seventeenth century until the 1760s. From the 1770s imports of printing paper dropped indicating that the Irish papermaking industry was beginning to have an impact on this aspect of the trade; good quality writing paper, however, continued to be imported in substantial quantities.[30] The provincial newspaper printer also imported paper from abroad, especially if the printing office was in one of the major ports: Cork, Waterford or Limerick. Evidence from the shipping notices in the newspapers reveals importation of paper and books by several booksellers, and of writing and parcel paper by general merchants through the ports of Cork and Waterford.

Writing and printing paper was purchased from Dublin paper wholesalers; local advertisements for the merchandise of importers such as William Whitestone, at the paper and stationery warehouse, the Shakespeare’s Head, 33 Skinner Row, Dublin, were carried in the Munster newspapers from the late 1760s, when the paper warehouse was newly opened.[31] Transportation costs for paper from Dublin would have been an added extra for printers in the country towns. Paper in bulk was carried in carts or truckles, or smaller parcels on horseback; transportation by sea between Irish ports is also likely, but evidence is not yet forthcoming.

In the first half of the century paper manufacture in Munster was insignificant. In 1746 Charles Smith suggested that papermaking, among other arts, could be established in Waterford and in 1750 he stated that ‘we make so very little [paper], and that so very indifferent’.[32] Local paper mills began to contribute significantly to the supply of newspaper printing paper from mid-century. Joseph Sexton, a Limerick merchant, spent £2,000 constructing two paper mills outside the city in 1747 and 1749. He petitioned the Irish Parliament for ‘encouragement’ in 1751, 1753 and 1755, and received grants of £200 in 1751, £500 in 1753, and a promise of ‘further encouragement’ in 1755-56.[33] He claimed to be the only manufacturer of writing paper in Munster at this period.[34] Sexton’s mills produced about 30,000 reams annually and he supplied the local newspapers with printing paper.[35] Sexton also had a wholesale outlet in Cork, where Robert King sold paper on his account ‘next the New Inn on Hammond’s Marsh’. King sold Post, Propatria and other writing paper, printing, lapping, candle and whited brown paper, and brown paper ‘sold as cheap as at the mill’.[36]

Competition emerged in 1763 when Phineas and George Bagnell, booksellers and proprietors of the Cork Evening Post in Castle Street, Cork, set up their own paper mill at Ballyrosheen, later Riverstown, near Lower Glanmire. It was constructed between 1762 and 1763 at a cost of £1,148.[37] In a petition put before the Irish Parliament in November 1763 they sought assistance to improve the manufacture of paper at their mill. The parliamentary committee reported that in the first year of operation the importation of foreign paper through the port of Cork decreased by one-third as a result of their industry, and that if given parliamentary assistance they would be able to provide ‘a Quantity of Paper more than sufficient to supply the demand of the said City’. The committee resolved that ‘the Petitioners need and deserve the aid of Parliament’, but there is no indication of a grant made to them.[38] The Bagnells continued to advertise imported paper in 1763, but they offered paper of their own manufacture for sale by wholesale and retail at their shop in Castle Street, and stated that they sold it at the lowest prices to prevent the importation of foreign paper. Paper could also be purchased wholesale directly from the mill.[39] The Bagnells began to use paper from their own mill for the printing of the Cork Evening Post in July 1763.[40] In 1771 James and John Knight of Cork went into partnership with Phineas Bagnell in the publication of the Cork Evening Post, and by 1781 they advertised paper manufactured at their own mill at Glintown, Ballinglanna, near Ballyrosheen.[41]

From the 1760s onwards sufficient printing paper must have been manufactured to supply the Munster region, even though foreign paper continued to be imported. A paper mill is referred to at Gurteens, Co. Kilkenny, on the river Suir near Waterford city, in the sale of the estate of Henry Snow Esq. in 1768; the paper mill and land were held by William McDonnel, at £25 per annum. It was stated that a ‘paper work’ and corn mills were on the premises.[42] In 1769 Caleb Beale and Samuel Neale erected a new paper mill within the liberties of the city of Cork and they sought parliamentary encouragement for the enterprise.[43] From the 1770s the Phair family had papermaking businesses in Cork and Waterford which continued into the nineteenth century when Pigot’s Directory lists Francis and William Phair at North Main Street, Cork, and Francis Phair & Co. at Little John Street and King Street, Waterford.[44] In 1774, on the eve of the first Stamp Act, Edmund Finn of Kilkenny stated that the paper for Finn’s Leinster Journal was manufactured in Cork and transported to Kilkenny.[45] William Flyn continued to import paper and in 1773 he received Post, Propatria, Demi, Royal and Imperial papers made by the ‘noted Sterlings of Rotterdam’.[46] Christopher Taylor, printer of the Wexford Herald, offered Irish as well as English and Dutch paper for sale at his shop in Main Street, Wexford, in 1788.[47]


The need for information and news inspired the earliest newspapers; the latest and most reliable reports were sought in order to attract and maintain readership. News was gathered from other newspapers, from in-coming packets, from personal correspondence, and any other available source. Taking copy from other papers was accepted practice, in fact to quote from a Dublin or London title was to lend authenticity to the report. The earliest Dublin newspapers consisted of a single folio sheet printed on both sides, issued twice a week and given over mainly to international news. A supplement or postscript was published if a packet arrived between issues. Dublin newspapers of the early century left a blank half sheet for ‘those Gentlemen and others who write to their friends in the country about Business’ as it was cheaper to post a single sheet to the country towns. In this manner newspaper and letter could be combined in one at the cheapest letter rate.[48]

International news was abstracted from a variety of continental news-sheets, Gazettes from Paris, Amsterdam, Harlem, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Leyden, Lettres à la main from Paris and The Hague and a range of printed and manuscript gazettes from London.[49] In the early decades of the eighteenth century there was a close connection between printing office and coffee house; many Dublin printers had their premises next door, or in the same building, as a coffee house. The foreign newspapers used by the printer as copy were made available to the coffee house clientele. In Dublin and the other cities and towns they were the gathering places for those in search of the latest news, from gossip to international correspondence. Throughout the eighteenth century they prided themselves on the number and variety of newspapers that they received. Black has noted the importance of the French language press in the provision of foreign news for the English press, especially the French language Dutch papers. He points to the incidence of newspapers established or written by Huguenots living in London, such as Abel Boyer and J. de Fonvive.[50] These French-speaking proprietors had the advantage of being capable of doing quick translations from the foreign newspapers. It is not clear if the Gazettes available in Dublin were in French, or in English translation, but it is likely that some, at least, were in French.

Official bodies ensured that they had access to the newspapers, which acted as much-needed information sources. In the late seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth century official newspapers were imported from London for the use of administrative bodies and when they had finished the papers were passed on to the burgesses and coffee house clientele. The official papers included the London Gazette, a twice-weekly paper which was the most widely circulated official publication, the News Letter and Votes of parliament, which appeared daily during the parliamentary session and provided an outline of parliamentary proceedings. An extant ledger showing the distribution of newspapers by one London supplier, Charles Delafaye, covering the period 1710 to 1714, shows that he also supplied Irish readers. Thirty-two Irish readers are listed, the majority in the Dublin area, but some from in and around Cork, including the Mayor. John Tyrrel of the Dublin Post Office received about 120 papers a week during the parliamentary session of 1710 for six customers, and this increased the following year.[51]

The Irish parliament inserted proclamations and advertisements in the Dublin and provincial newspapers, this amount of government expenditure allowed many newspapers to survive difficult times, but at the price of supporting government in its columns. The official government newspaper, the Dublin Gazette, announced appointments to public offices, published proclamations, promulgated new legislation and listed bankruptcies; it reached a narrow readership and popular newspapers were used to reach a wider public.[52]

Corporations of towns and cities throughout the country subscribed to a range of newspapers, and used the local, and occasionally the Dublin, press to publish their own notices. In 1704 the Common Council of Derry ordered £5 to be paid to Mr Alex Coningham ‘for ye publick benefit and satisfaction of ye City’ to receive one year’s supply of the London Gazette, Postman and News-Letter ‘to be kept at his house, to be seen and us’d by all members gratis’.[53] In 1688 the Corporation of Kinsale resolved to subscribe to the News Letter and Gazette if the total cost was no more than £3 per annum, otherwise the News Letter was to be got at 30s. When the ‘Soveraign’ had read the newspapers they would be made available in the Jury Room ‘for the burgesses to view’.[54]

In 1694 the Corporation of Youghal paid 40s. per annum to Mr Reed, innkeeper, to keep the ‘Public News’ at his inn. Reed stated that he: ‘formerly kept the Public News to encourage trade to his house, discovering the charge to be more than the advantages, has declared he will discontinue unless the Corporation contribute toward the cost’. The following year it was decided that the Mayor of Youghal would ‘procure the Public News to be every Post sent to this Town’.[55] With the proliferation of newspaper titles in the last quarter of the century the Corporation of Youghal decided in 1786: ‘that in future the Corporation are not to be furnished with more than one two-day English and one two-day Irish newspaper’.[56] A ledger covering the years 1781 to 1783 and 1811 to 1813, identifies accounts for English and Irish newspapers, parliamentary votes, army and navy lists, and Lloyd’s list, supplied to a range of customers such as the Mayors of Dublin, Cork and Kilkenny; David Murphy’s Hotel, the Mercantile Committee Room, and the Commercial Coffee Room in Waterford; the Commercial Buildings, Chamber of Commerce, and Royal Coffee House in Limerick; the Coffee Room in Youghal, Co. Cork; the Post Office, and Club Room in Kinsale, Co. Cork.[57]

Cork Corporation was in regular receipt of London and Irish newspapers. In 1704 the Lord Mayor paid £4.19s.0d. to Mr De-laffa for the ‘Public News’, and in January 1713/14 Mr Charles Delafay was paid £36 for six years newspapers, with the proviso that ‘he desist sending any more’.[58] This was clearly the same Charles Delafaye who supplied the papers from London. In 1715 the Mayor sent for ‘the News from London at the cheapest rate he could agree for’ and by 1716/17 the Corporation expended 6 guineas for ‘the English news, four papers and the votes of Parliament’.[59] English and Irish newspapers and Votes of both English and Irish parliaments were supplied to the Council by Walter Pallisser in the 1740s and 1750s and by Edmond Browning in the 1760s and 1770s.[60] In 1776 William Maturin, clerk of the Munster Road at the General Post Office, began to supply Irish and English newspapers.[61] Local booksellers supplied the Cork newspapers to the Council. Cork Corporation’s own resolutions and advertisements were printed in the local newspapers, first in the Cork Intelligence and later in the Bagnell’s Cork Evening Post, Flyn’s Hibernian Chronicle, Knight’s New Cork Evening Post and the Cork Gazette.

By the middle of the eighteenth century, when the provincial press began to develop, the format of the paper had become established. Foreign news, particularly in times of war or political upheaval, was the main feature; accounts from London, especially parliamentary reports and society gossip, formed another important section. News from Dublin included ‘parliamentary intelligence’, society news, births, marriages, deaths, bankruptcies, appointments and promotions. Country news was made up of short reports from various towns around the country, often concentrating on the assizes, reports of crime and accidents. Items that featured in many newspapers included market prices, the assize of bread, shipping news and accounts of exports and imports. Occasional sections contained reports of race meetings, theatrical reviews, anecdotes of famous people, prose extracts from celebrated contemporary works, and poetry, either by amateurs or well-known poets. Articles from correspondents on topics of their choice were often included; they always used a pseudonym, usually in the form ‘A Freeman’, ‘Hibernicus’ etc. and they frequently used this space to issue tirades against new legislation, the excesses of government and so on. Advertisements took up considerable space in most newspapers.

Provincial newspapers adopted this format, providing news from abroad, from Dublin, from around the country and from the local area. Market prices, shipping and port news, exports and imports were given for the local area rather than for Dublin; articles and poems were by local contributors. Advertising was generally confined to the area of circulation of the paper, although some Dublin businesses also considered it worth their while to insert advertisements in regional newspapers.

The collection of news was the main function of the newspaper, and all other items gave way to an interesting or startling news feature. On publication days when no packets had arrived less newsworthy items were inserted to fill the space. When the Waterford Herald was launched in 1791 the editor drew readers’ attention to the fact that six packets arrived in Waterford weekly, thus supplying the paper with fresh news regularly.[62] The packets brought merchants’ correspondence, official and private mail and newspapers. In August 1793 it took 63 hours for the mail to be transported from the General Post Office in London to Waterford on the Carteret packet.[63] Adverse weather conditions could greatly extend the duration of the passage, and strong winds often forced the ships to return to port in England. A report in the Waterford Herald in February 1793 informed readers that: ‘the prevalence of contrary winds, for several days past, had prevented any of the packets from Milford arriving since Friday morning last. – Mails due – Holyhead, one – Milford, five’.[64] The mail had high priority and prompt delivery was assured when conditions permitted. A notice entitled ‘His Majesty’s Packets from Waterford to Milford’ stated this clearly:

Passengers going to Milford are requested to take notice, that from recent Regulations in the conveyance of the Mail to the Packets, they will be enabled to sail from Bolton every day, except Thursday, from one to two in the afternoons, unless prevented by the weather, and those who are not on board with or before the Mail, will lose their Passage most certainly.[65]

London newspapers arriving on the packets were abstracted as soon as they arrived. On one occasion the readers of the New Cork Evening Post were informed: ‘By the Packets arrived this day the London Gazette of Saturday last received at the Tontine Coffee House, and as no duplicates of it has been received in town, we are enabled only to give the following particulars, which contain the substance of its contents’.[66]

Major world events, such as the war of the Austrian Succession (1741-8), the seven years war (1756-63), and particularly the French revolution and revolutionary wars, gave rise to intense reporting. These reports were sometimes accompanied by maps, showing fortifications and defence plans for towns, or battle formations of rival forces at sea. The American war of independence was widely reported in the provincial newspapers. Letters arriving on ships, both private and public, which covered events in America, were reproduced in full. News from Cork came to the fore in the winter of 1796-7 when the French fleet appeared in Bantry Bay. The main drama unfolded between Friday 23 December 1796 and Wednesday 4 January 1797. Official dispatches and private letters were reproduced in the local and Dublin newspapers. Expresses from Cork, Kinsale, Cobh, Limerick and Waterford were seized on by the Dublin newspapers in an attempt to get the most up-to-date information.

Literary subject matter began to take its place in the Dublin newspapers after the 1720s, as noted by Munter.[67] This strand can also be seen in the provincial press. In the second year of its publication Edmund Finn decided to expand the literary content of the Leinster Journal. He invited his readers to submit articles and poetry:

for the utility and amusement of the Public he intends to enlarge the size of this paper, thereby to make room for such entertaining pieces as the Learned and Ingenuous shall, from time to time, think proper to furnish him with […] That part of the paper called Poet’s Corner (which for want of room has some time past been omitted) will now be revived, and kept open to such moral and ingenious pieces as shall be clear of party invectives; and those correspondents who heretofore furnished this literary table with original delicacies, are hereby invited, with all the hospitality the Leinster Journal is capable of, to renew their correspondence, and ingenious lucubrations.[68]

In 1772 William Flyn offered the pages of the Hibernian Chronicle as ‘a rendezvous for volunteer authors of both sexes’, a first, he claimed, for a Cork newspaper.[69] Occasionally literary pieces in prose or poetry were inserted to tie in with the publication of a book, or the performance of a play. In 1792 Dr James Saint-John’s Memoirs were published by subscription; in the same year poems and extracts from his works appeared in the Waterford Herald.[70] Also at this time his Antiquities of Waterford: The Historical Entertainment of the Stage of Waterford was published by subscription and was running at the theatre in Waterford.[71]


A newspaper was chiefly sustained in two ways: by attracting a strong base of subscribers and by revenue from advertisements. The more successful provincial newspapers had a wide circulation in neighbouring counties, with advertisers assured of a substantial readership. Before the 1774 Stamp Act it cost one British shilling (or 1s.1d. Irish) for the first insertion of an advertisement of not more than eight lines, and 6d. for each continuation in Finn’s Leinster Journal.[72] The advertiser was entitled to a better rate for advertisements inserted for a quarter or a year. These rates were modified slightly from time to time, costing 3d. per line for a first insertion and 1d. per line thereafter, or a special rate of 2d. and 1d. per line for advertisements exceeding eight lines.[73] Advertisements had to be paid in advance ‘for ready money only’.[74]

Advertisements were usually inserted by prosperous businesses, especially those dealing in luxury commodities: wine and spirits, drapery and millinery, books and periodicals, patent medicines, garden plants and seeds, teas and other luxury foods. Notices of auctions, sale or letting of lands, stallions, election notices, theatre performances, government announcements, schools, and individuals offering services, together with the luxury trade, made up the bulk of advertisements. The printer of the paper was often the contact for individuals and services; in 1768 Edmund Finn of Kilkenny was forced to issue a directive: ‘those referring to the Printer for particulars of advertisements must send letters post paid’.[75] Prominent among the advertisements were those of the printer of the newspaper, offering a wide range of goods and services. This free, or almost free, advertising was one of the main advantages of publishing a newspaper.

The Stamp Act of 1774 and following acts placed an enormous burden on advertising; ½d. duty was placed on every single-sheet newspaper and pamphlet, 2d. was charged on every advertisement, this was raised to 6d. in 1780.[76] The cost to advertisers in Finn’s Leinster Journal was raised to a British half-crown (2s.8½d. Irish) for the first insertion of an advertisement of eight lines or less, and 8d. for later insertions; advertisements exceeding eight lines were charged 3d. per line for a first insertion and 1d. per line for later ones.[77] Under the act the printer was obliged to account to the Stamp Commissioners every 40 days ‘under penalty of paying treble Duty’.[78] The financial strain imposed by this proviso, in addition to the loss of revenue as advertisers fell away, proved the ruin of many newspapers. In Dublin newspapers came to rely on government advertising as the duty on advertisements rose with successive acts, and discouraged advertising by businesses and individuals. This reliance on government advertising brought a newspaper’s political views into line with official expectations. Pollard has noted that of ten Dublin newspapers in operation in the 1780s, by the late 1790s three were supporters of government, two were neutral, and there were none in opposition.[79]

In spite of this rising cost provincial newspaper publishing continued to flourish. Of the fourteen enterprises begun in Cork between 1753 and 1799, eight lasted five years or more and four of these lasted over 20 years; the Cork Chronicle had the longest run, 89 years, from 1765 to 1854. In each of the major towns in Munster and South Leinster at least one newspaper had a substantial run; the Limerick Chronicle, founded in 1766, is still issued; Finn’s Leinster Journal, the Kerry Evening Post and the Clare Journal lasted into the twentieth century; the Waterford Chronicle, Wexford Herald, Ennis Chronicle and Chute’s Western Herald continued to the middle of the nineteenth century.[80]

The number of potential subscribers depended on the literate population of a region. The cost of a regular subscription at 6s.6d. to 8s.8d. per annum in town, and ½ guinea per annum in the country further reduced the pool of subscribers. Estimates of literacy figures for the eighteenth century are unreliable due to the lack of statistical data in contemporary sources. In Ireland the spread of literacy was connected to the struggle for cultural dominance between the Gaelic and English intellectual systems. In the eighteenth century literacy in the official language, English, was necessary for those who aspired to careers in the professions, the army, trade or commerce. The report of the census of 1841 gives a figure of 52% of the population who could read English.[81] This figure shows the effects of increased access to education among the lower middle classes in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and may already reflect the increase brought about by the provision of national education in 1831. Literacy figures for the whole population in the second half of the eighteenth century were well under this percentage, but those in a position to subscribe to a newspaper would have been among the highly literate. Newspapers were read aloud informally, and sometimes formally, to groups of listeners, thus the content of the newspaper became available to the less literate. The sharing of newspapers must also have occurred on a substantial scale.

It is difficult to quantify the readership for any particular newspaper title. When the copyright for the Belfast Newsletter was for sale in December 1794, two print runs for that year were published: for 3 January 1794, 2,975 copies and 4 July 1794, 3,225 copies. The readership was calculated as follows:

Calculating as others have done, that each Paper is read by six Persons, the Number Printed in one Day, 4th July last, being Three Thousand Two Hundred and Twenty Five, may have been purchased by Nineteen Thousand Three Hundred individuals, in the most populous and opulent portion of the kingdom.[82]

These figures cannot be taken as representative for other regions and other time periods. When extending the circulation of Finn’s Leinster Journal to Waterford in 1767 Edmund Finn was prepared to employ a courier to deliver the newspaper on the day of publication as soon as 60 subscribers were received; for a lesser number of subscribers it would be delivered the following day.[83] By January 1768 this condition must have been fulfilled and a regular messenger was employed to deliver the Journal to the city and county of Waterford on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the days of publication.[84]

Subscribers had to be attracted before a new title was launched. A commitment to support the newspaper did not involve paying in advance for the publication, a policy which caused problems for all newspaper suppliers as time went on. Subscribers were expected to pay their debts quarterly, half-yearly, or yearly; in practice subscriptions were often several years in arrears. Subscription rates for the provincial newspapers remained fairly constant in the second half of the century. The lowest rate was six British shillings (6s.6d. Irish) to town subscribers and ½ guinea to country subscribers charged for two issues per week of the Hibernian Chronicle; for this sum William Flyn gave gratis a title and index at the end of the year.[85] The more regular rate was eight British shillings (8s.8d. Irish) in town and ½ guinea in the country, rising to twelve British shillings in town and three British crowns in the country after the Stamp Act, for twice-weekly newspapers.

Dublin newspapers for country readers were circulated through the Post Office and Dublin newspaper proprietors requested intending subscribers to apply to the clerks of the four roads: the North (Ulster), South (Munster), East (Leinster), and West (Connaught) roads.[86] On the death of Edward Martin, secretary to the postmaster general at the General Post Office Dublin, in 1767, his daughter and executrix Mrs Sarah Martin was forced to appeal for payment from ‘all such Noblemen, Gentlemen and Ladies, as were indebted to said Edward Martin for newspapers supplied by him, that they will order the amount of their several accounts to be paid to her’.[87]

Similarly in 1793 Henry Harrison, the clerk of the Connaught road, issued complaints in the Connaught Journal ‘finding it Exceedingly Inconvenient to collect his News Paper Money in the Country, has determined him (from the very great Losses he has sustained) not to send a News Paper to any one, unless Paid for in Advance, which will be a saving of 6s.6d. per Ann. to the subscriber: – the price being only £1.16s.0d. in place of £2.2s.6d.’.[88] An advertisement inserted in the press by Alexander Boswell, who had recently taken over responsibility for the Ulster Road in 1791, advised gentlemen that he would supply them with the Dublin newspapers, reviews and magazines. Charges for the Dublin newspapers three times a week were on a sliding scale: £2.2s.6d. per annum on credit and paid for in the country, £2 on credit and paid in Dublin, £1.18s. paid in advance in the country and £1.16s. paid in advance in Dublin. He also supplied the Monthly Review (£1.8s.), Walker’s Hibernian Magazine (16s.3d.), Exshaw’s London Magazine (10s.10d.) and Byrne’s Universal Repository (16s.3d.).[89]

Provincial printers issued constant reminders to their subscribers to discharge their debts. They were requested to pay the printer’s agents who would furnish them with receipts.[90] Regular events that brought country gentlemen to town were particularly targeted as payment opportunities: the assizes, race meetings, and public meetings for elections. The assizes were chosen by most provincial newspaper printers as the best time to collect debts. Held regularly in spring and summer in the county towns and assured of a good attendance by neighbouring gentlemen, payment at these times kept accounts from falling into arrears. In addition to their legal function as courts administering civil and criminal justice, the assizes fulfilled a social function in provincial Ireland. Assemblies and balls were held at these times, curiosities were shown, business was transacted and political causes were furthered.[91] When William Bingley came to Ireland in 1773 to seek subscriptions for the London-printed Independent Chronicle and Weekly Journal he chose to attend the assizes at Cork, Kilkenny and Clonmel for this purpose. On his return to London subscriptions and advertisements for his two publications were taken by his Irish agents, Edmund Finn in Kilkenny and Mr Shaw, postmaster at Clonmel.[92]

William Flyn encouraged customers to settle their accounts at the assizes in Cork.[93] Edmund Finn or his clerk attended the assizes in Kilkenny and neighbouring counties to collect debts. In 1772 Finn’s representative could be contacted at Nixon’s coffee house during the Waterford assizes, while he attended the Clonmel assizes in person.[94] In 1773 they attended the assizes of Kilkenny, Carlow, Athy, Maryborough and Wexford for this purpose.[95] In 1774 Finn could be contacted at the Post Office in Clonmel, the Printing Office, or at Mr James White’s during the Clonmel assizes; he or his clerk would then attend the assizes of Maryborough and Carlow.[96]

Foster Parsons entreated those who were indebted to him for over two years for the Ennis Chronicle to settle their accounts at the assizes.[97] The proprietor of the Cork Gazette also hoped that gentlemen would pay their subscriptions at the assizes.[98] After the first year of publication subscribers to the Waterford Herald were requested to pay a half year in advance; agents in Waterford, Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Limerick were authorised to accept payments.[99] However, subscriptions were also collected privately; in the winter of 1792-3 Mr Heron made a tour of Munster meeting readers and collecting subscriptions.[100]

Subscribers who were in arrears with their payments for over 12 months were threatened with cancellation of their newspapers. In 1768 Edmund Finn issued a warning to those in arrears for newspapers, advertisements and magazines: their supply of newspapers would be discontinued if their accounts were not discharged at the assizes. Readers who were over 12 months in debt to Finn at this period must have been receiving the newspaper from the beginning of its publication without ever having paid for it. At this point also Finn resolved to demand payment in ready money only for advertisements.[101] By 1773, however, Finn appealed to those who were in arrears for four or five years for newspapers and advertisements, indicating that their subscriptions had not been discontinued, as previously warned.[102] In 1790 and 1791 Foster Parsons requested payment from subscribers whose accounts were over 12 months in arrears; those who were in arrears for years faced being sued if their accounts were not settled.[103]

Ideally, subscriptions were paid quarterly or annually to the proprietor or his agents. Subscribers to Finn’s Leinster Journal were warned that no money was to be paid to the post boys.[104] Printed receipts were issued for payments. In March 1773, while collecting debts in Co. Tipperary, Finn’s clerk lost a small book of printed receipts for the Leinster Journal between Clonmel and Loughloher. This book, covered in marble paper, had several receipts made out for different subscribers in Co. Tipperary and signed by Finn, and also some blank receipts. It was feared that the finder of the book might use it to fraudulently receive subscription money and Finn urged his customers not to pay any part of their subscriptions to ‘any person not qualified to receive them’.[105]

The financial strain placed on newspaper proprietors by the Stamp Acts forced them to more rigorous methods of subscription collection. Not only did the cost of newspapers rise, but new subscribers were requested to pay for their papers in advance. The cost of Finn’s Leinster Journal rose from eight to twelve British shillings for town subscribers, and from a half guinea to three British crowns for country subscribers. New subscribers were to pay a half year in advance and renew their subscriptions at every assizes.[106] These conditions were to take effect from 25 March 1774.


Newspapers were delivered to agents in the surrounding towns through the Post Office or by special couriers. These agents occasionally had bookshops, but more often they kept inns, apothecary and grocer’s shops; by the 1790s a substantial number of delivery centres were Post Offices. At these centres newspapers were dropped and advertisements and subscriptions were taken in. Books, periodicals and stationery were delivered in the same way to the same delivery points.

Finn announced the distribution of monthly periodicals such as Exshaw’s Gentleman’s and London Magazine, Walker’s Hibernian Magazine, Town and Country Magazine and Lady’s Magazine to ‘any part of the Country where this newspaper is usually sent’, at the rate of 8s.8d. per annum in the country and 6s.6d. in town to subscribers of the newspaper.[107] The annual publications, Watson’s Almanack and The English Registry, could be supplied to his country customers by the ‘different Post-boys who deliver the News-paper in the remote parts of the Country’.[108] Books also followed the newspaper routes; in March 1768 An abridgement of Dr Newton’s dissertation on the prophecies was distributed by Finn to Bernard Donovan, one of the agents for the Leinster Journal, at the Slip, and at the Angel Inn in Waterford.[109] William Flyn’s publication The modern monitor; or Flyn’s speculations, a compendium of articles from the Hibernian Chronicle, was sent to bookshops in Dublin, Waterford and Limerick and to all country places where the Chronicle was circulated in 1770.[110] John Ferrar, printer of the Limerick Chronicle, distributed his annual catalogue of books to ‘all the Places in the Country where his News-paper is delivered’ and orders were taken by his subscription agents.[111] He also distributed Walker’s Hibernian Magazine, Exshaw’s Gentleman’s and London Magazine and the Monthly Review using the newspaper routes.

Special couriers were employed by provincial newspaper printers to supplement distribution by the Post Office and to offer a more effective service to readers by delivering newspapers on the day of publication. The Post Office made collections and deliveries two, three or six times a week depending on the routes, but this did not always coincide with times or days of publication.[112] In England distribution of newspapers and periodicals was through the Post Office and also by local carriers. Feather points out, however, that the Post Office was never involved in the distribution of books, as the cost would have been too high.[113] Similarly there is no evidence for large-scale book distribution through the Post Office network in Ireland. Lord Orrery, writing to Dr Richard Pococke in 1748 advises: ‘Any books in parcells too heavy for the post will come safe if you will be so kind to send them to Mr William Marlow, Merchant in Mary’s Abbey’.[114]

A courier or post-boy was assigned a particular route covering a number of towns to which he delivered newspapers, magazines and books. They could take letters from country customers for the printer, but customers were advised to give no subscription money to the post-boys and they were not entrusted with printed receipt books.[115] The courier needed to be a sober, honest man, well recommended, who could give security for his honesty, and punctual performance; he was also obliged to provide ‘a good hack Horse’.[116] The couriers acted independently, contracting themselves and their horses to the printer and they were paid quarterly.[117] The distribution of books in this manner was clearly limited to what could be carried on horseback by a single rider. It is likely that small parcels of books were carried frequently, as the rider covered the route two or three times a week with the newspapers, and magazines were circulated monthly. Darby Connor, who delivered the Cork Gazette to Youghal twice a week in 1792, was willing to execute commands left for him at James Johnson’s stationery shop in Youghal, and at the Post Offices of Castlemartyr and Midleton.[118] A newspaper with a geographically extensive circulation needed numerous couriers, Finn’s Leinster Journal employed at least six or seven couriers to distribute the newspaper in the late 1760s and 1770s. In 1772 the Hibernian Chronicle was circulated by couriers to 26 towns in Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Kerry, ‘besides a great number to the different post-offices in the kingdom’.[119]

Not all couriers were as reliable as the printer wished. In 1768 Edmund Finn received complaints about his messengers who delivered the newspapers ‘in and about Waterford’. The precise nature of the complaints is not clear, but they seem to have concerned late delivery. Finn informed his subscribers that in future the newspapers would be delivered on the evening of publication, every Wednesday and Saturday, to the house of William Minchin, opposite the Ferry-slip.[120] In 1770 William Flyn’s courier was accused of stealing clothing in Youghal; he was proved innocent when the real thief was charged and committed to gaol.[121]

In 1772 Flyn was forced to apologise to subscribers of the Hibernian Chronicle for the delay in publishing the newspaper: ‘it was occasioned by the King’s Post not arriving til after 6 o’clock Friday morning, which should come in on Thursday night’.[122] Late delivery of the papers was also the issue in 1774 when Finn sought two or three new post-boys for the routes to Ballinakill, Durrow, Rathdowney, Mountrath, Maryborough, Mountmellick, Borris-in-Ossory and Roscrea. His existing messengers broke their contracts by not setting out from Kilkenny for six to eight hours after the papers were printed. The Journal was usually ready by 6 or 7 o’clock on the morning of publication and the riders did not set out until 12 or 1 o’clock, thus delaying delivery by half a day.[123] W.G. Moffat, printer of the Waterford Herald, received complaints from his subscribers on the Cork Road of being ‘irregularly served’ with the paper, a situation he determined to remedy immediately.[124]

The prompt delivery of newspapers to subscribers was of particular importance to all provincial printers; it was here that the competition lay, as well as in the amount of news printed. If a rival paper could reach its readers with fresher news, then subscribers would turn to that paper. In 1791 the Waterford Herald sought to maintain its readership in Cork by appointing James Daltera of the Mail Coach Office as its agent. In this way the delay of three hours at the Post Office before the paper was delivered could be avoided, and the paper circulated ‘immediately on the arrival of the mail coach’.[125]

In addition to individual subscriptions newspapers were made available in the coffee houses, a practice which dated in Ireland to the late seventeenth century. Dublin coffee houses were renowned for the range of newspapers which they carried. Coffee houses in the provincial towns followed suit in the second half of the eighteenth century, making a range of London, Dublin and local papers available to their customers. When D. Manly reopened the Merchant’s coffee house at the corner of Castle Street and North Main Street in Cork in 1795, he offered 20 newspapers and information sheets from London, Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Kilkenny, Belfast and Derry.[126] From the 1770s Finn’s Leinster Journal was circulated to the London, Chapter, Peele’s and Chancery coffee houses in London, the Grove and Parade coffee houses in Bath, the Merchant’s coffee house in Cork and Nixon’s coffee house in Waterford.[127] In 1793 the Waterford Herald was available ‘at the principal coffee houses in Ireland, England and Scotland’.[128]


To understand the operation of the provincial newspaper business is to gain an insight into local trading and communication patterns, and thereby to an understanding of the national picture. The importance of the newspaper in shaping local opinions, and in mirroring local and national preoccupations is only beginning to be appreciated by historians. From the point of view of history of the book trade the newspaper is the key to understanding the wider trade. In the absence of printers’ ledgers and other contemporary data for the provincial book trade the newspaper, which represented the printer’s interests, is of inestimable value. The lines of communication established by the Post Office, and intensified by the newspaper carriers, helped to open up rural Ireland to broader ideas and an awareness of the world outside the community. As the newspaper press was exclusively in the English language it undoubtedly also played its part in the erosion of the Irish language.

This article was first published in Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 103, (1998), pp 67-88.

Images courtesy of Dublin City Library & Archive (www.dublincitypubliclibraries.ie )

[1] Robert Munter, The history of the Irish newspaper 1685-1760 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1967).

[2] R. R. Madden, The history of Irish periodical literature, 2 volumes (London, T.C. Newby, 1867), 2, pp164-252.

[3] Surviving issues of Irish newspapers have been located and listed in James O’Toole, Newsplan: report of the Newsplan project in Ireland (Dublin, The British Library / National Library of Ireland, 1992). Newspapers are also listed in the Eighteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue (ESTC).

[4] Published by Robert Thornton and printed by Joseph Ray in 1685, the News-Letter is considered the first Irish newspaper. It was followed, after a break, by the Dublin Intelligence in 1690, also owned and published by Robert Thornton.

[5] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 30 January-2 February 1771. Agents took subscriptions in         Mitchelstown, Clogheen, Carrick, Callen, Kilkenny, Waterford, Dungarvan, Mullinahone, Thurles, Slevardagh, Killenaule, Cashel, Fethard and Clonmel.

[6] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 9-13 March 1771.

[7] A newspaper entitled the Clonmel Journal survives for 2 dates in 1800, 24 September and 1 October, but this was a different enterprise.

[8] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 8-12 May 1779. Busteed is likely to be John Busteed, printer in Cork, Ennis and Tralee, who was associated with the Cork Chronicle, Hibernian Morning Post (Cork), Clare Journal and Kerry Evening Post. Knox is likely to be Thomas Saunders Knox, printer in Cork and later in Ennis, proprietor of the Cork General Advertiser, 1776-78, and the Clare Journal until his death in 1802. Clare Journal 1 April 1802.

[9] Vincent Kinane, ‘A galley of pie: women in the Irish book trades’, Linen Hall Review (December 1991), pp 10-13.

[10] The Hibernian Magazine: or, compendium of entertaining knowledge (April, 1777), p. 296.

[11] Waterford Herald, 25 February 1792.

[12] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 31 January – 4 February 1767.

[13] Hibernian Chronicle, 27 August 1770.

[14] Wexford Herald, 4 August 1788.

[15] Ennis Chronicle, 14 February 1791.

[16] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 12-15 July 1769.

[17] Hibernian Chronicle, 18 June 1772.

[18] Robert Herbert, ‘An Eighteenth Century Limerick Printing Venture’, Irish Book Lover, 28 (1942), pp 104-12, letter to Sir Vere Hunt in Limerick from Stephen Parker, 30 December 1786, p.107.

[19] M. Pollard, Dublin’s trade in books 1550-1800 (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1989), p. 120.

[20] Historical remarks of the city of Waterford from 853 to 1270 (Waterford, printed and sold by G. Wilson, [1736]).

[21] Waterford Herald, 6 September 1791; 27 September 1791.

[22] W.G. Strickland, ‘Type-founding in Dublin’, The Bibliographical Society of Ireland, II, no. 2 (1922), pp 23-32. Pollard, op. cit., pp 120-3.

[23] Herbert, loc. cit.

[24] Waterford Herald, 22 October 1791.

[25] Hibernian Chronicle, 31 May 1770.

[26] Ennis Chronicle, 30 June 1791.

[27] Cork Gazette, 8 September 1792. New Cork Evening Post, 7 October 1793.

[28] New Cork Evening Post, 16 December 1793.

[29] The Journals of the House of Commons of the Kingdom of Ireland, XIV (Dublin, printed by Abraham Bradley and Abraham Bradley King, 1782), p. 73, Table of imports of writing and printing paper into Ireland for 16 years from 1750 to 1765.

[30] Pollard has examined imports of paper from the Custom House ledgers. Pollard, op. cit., pp 145-6; for paper costs see pp 111-15.

[31] Limerick Chronicle, 13 October 1768; Finn’s Leinster Journal, 29 October-2 November 1768; Waterford Chronicle, 28 December 1770-1 January 1771.

[32] Charles Smith, The antient and present state of the county and city of Waterford (Dublin, printed by A. Reilly for the author, 1746), p. 284. Charles Smith, The antient and present state of the county and city of Cork, 2 volumes (Dublin, printed by A. Reilly for the author, 1750), II, p. 239.

[33] The Journals of the House of Commons of the Kingdom of Ireland, VIII (Dublin, printed by Abraham Bradley and Abraham Bradley King, 1782), pp 205; 215-6; IX (Dublin, printed by Abraham Bradley and Abraham Bradley King, 1782), pp 364, 370, 389, 514, 615.

[34] H. Ewen, ‘Paper making in Ireland’ in F.R. Higgins, ed., Progress in Irish printing (Dublin, Alex. Thom & Co., 1936), pp 51-64, p.56.

[35] Maurice Lenihan, Limerick; its history and antiquities (Dublin, Hodges, Smith & Co., 1866), p. 358.

[36] Cork Evening Post, 28 February 1763.

[37] The Journals of the House of Commons of the Kingdom of Ireland, XIII (Dublin, printed by Abraham Bradley and Abraham Bradley King, 1782), p. 411. Alf MacLochlainn, ‘Bagnells and Knights: publishers and papermakers in Cork’, The Irish Book, I, no. 3 (Autumn 1960), pp 70-4.

[38] The Journals of the House of Commons, op. cit., XIII, pp 517-8.

[39] Cork Evening Post, 24 February 1763; 26 May 1763; 11 July 1763.

[40] Cork Evening Post, 11 July 1763.

[41] Cork Evening Post, 30 July 1781.

[42] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 17-20 August 1768.

[43] The Journals of the House of Commons of the Kingdom of Ireland, XIV (Dublin, printed by Abraham Bradley and Abraham Bradley King, 1782), pp 684, 702. James W. Phillips, ‘A trial list of Irish papermakers 1690-1800’, The Library, fifth ser., XIII, no. 1 (March 1958), pp 59-62.

[44] John Phair (d.1774) of Brooklodge, near Riverstown, Cork, was succeeded in the papermaking business by Francis Phair (d.1781), Robert Phair (fl.1775) and Francis Phair (d.1823). William Phair (d.1812) of Millview, near Glanmire, was succeeded by William Phair (fl.1815-1826), who was in partnership with Francis Phair at North Main Street. Thomas Phair (d.1777) and Edward Phair (d.1786) were papermakers in Waterford. Francis Phair continued that business until at least 1824. The commercial directory of Ireland … for 1820-21, 1822 (Manchester, J. Pigot & Co., 1820), pp 176, 239. Pigot & Co.’s city of Dublin and Hibernia provincial directory (Manchester, J. Pigot & Co. 1824), pp 253, 322.

[45] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 23-26 March 1774.

[46] Hibernian Chronicle, 11 February 1773.

[47] Wexford Herald, 4 August 1788.

[48] Dublin Intelligence, 18 July 1702; 26 February 1708-09.

[49] Francis Dickson extracted news from the Paris, Harlem and Antwerp Gazettes in 1702, and from the Paris and London Gazettes, Leyden Gazette and Slip, the Paris and Hague Lettres à la main, Daily Courants, Post-Man, Flying Post and Post-Script and Manuscripts in 1706. Dublin Intelligence, 25 August-1 September 1702; 4 May 1706.

[50] Jeremy Black, The English press in the eighteenth century (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987), pp 88-9.

[51] Michael Harris, ‘Newspaper distribution during Queen Anne’s reign’ in Studies in the Book Trade in honour of Graham Pollard (Oxford, Oxford Bibliographical Society, 1975), pp 139-51.

[52] The Dublin Gazette was established in 1706 and continued until 1921. Its title then changed to Iris Oifigiúil which continues to be published

[53] Public Record Office Northern Ireland: LA79/2A/3A, ‘Corporation of Londonderry, minute book, 1704 to 1720’, May 1704, p. 9.

[54] Richard Caulfield, The council book of the corporation of Kinsale (Guildford, Surrey, J. Billing and Sons, 1879), p.182, 4 October 1688.

[55] Richard Caulfield, The council book of the corporation of Youghal (Guildford, Surrey, J. Billing and Sons, 1878), p.391, 23 February 1693/4; p.393, 16 January 1694/5.

[56] Ibid. p. 513, 11 December 1786.

[57] National Library of Ireland: Ms 42,103, ‘Ledger of accounts furnished by an agent supplying members of the British army, civilian and ecclesiastical establishment in Ireland, as well as private individuals … 1781 -1813.’ Newspaper titles supplied included London Chronicle, St James’s Chronicle, Courier, Statesman, Times, Globe, Observer, General Evening Post, Morning Chronicle, Public Advertiser, and Edinburgh Review. The Kildare Street Club in Dublin received the Paris and Amsterdam Gazettes in 1781.

[58] Richard Caulfield, The council book of the corporation of the city of Cork (Guildford, Surrey, J. Billing and Sons, 1876), p. 306, 24 June 1704; p. 363, 4 January 1713/4.

[59] Ibid., p. 379, 27 October 1715; p. 388, 21 January 1716/7.

[60] Ibid., Walter Pallisser 1746-1760: pp 640, 648, 650, 666, 680, 684, 690, 697, 704, 719, 724, 740. Edmond Browning 1761-1774: pp 747, 764, 772, 791, 810, 819, 831, 839, 849, 860, 870, 885, 896.

[61] Ibid., William Maturin 1776-1799: pp 911, 922, 933, 944, 949, 952, 956, 1000-1, 1091, 1132

[62] Waterford Herald, 5 July 1791.

[63] Waterford Herald, 10 August 1793.

[64] Waterford Herald, 7 February 1793.

[65] Waterford Herald, 3 October 1793.

[66] New Cork Evening Post, 28 November 1793.

[67] Munter, op. cit., pp 157-68.

[68] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 23-26 December 1767.

[69] Hibernian Chronicle, 2 January 1772.

[70] Memoirs of James Saint-John M.D., author of Letters from France … also of Coronet and plumage – a poem and other productions, 2 volumes (Dublin, P. Byrne, 1792). Waterford Herald, 1 March 1792; 25 October 1792; 27 October 1792; 6 December 1792.

[71] Waterford Herald, 30 October 1792.

[72] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 15-18 July 1767.

[73] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 23-26 December 1767; 2-6 January 1773.

[74] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 19-21 March 1768.

[75] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 3-6 August 1768.

[76] Pollard, op. cit., pp 21-4.

[77] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 19-23 February 1774; 18-22 June 1774.

[78] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 19-23 February 1774.

[79] Pollard, op. cit., p. 29.

[80] Finn’s Leinster Journal (Kilkenny) 1766-1965; Kerry Evening Post (Tralee) 1774-1917; Clare Journal (Ennis) 1778-1917; Waterford Chronicle 1765-1849; Wexford Herald 1787-1865; Ennis Chronicle 1784-1831; Chute’s Western Herald (Tralee) 1791-1835.

[81] Caoimhín Ó Danachair, ‘Oral tradition and the printed word’, Irish University Review, 9, no. 1 (1979), pp 31-41; p.36. Report of the Commissioners appointed to take the Census of Ireland for the year 1841 (Dublin, Thom, 1843), pp xxxii-xl; pp 438-9.

[82] Freeman’s Journal, 20 December 1794.

[83] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 15-18 July 1767.

[84] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 27-30 January 1768.

[85] Hibernian Chronicle, 31 December 1770; 2 January 1772.

[86] John Lee was clerk of the Munster road from at least 1764 to 1766. He is not to be        identified with John Lees, secretary of the Irish Post Office from 1774, who came to Ireland with Lord Townshend in 1767. Thomas Jones was clerk of the Munster Road from 1768 to 1776. William Maturin Esq. held the position from 1776 to 1809 and he supplied Cork Corporation with newspapers in this period. He was succeeded in office by P. Thomson Esq. in 1810. Watson’s Almanack 1764-1810. F.E. Dixon, ‘Irish postal history’, Dublin Historical Record, XXIII (July 1970), pp 127-36

[87] Dublin Mercury, 25-28 July 1767.

[88] Connaught Journal, 25 July 1793.

[89] Dublin Chronicle, 2 August 1791.

[90] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 15-19 August 1767.

[91] In 1762 a ‘young and lofty camel, lately brought from Grand Cairo in Egypt’ arrived in Waterford and was to be shown at the ensuing assizes in Cork. Public Gazetteer, 24 August 1762. I am indebted to Kieran Sheedy for the information that prospective political candidates were introduced into local society and their political ambitions were promoted at the assizes.

[92] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 31 July-4 August 1773; 28 August-1 September 1773; 30 July-3 August 1774.

[93] Hibernian Chronicle, 30 March 1772.

[94] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 11-14 March 1772.

[95] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 3-6 March 1773; 1-4 September 1773.

[96] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 5-9 March 1774; 16-19 March 1774.

[97] Ennis Chronicle, 27 July 1789.

[98] Cork Gazette, 10 September 1791.

[99] Waterford Herald, 4 February 1792.

[100] Waterford Herald, 15 January 1793.

[101] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 19-21 March 1768.

[102] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 2-6 January 1773.

[103] Ennis Chronicle, 29 April 1790; 14 February 1791.

[104] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 13-16 July 1768.

[105] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 13-17 March 1773.

[106] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 19-23 February 1774.

[107] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 10-14 September 1768; 28 August-1 September 1773; 23-27 April 1774.

[108] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 21-25 January 1769.

[109] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 21-23 March 1768.

[110] Hibernian Chronicle, 30 July 1770.

[111] Limerick Chronicle, 13 March 1769; 15 February 1779.

[112] Watson’s Almanack lists post towns, rates of postage and frequency of service on an annual basis.

[113] John Feather, The provincial book trade in eighteenth-century England (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1985).

[114] The Orrery papers, ed. by the Countess of Cork and Orrery, 2 volumes (London, Duckworth and Co., 1903), 2, pp 31-2.

[115] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 13-16 July 1768; 19-13 February 1774.

[116] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 21-25 February 1767; 10-13 August 1768; 2-5 June 1773.

[117] Hibernian Chronicle, 16 July 1772.

[118] Cork Gazette, 18 April 1792.

[119] Kinsale, Bandon, Bantry, Skibereen, Clonakilty, Rosscarbery, Berehaven, Skull, Mallow, Buttevant, Charleville, Limerick, Youghal, Midleton, Cloyne, Castlemartyr, Lismore, Tallow, Cobh, Passage, Macroom, Killarney, Shanagh, Castleisland, Tralee and Dingle. Hibernian Chronicle, 2 January 1772.

[120] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 13-17 August 1768.

[121] Hibernian Chronicle, 23 July 1770.

[122] Hibernian Chronicle, 17 December 1772.

[123] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 2-5 March 1774.

[124] Waterford Herald, 19 September 1793.

[125] Waterford Herald, 5 July 1791; 14 July 1791.

[126] The Star, Courier, London Gazette, London Prices Current, Lloyd’s List, Imports and Exports, Dublin Evening Post, Dublin Journal, Hibernian Journal, Knight’s Cork Evening Post, Flin’s Hibernian Chronicle, Cork Gazette, Waterford Herald, Ramsey’s Waterford Chronicle, Limerick Herald, Limerick Chronicle, Northern Star, Leinster Journal, Londonderry Chronicle, and Cove List. Cork Gazette, 31 October 1795.

[127] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 31 December-3 January 1778; 24-28 October 1778.

[128] Waterford Herald, 28 May 1793.

‘At the exchange’: the eighteenth-century book trade in Cork.



From its construction in the first decade of the eighteenth century the new exchange in Castle Street became the focal point of the Cork book trade. The concentration of public buildings housing the legal and civil administration in the Main Street/Castle Street area created a demand for stationery, books and newspapers. Over thirty booksellers can be identified trading here during the eighteenth century, some succeeding others in the same premises. The exchange acted as a central point for dissemination of information in the legal and commercial world. Bills, proclamations and printed addresses were ‘put on the Post within the new exchange for public view’.[2] Throughout the eighteenth century all city council orders were ‘posted up on the exchange’.[3] Sales by public cant were held at the exchange, or in the taverns and coffee houses nearby. In February 1754 a pleasure boat was sold at the exchange for the benefit of the infirmary, and in October of the same year the ship Lucy of Cork was sold there.[4] The exchange accommodated the town clock, where previously the clock on the steeple of Christchurch acted in this capacity.[5] The exchange was the hub of commercial and civic life until the establishment of the commercial buildings on the South Mall in 1813. Having outlived its use, and being considered an obstruction to traffic jutting out into Main Street, it was demolished in 1837.

Situation and commercial importance:

The medieval core of Cork city was contained within the divided channels of the river Lee. Main Street followed the central ridge from north to south, ending with the towers of the city walls at North Gate and South Gate bridges. Castle Street was situated in the centre of the walled city, running east-west from Queen’s castle to Roche’s castle. In the medieval period it fronted onto a water channel, the medieval ‘key’ of Cork, the street occupying the northern quay. This waterway was able to accommodate ships, as shown on the Pecata Hibernia map of 1595. By the eighteenth century the channel was arched over and the water culverted beneath the street.[6] In 1760 the corporation ordered that the exchange slip, which had lately been covered in, be converted into a shop, allowing access to the water by a trap door, in case of accidental fire.[7] Castle Street joined Main Street to the west, splitting it into North Main and South Main Streets. At its eastern end it met Tuckey’s Quay (later Grand Parade) to the south, and Cornmarket/Coal Quay to the north, and from the early eighteenth century had its continuation eastwards into Paul Street. This situation gave Castle Street its commercial importance, forming as it did the cross-axis of the old city.

Castle Street retained its economic ascendancy throughout the eighteenth century. The fine new exchange, begun in 1708 and opened in May 1710, celebrated the dominance of trade in the capital of the south. Located at the south-western corner of Castle Street at Main Street, it was built on the foundation of the medieval Paradise tower, later Roche’s castle. In 1732 Edward Lloyd considered the exchange more beautiful than the Dublin one and ‘exceeding that in Bristol, or the changes in any city or port in England excepting the magnificent building of the Royal Exchange in London’.[8] In 1750 Smith described it as:

an handsome regular structure of hewn stone. The front consists of five arches, with three others next the passage to the street. The middle arch or principal entrance is adorned with columns of the Doric order, over which are fluted ones of the Ionic order; … On the top is an elegant cupola covered with lead; a gilt ball, cross and dragon.[9]


Engraving of The Exchange, Cork, from Charles Smith, The antient and present state of the county and city of Cork, 1750.

The city court house was located south of the exchange, and the county court house south of King’s castle at the eastern end of Castle Street. Court Lane, running parallel to Castle Street, linked the two court houses. The exchange itself accommodated the council chamber on its upper floor and also provided space for the grand jury at the assizes and sessions, the mayor’s office, and an office for keeping the council records.[10] The grouping of offices dealing with city and county administration created demand for the services of bookseller, bookbinder, stationer and printer. Legal and administrative stationery and printed forms were staples of the trade. Information in book, pamphlet and newspaper form, was increasingly necessary for officials at all levels. Proclamations and notices were issued regularly, and local printers carried out these tasks for the corporation and the courts.

The concentrated central area continued to hold its commercial superiority until the last quarter of the eighteenth century, when the city was beginning to expand as the marshes to the east and west were drained and reclaimed, and the suburbs began to be developed.[11] Work continued in arching over the water channels, in the early 1780s the waterway at the Long Quay was covered and the new thoroughfare became St Patrick Street. At the same period the navigable channel at Tuckey’s Quay was covered in and Grand Parade formed. Newspaper advertising shows that the luxury trades were mainly located in the central areas of the city, first in the old core, and later in the eastern areas at George’s Street and Patrick Street: booksellers, stationers, confectioners, florists, perfumers, peruke makers, silversmiths, drapers, seed merchants, cabinet makers, cutlers and coach builders. In 1739 the mayor suggested that the post office be ‘kept near the exchange, being the centre of this city.’[12] William Flyn, printer and bookseller at the Shakespeare, ‘near the exchange’, pointed to the commercial advantages of the area when advertising his shop and apartments ‘under the exchange coffee house’ in 1775: ‘the situation for any kind of business is superior to most in the city’.[13] In the last two decades of the century bookselling businesses spread out from Castle Street, Main Street and Paul Street, into the newly formed Patrick Street, Grand Parade and Grattan Street.

From the early years of the century booksellers set up business in the vicinity of the exchange. From about 1715 Thomas Cotton, Andrew Welsh and John Redwood had bookshops in Castle Street, Welsh’s and Redwood’s located ‘near the exchange’. Thomas Pilkington was in Castle Street from 1729, succeeded by his widow, Martha, at the same address early in the 1740s. Cornelius Sullivan was ‘at the exchange coffee house’ in Castle Street in 1736. From the 1750s Castle Street was the address of Phineas and George Bagnell, ‘opposite the exchange coffee house’; Timothy Cronin ‘under the English coffee house’;[14] George and James Knight, and later Henry and John Knight. Eugene Swiney was on Main Street ‘near the exchange’ from 1754, having moved from Paul Street. John Bardin was at the Bible, Castle Street, in 1763, advertising imported paper and merchants’ account books, moving to Paul Street, where he died in 1773. William Flyn was at the Shakespeare, ‘near the exchange’, from 1764 to 1775, when he moved to ‘south-side of the exchange’. George Busteed, printer of the Cork Chronicle, was in Castle Street in the 1760s, moving to Paul Street in 1766. John Busteed, printer of the Hibernian Morning Post, was in Castle Street ‘near the exchange’ in the early 1770s, having moved from Paul Street. Thomas Lord had his bookshop and circulating library in Castle Street ‘under the exchange coffee house’ in 1770.[15]

Mary Edwards opened her new bookshop at 3 Castle Street, ‘next door to the exchange coffee house’ in June 1770, where she proposed to stock the ‘greatest variety of modern books’ from London and Dublin, as well as paper and stationery. She particularly targeted country dealers, offering to supply them ‘on the lowest terms’.[16] Her son and successor, Anthony Edwards, was at the same address from 1781, ‘opposite the new merchant’s coffee house’, until he moved to 6 Castle Street, where he remained until 1815, trading as Edwards and Savage from about 1806. Thomas Saunders Knox spent two years in Castle Street from 1776 to 1778, publishing the Cork General Advertiser, before moving to Ennis. In 1773 Michael Matthews had his bookshop in Castle Street, ‘opposite the exchange coffee house’, where he stocked books, pictures, stationery, ‘rare and curious pieces out of print and very scarce’.[17] From his bookshop and circulating library ‘under the exchange’ he offered the best prices for libraries and parcels of books in 1777.[18] In 1781 the bookshop in the ‘small house under part of the exchange’ was to be set by public cant.[19] Matthews continued to occupy the premises, paying an annual rent of £4.19s. until 1791, when his ‘shop and bulk’ was assigned to the trustees of the new coffee house, and he moved to North Main Street.[20]

Jeremiah Sullivan was ‘opposite the exchange’ from 1777. Thomas White carried on business at 55 the exchange, ‘opposite the west gate of the exchange’ on Main Street from 1770, occupying Eugene’s Swiney’s former bookshop, and moving to 4 Castle Street in 1793. Robert Dobbyn, printer of the Cork Weekly Journal, was at 9 Castle Street from 1779, moving to Bachelor’s Quay about 1787. The 1790s saw John Connor’s bookshop and circulating library established at 17 Castle Street, at the corner of Cornmarket, James Haly, son-in-law of William Flyn, at the King’s Arms, exchange, and Michael Harris at 6 Castle Street. In 1794 Thomas Boate’s ‘Stationary, music, map and print ware-house’ removed to 3 new buildings, Castle Street, under the Tontine coffee house. He advertised maps, prints, music and merchants’ account books, as well as children’s and school books, magazines and plays, and undertook ‘all manner of book-binding and printing work executed with neatness and dispatch’.[21] In 1797 Hugh Massey, bookbinder and stationer, conducted his business on Main Street ‘under the old mercantile coffee-house.’[22] In the first decade of the new century Castle Street accommodated the bookshops of William West, compiler of West’s Cork directory 1810, John Harris, at the Southern Reporter office, Jeremiah Geary at the Stanhope Press printing office, occupying Haly’s old premises at the King’s Arms, exchange, John Stephenson, printer of The Patriot, at 10 Castle Street, White and Shelborne, paper manufacturers, and Joseph and Robert McMullen, ‘at the exchange’.

Cork West

Castle Street, the bookshop of William West, printer, bookseller and stationer, and the shop of White and Company, paper manufacturers, near the exchange, c.1810.

Coffee houses and taverns clustered here also, frequented by the better-off citizens in search of news and gossip. At mid-century Cork had two coffee houses, the Exchange and English coffee houses, situated opposite each other on Castle Street, and a number of prominent taverns: the Cork Arms and Turk Head taverns in Castle Street, and the Raven opposite Christchurch. In 1750 Smith noted: ‘Here are only two coffee-houses, both near the exchange; they are much frequented, and besides the English news-papers, have most of the Dublin ones: the better sort are fond of news and politics, and are well versed in public affairs.’[23] By 1777 Thomas Campbell reported: ‘One of the coffee-houses is conducted somewhat like those in London. The taverns are pretty good, and very cheap…’[24] The merchant’s coffee house, situated at the corner of Castle Street and North Main Street, subscribed to Finn’s Leinster Journal from at least 1778.[25] In 1795 it was reopened by D. Manly, supplying newspapers from London and Dublin, three Cork papers, two each from Waterford and Limerick, Finn’s Leinster Journal, the Northern Star and Londonderry Chronicle.[26] The Tontine coffee house was opened in Castle Street in 1793, the charter to raise the fund for its establishment had among its shareholders two booksellers, Thomas White and Jeremiah Sullivan.[27]

Coffee houses traditionally occupied the first floor or parlour apartments, with shops or other commercial concerns at street level. In Cork, as in Dublin, there was a close relationship between coffee house and book trade, as both concerned themselves with the dissemination of information. A proposal to publish The mercantile assistant or, exchange pocket companion by subscription was advertised in 1781. This periodical was aimed at merchants and traders, giving lists of the imports and exports of the port of Cork, financial information from abroad, up-to-date prices of commodities, and accounts of trade hazards, such as seizure of ships by ‘the belligerent powers’ during the American war. The subscription cost of one-and-a-half guineas per annum was taken at the bar of both coffee houses. Likewise for subscribers to a new twice-weekly newspaper, the Cork Mercury, in March 1781, subscription books were available at the coffee houses.[28] When the Cork Herald, a loyalist newspaper, was established in 1798, subscriptions were taken by Thomas White, Michael Harris, Anthony Edwards, James Haly and John Connor, all booksellers in Castle Street, and the bar of each coffee house.[29] A notice in the New Cork Evening Post from November 1793 informed its readers that the only copy of the Saturday issue of the London Gazette had been received at the Tontine coffee house, forcing the paper to give an abstract, instead of a full account, of the news.[30]

The book trade and the administration of the city:

In the early decades of the eighteenth century the legal and civil administration of the city accounted for the bulk of booksellers’ business. Printed forms, parchment for official records, printed proclamations and hand bills, advertising in newspapers, the supply of a range of newspaper titles for official information, stationery, copies of Statutes, Acts of parliament, law books and other relevant works, were the mainstay of the city’s book trade. Scriveners and copyists, as well as printers, were employed by official bodies. Loyal addresses from the corporation to the king, queen or lord lieutenant were engrossed on parchment.[31] Bookbinders found work binding and repairing official ledgers and manuscript record books for the courts and corporation, as well as binding for the retail book trade. For example, the corporation ordered payment in 1776 for veal skins to cover the Tholsel office books.[32] In 1732 Thomas Pilkington advertised books, merchants’ account books, shop books, paper and stationery by wholesale and retail. ‘He writes every month to London for the newest books to accommodate gentlemen with’.[33] William Flyn, at the Shakespeare, sold promissory notes, processes and parchment.[34] In the 1790s ‘processes, with printed copies’, ‘presentments for roads, bridges &c.’, hearth money certificates, magistrates’ warrants and summonses, and police certificates were advertised by Anthony Edwards.[35] Processes were also offered by Thomas White, with a range of paper, account books, message cards and stationery.[36]

In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries official newspapers and parliamentary votes were ordered from London for the mayor and common council, while the coffee houses provided a more varied fare. Official papers included the London Gazette, a twice-weekly paper which was the most widely circulated official publication, the News Letter and Votes of parliament, which appeared daily during the parliamentary session and provided an outline of parliamentary proceedings. An extant ledger showing the distribution of newspapers by one London supplier, Charles Delafaye, covering the period 1710 to 1714, shows that he supplied newspapers to the mayor of Cork.[37] In 1704 the mayor paid £4.19s. to Mr De-laffa for the ‘public news’, and in January 1713/14 Delafay was paid £36 for six years newspapers, with the proviso that ‘he desist sending any more’.[38] In 1714 the corporation received the Postman, Flying Post, Evening Post and votes of parliament from London.[39] In 1715 the mayor sent for ‘the news from London at the cheapest rate he could agree for’ and by 1716/17 the corporation expended six guineas for ‘the English news, four papers and the votes of parliament’.[40] English and Irish newspapers and Votes of both English and Irish parliaments were supplied to the corporation by Walter Pallisser in the 1740s and 1750s and by Edmond Browning in the 1760s and 1770s.[41] In 1776 William Maturin, clerk of the Munster road at the General Post Office, Dublin, began to supply Irish and English newspapers.[42] Local booksellers supplied the Cork newspapers to the corporation.

The corporation’s own resolutions, proclamations, orders, public notices, advertisements and the ‘assize of bread’ were printed in the local newspapers, first in the Cork Intelligence and later in Bagnell’s Cork Evening Post, Flyn’s Hibernian Chronicle, Knight’s New Cork Evening Post and the Cork Gazette. Extra printed copies were used as hand bills, to be posted on the exchange and around the city. Corporation lands and buildings for sale or lease, the publication of the city accounts, proposals for lighting, cleansing, repairing and paving the city streets, contracts for public works, notices offering rewards for the conviction of criminals, and notices of public meetings were regularly inserted in the papers. An advertisement for setting leases of stalls in the meat market was inserted in ‘Bagnall’s paper’ in 1772, and in addition 100 copies were printed to be posted up in the city.[43] The weekly assize of bread was published in the local papers and also posted up around the city. By giving the current price of wheat and the official weight and price of loaves, consumers were assured of the quality of this staple commodity; bread which did not meet the requirements was seized and the bakers fined. In 1738 the mayor issued a proclamation that the acts of parliament for weighing corn, potatoes and salt be put in force, George Bennett, alderman and one-time mayor of the city, got the contract to ‘print five quires of paper, in order said proclamation be duly published’.[44]

During a period of crisis in the spring of 1762, when the army regiments were withdrawn from the city, due to the continuing conflict of the seven years war, the corporation ordered arms to be distributed to the protestant inhabitants of the city. One thousand copies of the orders were printed, to be posted on the exchange, the north and south gates, the custom house, and distributed among the citizens.[45] The oath taken by citizens when becoming freemen was printed: in 1748 the council ordered ‘six quires’ of the oath to be printed for distribution, and in 1758 one thousand copies were printed.[46] The corporation ordered the printing of lists of the freemen at large from time to time.[47] An act of parliament concerning the city of Cork, passed in 1772, was ordered to be printed and thirty copies sent to the mayor.[48] William Flyn printed The by-laws of the city of Cork in 1776 by order of the council. In this way the regular business of the mayor and corporation required the expertise of local printers. This jobbing work was not complicated, nor large enough to tie up type for extended periods, probably just the kind of work that a printer found profitable.

In addition to its paper, stationery and binding requirements in the day-to-day administration of the city, books, pamphlets and acts of parliament were purchased by the corporation on a regular basis. In the 1720s and 1730s George Bennett supplied acts of parliament, abridgements of the statutes and prayer books from his bookshop on Main Street, opposite Broad Lane.[49] In 1754 Timothy Cronin was paid £3.18s.7d. for law books.[50] The current statutes affecting the administration of the city were essential reference works for the mayor and council. Cornelius Sullivan, opposite the Main Guard, supplied Bolingbroke’s Abridgement of the statutes, and five appendices in 1766.[51] The nine volumes of Vesey’s Acts of parliament and the statutes passed from 1769 to 1771 were purchased in 1772, and two years later Bolingbroke’s Abridgement, Vesey’s Appendix and Blackstone’s Commentaries were bought for the mayor’s office. Bolingbroke’s Abridgement and Vesey’s Appendix were again required in 1784.[52] Mary Edwards supplied two sets of acts from the previous session, bound, in 1780/81, one for the mayor’s office and the other for the corporation.[53] Thomas White provided the statutes at large for the Mansion House in 1791, and Anthony Edwards Vesey’s Appendices for the town clerk’s office.[54]

In the first half of the century Bibles and prayer books were purchased in quantity by the corporation for institutions within its authority. In 1708/9 ‘four dozen Bibles, unbound’ were ordered for the use of St Stephen’s (or Blue Coat) Hospital.[55] In 1718 the corporation ordered 300 Bibles, published in Dublin, again for the Blue Coat Hospital.[56] It is not clear which printing of the Bible was purchased, most likely the folio edition of The Holy Bible printed in Dublin in 1714.[57] In 1723, 243 Bibles in sheets were received from Dublin, and the contract for binding was awarded to George Bennett.[58] The following year each member of the council was given discretion to distribute the Bibles ‘to such charitable uses as they think fit.’[59] In 1738 and again twenty years later, in 1758, the city gaol was supplied with a Common prayer book and a Bible ‘for the use of the poor prisoners’, at the corporation’s expense.[60] Prayer books were purchased for the use of council members at official church ceremonies. In 1727 George Bennett was contracted to supply ‘seven folio prayer-books for the use of the corporation in the churches, three whereof to be gilt for the mayor’s cushion and the others for the other seats’.[61] Again in 1741 Bennett was ordered to ‘furnish the mayor’s gallery with four large prayer books’.[62]

Not all relations between the book trade and the administration were amicable. In 1732 the ballad sheet ‘Cork association, or the clothiers garland’ was ordered to be suppressed and the printer bound over to appear at the quarter sessions.[63] Tensions came to the fore in the lead-up to the 1798 rebellion as printers in Cork, as elsewhere in Ireland, printed hand bills, ballads, newspapers and pamphlets not approved of by government. The Cork Gazette was suppressed in 1797 and its printer, Denis Driscol, charged with publishing seditious matter.[64] The Harp of Erin, a radical newspaper advocating reform, founded in March 1798 ‘on the principles of freedom’, was printed by John Daly in Patrick Street. Its opponents, considering that ‘for treason and rebellion [it] will far surpass the Press itself’, had it suppressed after a few issues.[65] The Hibernian Chronicle records the paper’s demise: ‘Last Saturday some magistrates, with a party of the army, searched several houses to discover where the Harp of Erin was printing; at last they found out the place to be Carey’s Lane, where they seized on all the papers, part of which were printed, threw out the forms, and carried the entire to the Mansion House.’[66] John Daly was sentenced to stand one hour on the pillory, to six months imprisonment and to give securities for his good behaviour for seven years.[67] In April 1798 Cork corporation offered 100 guineas reward for the conviction of the author of an inflammatory hand bill, addressed ‘To militia men’, and twenty guineas for the prosecution of the printer.[68]

The printing and stationery requirements of the military were substantial, several regiments being stationed in Cork at any one time. Anthony Edwards styled himself ‘military stationer’ from the 1790s, catering for the requirements of the army and militia. He carried a variety of army stationery, such as muster rolls, review returns, orderly and memorandum books.[69] In an advertisement of 1793 he offered to ‘gentlemen of the militia … all kinds of books and stationery, made use of by the army’.[70] He reprinted Instructions for the yeomanry of England ‘for the use of the county corps of Ireland’ in 1796. His military printing work included rules, regulations, standing orders, manuals of exercises, relevant acts of parliament, and printed forms.[71] In the early 1800s he printed certificates for families of militiamen to apply for financial allowances, with the blank date 180-.[72] In 1801 Edwards’ daughter, Elizabeth, married Osborne Savage, stationer.[73] From about 1806 Edwards and his son-in-law went into business as Edwards and Savage at 6 Castle Street. Trading as military stationers, printers and booksellers, they advertised their stock of ‘brigade, regimental, hospital, barrack and recruiting returns’.[74]

The governors of the several charitable institutions in the city needed the services of the book trade in the administration of their societies. Advertising, printing of hand bills, stationery, and the publication of reports and accounts provided regular work for printers. An account of the dispensary was printed by William Flyn in 1788. The Cork Society for the relief and discharge of persons confined for small debts produced proceedings of its annual meetings.[75] Accounts of the Society for bettering the condition and increasing the comforts of the poor were printed by Anthony Edwards in 1799 and John Connor in 1800. The annual report of the House of Recovery for 1802/3 was printed by James Haly, at the King’s Arms, exchange. Among the annual expenses of the institution were substantial amounts for printing, stationery, and advertising: £26.4s.5½d. in 1801/2 and £10.4s.0½d. in 1802/3.[76]

The general book trade:

The general book trade in Cork was wide-ranging and varied, catering for an extensive market made up of country gentry, city professionals and the rising urban middle classes.[77] In the first half of the century Cork’s patrician families, persons associated with the civil and legal administration, and those involved in the commercial life of the city, continued to live in the mansion houses on Main Street, in the lanes running east and west from it, and in the newly constructed houses on the quays. Smith notes the newly built brick houses, with balcony windows in Spanish fashion, to be seen along Main Street in 1750.[78] It was not until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that professionals and merchants moved to the fine terraced houses being built east and west of the old walled city, and out to the suburbs at Sunday’s Well to the north and towards Blackrock to the south. The concentration of well-educated families within the city centre created a demand for information, professional and leisure reading. The country gentry came to town for the assizes, to do estate business, shopping, and to partake of the city’s assemblies, theatres and other entertainments. In 1781 William Flyn appealed to country gentlemen indebted to him for the Hibernian Chronicle, books and stationery, to settle their accounts at the assizes.[79]

Readers in the surrounding towns and villages, whose access to reading matter was likely to be more limited than city dwellers, nevertheless had remote access to the city bookshops through newspaper advertising and bookseller’s catalogues. From the second half of the century newspapers were distributed to the main towns in the county: Youghal, Cloyne, Midleton, Castlemartyr, Cobh, Passage, Rathcormack, Kilworth, Kinsale, Mallow, Buttevant, Charleville, and westwards to Macroom, Bandon, Clonakilty, Rosscarbery, Skibereen, Bantry, Berehaven and Skull.[80] Readers in these towns could keep up-to-date with the latest publications from newspaper advertising and could place orders for books and periodicals through the newspaper agents. When William Flyn published The modern monitor in 1770 he informed readers of the Hibernian Chronicle that it would be on sale ‘at all the country places where this paper is left.’[81] Catalogues, lists of books published in newspapers, and advertising leaves in local publications, helped inform a dispersed readership, some of whom may have been unable to visit the city bookshops.

Anthony Edwards issued a priced catalogue of his stock in 1785, and a supplementary short catalogue at the back of Edwards’s Cork remembrancer in 1792.[82] As well as books and periodicals in English and French, he stocked religious works, school books, plays, almanacs, directories, pocket ledgers, memorandum books, and ‘all public acts of parliament, as soon as printed’. School books included grammars and dictionaries in Greek, Latin, French, English, Irish, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, and for the young ‘Newbery and Burton books, for the amusement of children’. He carried a range of devotional works and prayer books, many intended for the wholesale market. He printed editions of The new week’s preparation from 1793.[83] His own publication, a new edition of Mann’s Catechism, sold at 4d. each, or £1.4s. per hundred. Prayer books in various sizes and bindings ranged in price from 1s.6d. to £2.5s.6d. His wide-ranging stock included musical instruments and ruled music books, maps, stationery, paper and patent medicines. His printing work, encompassing books, pamphlets, and a newspaper, The Cork Courier (1793-94), was probably largely taken up with jobbing work for businesses and the administration. He lists such items as ‘shop-bills, hand-bills, leases, brewers permits, landlords receipts, tithe notes, manor-court processes and decrees; Free-Masons summonses, magistrates informations, warrants, recognizances, commitals and supercedeses, promissory notes, freeman’s passes &c.’, almost certainly the bread-and-butter trade of a bookseller outside the metropolis.

Because of the diversity of the market specialisation within the trade was not economically viable, most booksellers carried on an extensive range of activities. In addition to the sale of new and secondhand books, periodicals and pamphlets, a bookseller could be printer, stationer, bookbinder, newspaper proprietor, papermaker or importer, circulating library proprietor, patent medicine dealer, lottery office keeper, musical instrument seller, purveyor of fancy goods, and agent for loans or the sale of lands. Subscription editions of Dublin-printed books had Cork booksellers as agents from the first decades of the century, and lasting partnerships were established between members of the Dublin and Cork trades. The book trade in Cork did not wholly depend on Dublin printers and wholesalers. Books, periodicals and newspapers were imported directly from London. An inter-regional trade was in operation between the towns and cities in Munster and South Leinster, especially with Waterford, Limerick and Kilkenny, and to a lesser extent Clonmel, Ennis and Tralee. From the last quarter of the century some continental trading also occurred. In 1773 William Flyn imported foreign language books from Holland, where he had established a correspondence with ‘a principal bookseller’. Bookbuyers were offered ‘elegant and cheap editions’ in any language, which could be chosen from a catalogue.[84]

A cultured and sophisticated audience supported the summer theatre at Dunscomb’s Marsh, later George’s Street. The earliest theatrical performances took place in Cork from 1713, when players from the Smock Alley theatre in Dublin, and later from the Theatre Royal in Aungier Street, came south for a period in the summer to perform the season’s hit plays from London and Dublin.[85] Advertisements for performances and benefits were inserted in the local newspapers, and hand bills were printed and placed strategically around the city. A mild storm blew up in the summer of 1761 when the theatrical company posted its printed hand bills without asking the consent of the mayor, who then refused them permission to perform. The matter was resolved, though not without a certain rancour and the threat of legal proceedings on the part of the players.[86] Newspaper advertising was required to carry the unequivocal formula ‘by permission of the Right Worshipful …, mayor of Cork’.[87]

Plays were often locally printed to coincide with popular productions. Reprints of Dublin and London editions could be rushed out cheaply to satisfy demand. In 1741 George Harrison, at the corner of Meetinghouse Lane, printed a ballad opera which was in performance at the Theatre Royal, Dunscomb’s Marsh: A wonder, or, an honest Yorkshireman.[88] In the 1760s Eugene Swiney, and Phineas and George Bagnell, were prominent in reprinting popular plays, issuing such staples of the Cork theatre as The beggar’s opera (Gay), King Lear, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Venice preserv’d (Otway) and Conscious lovers (Steele) in 1761, Douglas (Home) and All in the wrong (Murphy) in 1762, and Othello in 1763. Jeremiah Sullivan was active in reprinting plays in the 1780s and 1790s, while Anthony Edwards, John Connor and Michael Harris printed them in the 1790s. William Preston’s controversial Democratic rage; or, Louis the unfortunate, was printed by Anthony Edwards in 1793, the same year it was performed in Cork.[89] A large selection of plays, printed in Dublin and London, formed part of any good bookshop’s regular stock. In July 1775 John Busteed advertised a list of forty-four plays and twelve farces to coincide with the summer season at the Theatre Royal in George’s Street.[90] These plays corresponded with performances during the 1775 season, but also included perennial favourites at the Cork theatre.[91]

The reading public had varying budgets for the purchase of books and other print media. Instead of the wealthy patrons of literature encountered in the metropolis, or more especially in London and other European capitals, Cork booksellers were supported by the professional and middle classes, country gentry, and persons of lesser means. Thus, stocks reflected the differing means of potential purchasers. Subscription editions of the works of local authors, or reprints of more celebrated authors, were regularly offered by Cork booksellers. Books published in parts, where the cost could be spread out, allowing buyers to invest in an expensive work, popular reprints of plays, political pamphlets and trials which could be produced and sold cheaply, monthly magazines, children’s and school books, formed an important segment of the market. Small format religious works, often sold in bulk, were intended for distribution to the poor. Ballad sheets, cheaply printed, and celebrating or satirising local persons and events, were within the price range of all but the very poor. The secondhand market was also buoyant, as booksellers offered ready money for libraries and parcels of books. The more renowned libraries, such as that of Dr Joseph Fenn Sleigh, were put up for sale and priced catalogues issued.[92] Expensive editions from Dublin, London and the continent, were offered for sale side by side with the cheaper material.

Monthly periodicals, such as Walker’s Hibernian Magazine, Exshaw’s Gentleman and London Magazine, Ladies’ Magazine, Town and Country Magazine, and Monthly Review, were advertised regularly and could be sent with their newspapers to subscribers in the nearby towns and in the countryside. At a cost of 6d. to one shilling per month the magazines provided a varied diet of literary, social and political content. Accompanied by engravings of prominent contemporary or historical figures, places of interest, military or naval actions, sentimental prints, needlework patterns, music, etc., and carrying advertising on their blue paper wrappers, these productions were good value for money for the less wealthy reader. In 1777 and 1778 a French-language periodical, the Magazin à la mode, was published in Dublin by William Whitestone. Compiled by Charles Praval, writer and teacher of French, it aimed to replicate the Anglophone periodicals, while promoting French language and literature. It circulated in Cork through the bookshops of Mary Edwards, Daniel Hood, Jeremiah Sullivan and Thomas White.[93] Throughout the century locally-produced literary and general periodicals were a feature of the market, with a flowering in the last decade. The Medley and the Serio-Jocular Medley were rival publications, printed in the 1730s. The Weekly Repository, begun in 1779, covered a broad range of topics: history, philosophy, mathematics, poetry, ‘with several curious and entertaining originals’. Lord’s Cork Weekly Magazine from 1790, the Quiz (1794), the Medler (1795), the Tickler (1795), the Rover (1795-96), the Museum (1796), the Monthly Miscellany (1796), and the Casket (1797-98) were all short-lived literary periodicals in the closing years of the eighteenth century.[94]

Books published in parts, and selling for the price of a monthly magazine, were frequently advertised. The Corke Journal carried advertisements for A new and complete dictionary of arts and sciences in 1754. Published in London by W. Owen in seventy-four weekly numbers, priced at a British 6d. each, and stitched in blue paper, the whole work was to contain 300 copper plates. A four-page prospectus was issued in 1754 and subscriptions were taken by Richard James in Dublin and Eugene Swiney in Paul Street, Cork. The finished work came to four volumes octavo, with over 3,500 pages and 302 plates, and the cost of £1.17s. was spread over a year and a half.[95] In 1770 A new description of England and Wales was sold in sixty numbers at 6½d. each, complete with 240 copper plates.[96] In 1775 The exemplary life of the pious Lady Guion, translated from the French by Henry Brooke, was printed by subscription in ten numbers at 6½d. each, with John Busteed as Cork agent. The work was to come to one volume octavo of about 500 pages, costing 5s.5d. The only surviving edition was printed in Dublin by William Kidd in 1775, and contains a list of subscribers, and therefore is likely to have been the edition advertised.[97] A ‘new and improved edition’ of the Complete dictionary of arts and sciences was proposed in 1778. This would be a folio edition published in seventy-five weekly parts, costing one British shilling each. Subscribers could purchase the weekly parts, receive four numbers monthly to be delivered with their monthly magazines, receive each volume as published, or wait for the completed work in three volumes, ‘elegantly bound and lettered’. Booksellers in the main cities and towns around Ireland were agents for the publication, in Cork subscriptions were taken by Thomas White, Mary Edwards and William Flyn.[98]

Local publications consisted of books, newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets, and ephemera such as song sheets. Book production was mainly made up of reprints, concentrating especially on social and political tracts, religious works including sermons and works of controversy, plays, novels, poetry, school books, history, travels and literary miscellanies. Original works by local authors were also published, consisting mainly of tracts relating to political issues of the day, school books, poetry and novels. James Solas Dodd, naval surgeon turned schoolmaster, contributed to the literary life of the city in the 1770s on a number of levels. He published his Essay on education in 1770, setting out in detail his plan for a new academy on Hammond’s Marsh. The venture was supported by some of Cork’s leading cultural figures: Henry Sheares, Dr Joseph Fenn Sleigh, Dr John Longfield and others. An advertisement was placed in the Hibernian Chronicle for the Essay, which could be purchased from booksellers in Cork, Waterford and Limerick.[99] Dodd’s Essays and poems were published by Eugene Swiney in the same year, the work attracting 255 subscribers. The last leaf carried proposals for printing by subscription Dodd’s Satyrical and moral lecture upon hearts.[100] When the theatre came to town in the summer of 1770 Dodd performed his Satirical and moral lecture in the Theatre Royal, George’s Street, on 7 August. It was accompanied by his Comical dissertation on noses, and his recitation of Garrick’s Ode in honour of Shakespeare, written for the Shakespeare jubilee in 1769. The night’s performance was ordered by the deputy grand master of masons of Munster. The Hibernian Chronicle carried the advertisement, which also announced that Essays and poems would be ready for subscribers by 4 August.[101]

The last decade of the century saw a much increased level of literary activity in the city, and the publication of several original works. The locally-produced literary magazines, although short-lived, testify to this upsurge in literary interest. John Connor, James Haly and Michael Harris were to the fore in publishing original works of fiction and poetry, usually by subscription. Conor’s literary output was especially significant, publishing at least twenty-seven literary titles in the twenty year period from 1794, more than half of which were original works.[102] Women authors were prominent from the 1770s, when literary contributors of both sexes were encouraged by William Flyn and the Hibernian Chronicle.[103] A selection of pieces from the newspaper were published in a volume entitled The modern monitor, or Flyn’s speculations in 1770.[104] The contributors included Henry Sheares, Dr John Longfield, Dr Joseph Fenn Sleigh, Mrs Sheares, Mrs Elizabeth Gray, Mrs Stack, Miss Waterhouse and Mrs Therry. Flyn’s daughter, Eliza, who married James Haly in 1788, was a frequent contributor to the Hibernian Chronicle.[105] Anna Millikin’s novels and other writings began to be published in Cork from the 1790s. She and her brother Richard, lawyer and poet, founded the Casket, or Hesperian magazine, a literary periodical, in 1797, which lasted until the rebellion in 1798. Her first novel, Corfe castle, was published by James Haly in 1793, and later novels, Eva (1795), Plantagenet (1802), and The rival chiefs (1804) were published by John Connor. Her works attracted a popular audience as can be seen from the subscription lists, and in particular the number of copies taken by booksellers for resale.[106] As a teacher in the English academy for females in Cork, she also wrote textbooks ‘for the use of her pupils’.[107]

Circulating libraries catered for those wishing to read, rather than purchase or collect. In 1770 Thomas Lord’s new circulating library, ‘under the exchange coffee house’, was open to the public from six in the morning until nine at night, where he offered to lend ‘the most extensive variety of books’, including newly published books.[108] Michael Matthews ran his circulating library in conjunction with a secondhand and rare book trade. It is most likely, however, that only new and popular books were lent from the library.[109] Anthony Edwards announced his new circulating library in 1787, comprising 6,000 volumes from London and Dublin, with a promise to lend every new publication.[110] Not much is known about the actual operation of circulating libraries, it seems likely that books were chosen from catalogues or written lists, but readers may have taken pot luck, hoping to borrow whatever popular titles were available. A certain insight is forthcoming from a proposal to establish a circulating library ‘on a new and elegant plan’, carried in the Cork Gazette in February 1794. At a subscription fee of 11s.4½d. per year, the female proprietors targeted women and young persons, with the objective of blending amusement with instruction.[111] They intended to fit up the library in a neat manner for the reception of ladies, thus giving them an opportunity of ‘looking over the books’ instead of sending servants. This implies that it was the norm for library books to be chosen from catalogues, with readers not actually visiting the premises. It is not clear if the same conventions applied to male readers. John Connor’s circulating library at 17 Castle Street contained ‘upwards of 4,000 volumes’ in 1794 and he offered to hire out every new publication.[112] He imported new novels from London, ensuring that he carried the most up-to-date stock.[113] His own printing output was strong on novels, plays and poetry, as well as political pamphlets and trials. Dominick Jacotin, a teacher of French and Italian, embarked on a new venture at the end of the century, establishing a bookshop and circulating library for English, French and Italian books, in Patrick Street. The only remaining fragment of his 1803 catalogue lists a portion of his English novels, and gives no indication of his foreign language stock.[114]


Because of its situation and topography Cork retained its medieval contours until the eighteenth century, resulting in the dominance of the intra-mural core until well into the century. The expense and difficulty of draining the marshes and arching over the water channels ensured that expansion was slow. Thus prime sites were reserved for public buildings, mansion houses for affluent citizens, and up-market businesses. The exchange, arguably Cork’s finest public building, exerted a major influence in the city. The custom house, situated by the river, east of the walled city, while the hub of the port, accommodating the collector of Cork and the customs and excise, did not dominate the administration of the city to the same extent. The book trade established itself where it was most needed: in the heart of the commercial and administrative centre, and close to the homes of the wealthy.

Bookselling enterprises in the city were long-lived, many staying in business for some decades, with succession by family members or other booksellers a feature of the trade. This stability resulted from a guaranteed market for the goods and services offered. The range of business activities engaged in by booksellers was impressive, covering every aspect of production, distribution and marketing, and extending to ancillary profit-making concerns: conducting circulating libraries, acting as agents for the sale of patent medicines and lottery tickets, leasing lands and hiring servants. Expansion is evident from about mid-century when towns in the county were brought within the distribution network of the city booksellers, thanks to the contacts set up for newspaper sales and the supply of stationery. Booksellers catered for the luxury trade, creating an audience for their works among the population through extensive advertising. Their products and services had become essential in the practice of local government, legal and commercial affairs. Throughout the century the newspaper had become indispensable to corporate bodies for information, advertising and the publication of notices. The reading public, too, came to depend on the newspaper for news, advertising, and contact with the outside world.

Images courtesy of Dublin City Library & Archive (www.dublincitypubliclibraries.ie )

[1] This article was published in Charles Benson and Siobhán Fitzpatrick eds, That woman! studies in Irish bibliography. A festschrift for Mary ‘Paul’ Pollard (Dublin, The Lilliput Press for the Library Association of Ireland, Rare Books Group, 2005), pp 139-61.

[2] Richard Caulfield, The council book of the corporation of the city of Cork (Guildford, Surrey, J. Billing and Sons, 1876), p. 343.

[3] Council book, pp 617, 644.

[4] Corke Journal, 14 January 1754; 21 October 1754.

[5] Council book, p. 296.

[6] Maurice Hurley, ‘Below sea-level in the city of Cork’, Howard B. Clarke ed., Irish cities (Cork, Mercier Press, 1995), p. 47.

[7] Council book, p. 734.

[8] Edward Lloyd, A description of the flourishing city of Corke (Cork, printed by Andrew Welsh, 1732), pp 5-6.

[9] Charles Smith, The antient and present state of the county and city of Cork (Dublin, printed by A. Reilly for the author, 1750), pp 401-2.

[10] Lloyd, Description of Corke, p. 6. Council book, pp 340, 497, 907.

[11] Maura Cronin, ‘From the “flat o’ the city” to the top of the hill: Cork since 1700’, Clarke, Irish Cities, pp 55-68. W. O’Sullivan, The economic history of Cork city, from the earliest times to the act of union (Cork, Cork University Press, 1937). For the county context in the 1790s see David Dickson, ‘The South Munster region in the 1790s’, John A. Murphy ed., The French are in the bay: the expedition to Bantry Bay 1796 (Cork, Mercier Press, 1997), pp 85-94.

[12] Council book, p. 588.

[13] Hibernian Chronicle, 31 August – 4 September 1775.

[14] Corke Journal, 22 August 1754.

[15] James de la Cour, A prospect of poetry (Cork, T. Lord, 1770), last leaf.

[16] Hibernian Chronicle, 28 June 1770, 30 August 1770.

[17] Hibernian Chronicle, 15 March 1773.

[18] Cork Evening Post, 24 April 1777.

[19] Council book, pp .968, 1066.

[20] Council book, pp 1066-7. The new Cork directory for the year 1795 (Cork, printed and sold by James Haly, 1795).

[21] Cork Gazette, 7 June 1794.

[22] Cork Gazette, 23 August 1797.

[23] Smith, Antient and present state of Cork, p. 407.

[24] Thomas Campbell, A philosophical survey of the south of Ireland (London, printed for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1777), p.184.

[25] Finn’s Leinster Journal, 31 December 1777-3 January 1778. Richard Lucas, The Cork directory for the year 1787 (Cork, printed for the author by J. Cronin, 1787).

[26] Cork Gazette, 31 October 1795.

[27] Copy of the deed or charter entered into by the associated society to raise a fund for erecting a coffee-house … in the city of Cork (Cork, printed by Anthony Edwards, 1794).

[28] Hibernian Chronicle, 1 March 1781, 5 March 1781.

[29] National Archives of Ireland: Rebellion Papers 620/35/85, no. 5, single sheet flyer.

[30] New Cork Evening Post, 28 November 1793.

[31] Council book, pp 287-8.

[32] Council book, p. 905.

[33] Lloyd, Description  of Corke, p. 12.

[34] Hibernian Chronicle, 8 March 1770; 2 August 1770.

[35] New Cork Evening Post, 28 February 1793. Hibernian Chronicle, 8 August 1793.

[36] New Cork Evening Post, 28 February 1793.

[37] Michael Harris, ‘Newspaper distribution during Queen Anne’s reign’ in Studies in the book trade in honour of Graham Pollard (Oxford, Oxford Bibliographical Society, 1975), pp 139-51.

[38] Council book, pp 306, 363.

[39] Council book, p  368.

[40] Council book, pp 379, 388.

[41] Council book, Walter Pallisser 1746-1760: pp 640, 648, 650, 666, 680, 684, 690, 697, 704, 719, 724, 740. Edmond Browning 1761-1774: pp 747, 764, 772, 791, 810, 819, 831, 839, 849, 860, 870, 885, 896.

[42] Council book, William Maturin 1776-1799: pp 911, 922, 933, 944, 949, 952, 956, 1000-1, 1091, 1132.

[43] Council book, p. 867.

[44] Council book, p. 579.

[45] Council book, p. 757.

[46] Council book, pp 649, 715.

[47] An exact list of the freemen, Cork, 1783, advertised in Volunteer Journal, 1 September 1783. List of the freemen at large, of the city of Cork (Cork, printed by James Haly, [1789]). A ‘correct list of the freemen at large’ was appended to The new Cork directory 1795.

[48] Council book, pp 869, 876.

[49] Council book, pp 477, 521, 581, 612, 616.

[50] Council book, p. 682.

[51] Council book, p. 812.

[52] Council book, pp 875, 893, 988.

[53] Council book, p. 962.

[54] Council book, pp 1071, 1080.

[55] Council book, p. 334.

[56] Council book, p. 404.

[57] The Holy Bible (Dublin, printed by A. Rhames for Eliphal Dobson and William Binauld, 1714).

[58] Council book, p. 433.

[59] Council book, p. 449.

[60] Council book, pp 575, 713.

[61] Council book, p. 474.

[62] Council book, p. 612.

[63] Council book, p. 520.

[64] National Archives of Ireland: Rebellion Papers 620/32/136, three letters. Michael Durie, ‘Irish deism and Jefferson’s republic: Denis Driscol in Ireland and America 1793-1810, Éire-Ireland, xv, 4 (Winter 1990), pp 58-61.

[65] The Harp of Erin, 10 March 1798. National Archives of Ireland: Rebellion Papers 620/35/85 (1) Letter from Nathaniel Massey to the Rt. Hon. Thomas Pelham, 30 January 1798.

[66] Hibernian Chronicle, 17 March 1798.

[67] National Library of Ireland: Seamus Ó Casaide, A history of the periodical literature of Cork from the beginning up to A.D. 1900, typescript, p.58, quoting from The Crown Book of Cork 1798 (Royal Irish Academy, Ms 12.I.4, pp 146-58.)

[68] Council book, p.1123.

[69] Edwards’s Cork remembrancer, by Anthony Edwards, printer, bookseller and stationer, Castle Street (Cork, 1792), final 5 leaves of bookseller’s advertising.

[70] New Cork Evening Post, 14 October 1793.

[71] Rules and regulations for the discipline of His Majesty’s forces (Cork, A. Edwards, 1797). Standing orders for His Majesty’s 30th regiment of foot (Cork, printed by A. Edwards, 1797). The manual and platoon exercises (Cork, printed and sold by A. Edwards, military stationer, 1805).

[72] Certificate to apply for financial allowances for families of militiamen (Cork, A. Edwards, n.d.)

[73] Representative Church Body Library: 331/1/1 Parish register of Douglas, p. 74.

[74] Booksellers’ label pasted inside front cover of General regulations and orders (Cork, printed and sold by Edwards and Savage, military stationers, 1811).

[75] Surviving examples printed by William Flyn in 1774, 1777, 1784, 1787, 1797.

[76] Annual report of the House of Recovery of the city of Cork from November 8th 1802, to November 8th 1803 (Cork, James Haly, 1803), second appendix.

[77] For a discussion of book collecting in the Cork region see J.P. McCarthy, ‘In search of Cork’s collecting traditions: from Kilcrea’s library to the Boole library of today’, Journal of Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 100 (1995), pp 29-46.

[78] Smith, Antient and present state of Cork, pp 407-8.

[79] Hibernian Chronicle, 9 April 1781.

[80] Máire Kennedy, ‘Eighteenth-century newspaper publishing in Munster and South Leinster’, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 103 (1998), pp 67-88. Corke Journal, 8 April 1754. Hibernian Chronicle, 30 April 1770, 14 May 1770, 26 June 1770, 2 January 1772.

[81] Hibernian Chronicle, 20 August 1770.

[82] A catalogue of books in most branches of literature and music, now selling by Anthony Edwards, 3 Castle Street (Cork, 1785). Edwards’s Cork remembrancer, 1792, final 5 leaves.

[83] New Cork Evening Post, 7 October 1793. The new week’s preparation, 17th ed. (Cork, printed and sold by A. Edwards, 1793); 18th ed. (Cork, printed by A. Edwards, 1801).

[84] Hibernian Chronicle, 25 October 1773.

[85] William Smith Clark, The Irish stage in the country towns 1720-1800 (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1965), pp 69-145.

[86] Council book, pp 747, 752.

[87] Hibernian Chronicle, 2 August 1770.

[88] Clark, Irish stage, p. 73.

[89] Hibernian Chronicle, 12 August 1793.

[90] Hibernian Morning Post, 24-27 July 1775; 21-24 August 1775.

[91] Clark, Irish stage, pp 293-347.

[92] Hibernian Chronicle, 23 August 1770.

[93] Máire Kennedy, ‘The distribution of a locally produced French periodical in provincial Ireland: the Magazin à la mode, 1777-1778’, Eighteenth-Century Ireland, 9 (1994), pp 83-98.

[94] Ó Casaide, Periodical literature, pp 50-1.

[95] Corke Journal, 6 May 1754. English short title catalogue (ESTC) N32424; T138158. A British 6d. was equal to 6½d. Irish, and one British shilling to 1s.1d. Irish.

[96] Hibernian Chronicle, 12 July 1770.

[97] Hibernian Morning Post, 23-26 October 1775. ESTC T105810.

[98] Freeman’s Journal, 15-17 January 1778.

[99] J. S. Dodd, An essay on education. With a new plan of an academy (Cork, printed for the author by Eugene Swiney, [1770]). Hibernian Chronicle, 17 May 1770.

[100] J. S. Dodd, Essays and poems, satirical, moral, political and entertaining (Cork, printed by Eugene Swiney for the author, 1770).

[101] Hibernian Chronicle, 26 July 1770, 2 August 1770.

[102] Rolf Loeber and Magda Stouthamer-Loeber, ‘John Connor: a maverick Cork publisher of literature’, 18th and 19th century Irish fiction newsletter, no. 5 (May 1998), pp 1-4.

[103] Hibernian Chronicle, 2 January 1772.

[104] Hibernian Chronicle 30 July 1770.

[105] Ó Casaide, Periodical literature, p.33.

[106] Máire Kennedy, ‘Women and reading in eighteenth-century Ireland’, in Bernadette Cunningham and Máire Kennedy eds The experience of reading: Irish historical perspectives (Dublin, Economic and Social History Society / Rare Books Group (LAI), 1999, pp 78-98).

[107] Anna Millikin, An epitome of ancient history, designed for the use of her pupils (Cork, printed by Edwards and Savage, 1808).

[108] De la Cour, Prospect of poetry, last leaf.

[109] Hibernian Chronicle, 15 March 1773. Cork Evening Post, 24 April 1777.

[110] Hibernian Chronicle, 26 March 1787.

[111] Cork Gazette, 8 February 1794

[112] Edward Holland, Poetical miscellany (Cork, John Connor, 1794).

[113] Cork Gazette, 5 September 1795. Cork Advertiser, 3 May 1800.

[114] Catalogue of the English, French and Italian circulating library, St Patrick Street, Cork, where books are lent by D. Jacotin (Cork, 1803).

William Flyn, provincial bookseller (1764-1801)


Throughout his career William Flyn, at the Shakespeare, Castle Street, Cork,  juggled the various strands of the business of a provincial bookseller. Proprietor of The Hibernian Chronicle newspaper from 1769, he also printed books, pamphlets, legal and administrative documents, and imported books from abroad. Disaster struck in October 1770 when a large stack of chimneys fell through the roof of his printing office, breaking three floors and burying the printing materials in the ruins. Fortunately his journeymen and apprentices were at breakfast and nobody was injured.[1] He put this setback behind him and his business was resumed. He continued to offer money for libraries and advertised secondhand books for sale, he held a diverse stock of printed materials and stationery, including printed forms, parchment, processes, wafers, music, and stamped paper. He stocked the monthly magazines Exshaw’s Gentleman’s and London Magazine and the Gentleman’s Magazine.

He imported paper and in 1773 he received Post, Propatria, Demi, Royal and Imperial papers made by the ‘noted Sterlings of Rotterdam’.[2] Flyn co-operated with other booksellers in Cork, especially with Thomas Lord and Thomas White, and he acted as subscription agent for books published by Dublin and Limerick printers, subscribing to multiple copies. Publishing books of local interest, often by subscription, he used his Dublin and Limerick contacts to sell these works. In 1773 he opened up a ‘correspondence with a principal bookseller in Holland’ for the importation of books, he kept a catalogue at his shop and readers wanting books in any language would be supplied on reasonable terms.[3] As part of his secondhand stock he carried books in French, and it is likely that his customers sought continental publications which could be supplied from the Netherlands.[4] He sold part books and specialised in the sale of children’s books, some of which were imported from Newbery in London.[5] He issued sale catalogues for libraries which were sold by auction, including the libraries of Dr Joseph Fenn Sleigh and Rev. Dr Marmaduke Phillips in 1770 and Sir Richard Cox in 1772.[6] He was a lottery agent and purveyor of patent medicines. As printer of a successful newspaper he established contacts throughout the Munster region for the sale of his publications.


Flyn is not listed as a freeman of Cork, which suggests that he was a Catholic.[7] However, he managed to span the religious divide in a city whose administration was Protestant-dominated at this period. One of the main strands of his business was the publication and sale of works of Catholic interest, many imported from London. In 1773, together with Thomas White, he advertised a catechism written by the Church of Ireland bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr Isaac Mann, and a Bible for children, offering a discount to ‘the benevolent to buy parcels to bestow’.[8] He carried out printing work for Cork Corporation and other bodies in the city. Cork Corporation paid a total of over £762 for printing work and advertisements in The Hibernian Chronicle from 1777 to 1799, averaging just under £35 per annum for 22 years.[9] Showing a humane and charitable face Flyn was one of the founding members of The Society for the Relief and Discharge of Persons Confined for Small Debts, to which he acted as secretary for thirty years.[10] This society was a model of religious co-operation as can be seen by the make-up of its committees. Flyn printed the accounts of the society from 1774.[11] From subscription lists to his publications it is evident that support for his business came from the clergy and congregations of several denominations, officers of the English army stationed in Cork, local landed gentry and aristocracy, and local officials from the major cities and towns in the region.

All images courtesy of Dublin City Library & Archive (www.dublincitypubliclibraries.ie )

[1] Hibernian Chronicle 4 October 1770. Freeman’s Journal 9-11 October 1770.

[2] Hibernian Chronicle 11 February 1773.

[3] Hibernian Chronicle 25 October 1773.

[4] In 1769 he advertized a two-volume Bible in French, St. Francis de Sales in French, as well as grammars, works of history and philosophy. Hibernian Chronicle 25 December 1769.

[5] Hibernian Chronicle 20 August 1770; 2 January 1772; 16 April 1772; 24 December 1772.

[6] Hibernian Chronicle 12 July 1770; 23 August 1770; 30 October 1770. A Catalogue of a Valuable Library, Collected by the late Chancellor Cox, Sir Richard Cox, and the Rev. Sir Michael Cox, Bart. … which will be sold by auction … at Mr Zachery Morris’s Great Room … (Cork, printed by William Flyn, 1772). ESTCT162448.

[7] Cork City and County Archives, ‘Alphabetical list of freemen of the city of Cork’. Transcribed from collection U.11 ‘Index/Digest to Council Books of the Corporation of Cork with alphabetical list of the freemen’ by John O’Shea. Covers freemen admissions from 31 October 1710 to 25 October 1841.

[8] A Familiar Exposition of the Church Catechism by Dr Isaac Mann, Bishop of Cork and Ross, and The Children’s Bible by an eminent divine of the Church of England. Hibernian Chronicle 20 April 1772.

[9] Richard Caulfield, The Council Book of the Corporation of the City of Cork (Guilford, Surrey, 1876), pp.915, 985, 1009, 1015, 1021, 1042, 1078, 1097, 1107, 1117, 1127, 1132.

[10] Cork Mercantile Chronicle 20 December 1811.

[11] A Short Account of the Institution, Rules, and Proceedings of  the Cork Scoiety for the Relief and Discharge of Persons Confined for Small Debts, accounts have survived for 1774, 1777, 1783, 1784, 1787 and 1797.

William Flyn, bookseller at the Sign of Shakespeare, Cork.

William Flyn worked as a printer, bookseller, stationer and newspaper proprietor at the Sign of Shakespeare in Cork for nearly forty years. He had his bookshop in the heart of the old city at Castle Street, close to the civil and legal administration.[1]


The earliest reference to Flyn is in 1764 when his name appears on the imprint of John Dryden’s The Hind and the Panther, printed by Thomas Meighan the younger in Drury Lane, London, and sold by William Flyn, bookseller in Cork.[2] The verso of the final leaf carries advertisements for Flyn’s stock of works of Catholic interest. The imprint is tantalising and presents two main possibilities. The 24 year old Flyn, newly in business, may have printed this classic work himself, but lacking confidence in the market or fearing danger due to the subject matter, decided to give it a London imprint. Thomas Meighan’s name would have been an obvious choice to use as a false imprint, and it is interesting to note that his surname is misspelt as Meaghan. Thomas Meighan the elder was a Catholic, overtly dealing in books of Catholic interest from about 1715 to 1753. His high-profile stance on political matters relating to Catholic affairs would have made his name known. His son, Thomas, continued to publish and sell Catholic books, thus keeping the name alive in Catholic circles. The second possibility suggests a reciprocal arrangement with Meighan, in which Flyn tapped the Irish market for the sale of the book and Meighan printed Flyn’s advertisement at the end of the publication. Meighan would certainly have been one of Flyn’s main suppliers of Catholic works. In either case Flyn chose to place himself at the centre of Catholic book production and distribution by associating himself with one of the chief London printers supplying the market in Catholic books.

The books advertised at the end of The Hind and the Panther, 22 in all, are Catholic works, and set the tone for Flyn’s future business. The list included a five volume Bible, works by Challenor and Blyth, An Introduction to a Devout Life by St Francis de Sales, The Catholic Christian Instructed and Scupoli’s The Spiritual Combat. No publication details are given and there are no surviving examples of any of these titles printed by Flyn at this time, although he did print an edition of The Spiritual Combat in 1772. An examination of editions published in or before 1764, indicate that many could have been Dublin imprints, issued by Bartholomew Gorman, Eleanor Kelly or, after 1755, by the executors of Eleanor Kelly. Two titles, The Evening-Office of the Church in Latin and English and Challoner’s The Garden of the Soul, could have come from the press of Thomas Meighan, the first published in 1759, the second in 1751 and again in 1764. The Evening-Office was also printed by Eleanor Kelly in 1754, and The Garden of the Soul printed for her executors in 1759. Flyn set out his business plan at the end of the volume: intending ‘to keep himself well supplied with all sorts of books fit for the closet or school’, offering money for libraries or parcels of books, offering a binding service, and willing to ‘write for books by commission’.


Flyn continued to print and sell works of Catholic interest. His imprint on the publication of An Abstract of the Doway Catechism in 1774 read ‘where may be had the greatest variety of Catholick books by wholesale and retail’.[3] In it he advertised a ‘variety of Catholic books and school books, printed and sold by William Flyn’. He noted two titles ‘just published’ by him: Challoner’s Considerations upon Christian Truths in two volumes, selling at 5s.5d. bound, which he printed the previous year, and The Spiritual Combat, a new edition printed on a large type and fine paper, priced at 1s.7½ d, printed in 1772.[4] Flyn had advertized proposals for printing Challoner’s Considerations by subscription in January 1772, his subscription agents were Richard Fitzsimons and Thomas Walker in Dublin, Hugh and James Ramsey in Waterford, Edmund Finn in Kilkenny, and Catherine Long in Limerick. Volume one was completed in February 1773, with volume two due to follow shortly.[5] He printed the single sheet prospectus for the new Augistinian Catholic school, the Brunswick Street Academy, established in 1783.[6] Flyn was involved with the Catholic Committee as they sought relief for Catholics from civil and legal restrictions. He is noted as secretary to the committee in an advertisement placed in The Hibernian Chronicle in October 1792 announcing a meeting of the Roman Catholics of the county and city of Cork ‘for the purpose of signing a declaration of their sentiments’.[7] He printed a single sheet account of this general meeting, chaired by Dr Justin McCarthy. The account was also printed on the front page of the Chronicle on 18 October 1792.[8]


Flyn managed to span the religious divide in a city whose administration was Protestant-dominated at this period. In 1773, together with Thomas White, he advertised a catechism written by the Church of Ireland bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr Isaac Mann, and a Bible for children, offering a discount to ‘the benevolent to buy parcels to bestow’.[9] He carried out printing work for Cork Corporation and other bodies in the city. Cork Corporation paid a total of over £762 for printing work and advertisements in The Hibernian Chronicle from 1777 to 1799, averaging just under £35 per annum for 22 years.[10] Showing a humane and charitable face Flyn was one of the founding members of The Society for the Relief and Discharge of Persons Confined for Small Debts, to which he acted as secretary for thirty years.[11] This society was a model of religious co-operation as can be seen by the make-up of its committees. Flyn printed the accounts of the society from 1774.[12]

All images courtesy of Dublin City Library & Archive (www.dublincitypubliclibraries.ie )

[1] Máire Kennedy, ‘At the Exchange: the eighteenth-century book trade in Cork’, in Charles Benson and Siobhán Fitzpatrick (eds), That woman! Studies in Irish Bibliography, a Festschrift for Mary ‘Paul’ Pollard (Dublin, 2005), pp 139-61.

[2] John Dryden, The Hind and the Panther (London, printed by T. Meaghan in Drury Lane, and sold by William Flyn, bookseller in Cork, 1764). ESTC T221936

[3] An Abstract of the Doway Catechism. For the Use of Children, and Ignorant People (Cork, printed by William Flyn, 1774). ESTC T183672.

[4] The Spiritual Combat … Also Twelve Advantages Arising from the Contemplation of Death (Cork, printed by William Flyn, 1772). ESTC T82143. Richard Challoner, Considerations upon Christian Truths (Cork, printed by William Flyn, 1773). ESTC T221720 (ESTC wrongly gives date of [1780?]).

[5] Hibernian Chronicle 13 January 1772; 4 February 1773.

[6] William D. O’Connell, ‘An Eighteenth Century Cork Manuscript. The Augustinian Academy at Brunswick Street, 1783-1787’, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society,  XLV., no. 161 (January-June 1940), pp 33-7.

[7] Hibernian Chronicle 8 October 1792.

[8] At a General Meeting of the Roman Catholics of the County and City of Cork … held at the Cork Tavern, the 15th October, 1792, [Cork, Mr Flyn, printer, 1792]. ESTC N033349. Hibernian Chronicle 18 October 1792.

[9] A Familiar Exposition of the Church Catechism by Dr Isaac Mann, Bishop of Cork and Ross, and The Children’s Bible by an eminent divine of the Church of England. Hibernian Chronicle 20 April 1772.

[10] Richard Caulfield, The Council Book of the Corporation of the City of Cork (Guilford, Surrey, 1876), pp 915, 985, 1009, 1015, 1021, 1042, 1078, 1097, 1107, 1117, 1127, 1132.

[11] Cork Mercantile Chronicle 20 December 1811.

[12] A Short Account of the Institution, Rules, and Proceedings of the Cork Scoiety for the Relief and Discharge of Persons Confined for Small Debts, accounts have survived for 1774, 1777, 1783, 1784, 1787 and 1797.

William Flyn and a family of booksellers

Of the many successful booksellers working in Cork in the second half of the eighteenth century William Flyn offers an insight into a number of different aspects of the book trade and the cultural life of the region. Flyn was advertising books of Catholic interest from the start of his career, and as printer of The Hibernian Chronicle, he established a rapport with his readership throughout Munster, offering literary fare through the pages of the paper. William Flyn was born in 1740, possibly in Limerick.[1] His father, Sylvester, was residing in Engine Alley in Dublin at the time of his death in 1778.[2] His uncle, Laurence Flin, had a thriving bookselling, bookbinding and book auctioneering business at Castle Street, Dublin, from the mid 1750s until his death in 1771. Laurence Flin was warden of the Guild of St Luke the Evangelist, the guild of cutlers, painter-stainers and stationers, and was elected to Dublin’s Common Council. Laurence was succeeded by another nephew, Laurence Larkin, who took the surname Flin when he took over the business.[3] Edward Flin, printer in Limerick, may also have been a relative. William was in Cork from at least 1764 and he remained in the city for the rest of his life. He gave up the bookselling business in 1801 and died a decade later, in December 1811.[4]

Exchange-CorkWilliam Flyn seems to have been a Catholic, he is given as secretary to the committee of Roman Catholics of the county and city of Cork in 1792 (Hibernian Chronicle 8 October 1792). His daughters and their families were prominent in Catholic circles, although his Dublin cousins were almost certainly members of the Church of Ireland, holding high office within the guild and on the common council. He is not listed as a freeman of Cork, which supports the idea that he may have been a Catholic. Flyn had at least four daughters, Eliza, the eldest, married the bookseller James Haly in 1788, Mary married Francis Hynes, from Galway, a linen draper in 1791; both sons-in-laws had their businesses near the Exchange in Cork.[5] James and Eliza Haly had six sons and three daughters. At least three of their sons attended the Jesuit Stonyhurst College in England, their third son, Robert, joined the Jesuit order and was rector of Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare, from 1836 to 1850.[6] James Haly died in 1850, aged 86 years. Mary and Francis Hynes lost their eldest son, William, in 1807, he died in his 13th year while attending Carlow College, a leading Catholic school.[7] In 1822 their son, Timothy, was taken into partnership with his father in the linen and silk drapery business.[8] Mary Hynes died in 1827 leaving a large family.[9] Another daughter, Charlotte, married John A. Pearce, merchant and grocer, in 1800.[10] Flyn’s 11 year old daughter, Lelia Sophia, died after a long illness in 1795 and his wife died in 1799.[11] William Flyn died at his home on George’s Quay on 20 December 1811, aged 71 years.[12]

Hibernian-ChronicleJames Haly, Flyn’s son-in-law and himself a successful bookseller, took over the printing of The Hibernian Chronicle in 1801, changing the name to Flyn’s Hibernian Chronicle. Haly also specialised in Catholic publications, one of his earliest being An Humble Remonstrance, published in 1789, in which the author argues for Catholic participation in the commercial life of Cork. An Irish language catechism, An Teagusg Criesdeegh, was published by Haly and Thomas White in 1792. According to his son Robert, James Haly kept a classical school in which he provided instruction for boys who wished to become priests.[13] Haly’s business seemed to thrive, but one year after Flyn’s death, in 1812, he got into serious difficulties.[14] He was guaranteed to the sum of £7,000 by his brother-in-law, Francis Hynes. When he failed to recover Hynes withdrew support, turned him out of his bookshop and handed it over to Jeremiah Geary, also a printer of Catholic books. Eliza Haly later described her ejection from her home, with nothing but ‘a slop bowl of raspers’.[15]

All images courtesy of Dublin City Library & Archive (www.dublincitypubliclibraries.ie )

[1] International Genealogical Index compiled by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

[2] Walker’s Hibernian Magazine, VIII (January 1778), p.64. Hibernian Chronicle 12 January 1778.

[3] M. Pollard, A Dictionary of Members of the Dublin Book Trade 1550-1800 (London, 2000).

[4] Cork Mercantile Chronicle 20 December 1811.

[5] Cork Evening Post 17 June 1788; 29 August 1791.

[6] Rev. Henry Browne, S.J., ‘Father Robert Haly, S.J. (1796-1882)’ in A Roll of Honour: Irish Prelates and Priests in the Last Century, with preface by Most Rev. John Healy, D.D. (Dublin, 1905), pp.247-94. I am very grateful to Penny Woods, Librarian at the Russell Library, Maynooth, for this reference.

[7] Cork Advertiser 21 April 1807.

[8] The Constitution 15 July 1822.

[9] The Constitution 8 March 1827.

[10] Hibernian Chronicle 3 November 1800.

[11] Cork Evening Post 10 December 1795; 23 May 1799.

[12] Cork Mercantile Chronicle 20 December 1811.

[13] Browne, ‘Father Robert Haly’, pp.248-49.

[14] Cork Advertiser 14 April 1812.

[15] Séamus Ó Casaide, A History of the Periodical Literature of Cork from the Beginning up to A.D. 1900, typescript, National Library of Ireland (Ir 6551 C2).

The book trade in eighteenth-century Munster

Hibernian-Atlas-MunsterIn the last quarter of the eighteenth century Cork was Ireland’s second city, with a population estimated at about 70,000.[1] Travellers to the city described how busy it was, the streets thronged with people.[2] As early as 1732 Edward Lloyd of London considered Cork the second city of Ireland but the first sea-port for trade.[3] Two decades later Charles Smith encountered the outlines of the medieval city still much in evidence, but he noticed new houses beginning to replace the decayed ones; he described the Spanish-style mansion houses with balcony windows being built along the North and South Main Streets.[4] From the middle of the century the city began to expand beyond its medieval core, channels of the river were culverted, marshy areas were drained and new streets formed.[5]

The city was at the centre of a wealthy and populous hinterland.[6] Agricultural produce from much of the Munster region was brought to the port of Cork for export and to supply the lucrative provisioning trade for transatlantic shipping, including the vessels of the English navy. Wool was brought from as far afield as Galway and Roscommon for export.[7] Thomas Campbell, in his tour of 1777, echoing the observations of other travellers before him, was impressed with Cork Harbour: ‘The harbour called the Cove is one of the best in the world; the entrance is safe; and the whole navy of England may ride in it secure from every wind that blows.’[8] The size and security of the deep-water harbour, in addition to the prime situation of Cork for trade with the West Indies and the Americas, ensured its prosperity throughout the century. Cork merchants became wealthy thanks to the export trade, and many built fine villas on the salubrious hillsides overlooking the harbour, from Blackrock, Glanmire and Tivoli, to Passage and Monkstown.

By the 1760s the city was only beginning to find its place as a cultural centre although the book trade was active from the early years of the century and visiting troupes of actors had been bringing theatrical entertainment in the summer season from the late 1730s.[9] The first newspapers published in the city were short-lived: The Idler and The Cork Intelligence were published in 1715, the Cork News-Letter and a reprint of the Free-Holder were issued about 1717, but it was not until the 1750s that regular newspapers could be sustained.[10] In 1750 there were two coffee houses, the Exchange and English coffee houses, situated near the Exchange in Castle Street. Here the English and Dublin newspapers could be read, Smith tells us that: ‘The better sort are fond of news and politics, and are well versed in public affairs.’[11] Later in the century two new coffee houses were established, the Merchant’s coffee house, and the Tontine coffee house which opened in 1793.[12] In the coffee houses newspapers and pamphlets could be read and book subscriptions were taken.

By the last quarter of the century the Irish language was still spoken by many of the inhabitants of the city and surrounding areas.[13] The business of the city and port, however, was carried out in English, and virtually all printing work was in English. Many booksellers and stationers worked in the city from the early years of the century catering for the civil administration and Cork’s intellectual elite. Books were distributed from Dublin or imported directly from London. Because of Cork’s prime position for trade the road networks were extensive. Local booksellers distributed their printed works to the main towns in Munster using the Post Office network and private couriers to circulate newspapers, periodicals and books.

Image courtesy of Dublin City Library & Archive (www.dublincitypubliclibraries.ie )

[1] K.H. Connell, The Population of Ireland, 1750-1845 (Oxford, 1950). Thomas Campbell, A Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland, in a series of letters to John Watkinson, M.D. (London, 1777), p.4. ESTCT84447. Campbell estimates the population of Dublin to be above 160,000. Samuel Derrick, Letters Written from Leverpoole, Chester, Corke, the lakes of Killarney, Dublin, Tunbridge-Wells, and Bath, 2 vols (Dublin, 1767), i, p.34. ESTCT135402. Arthur Young, A Tour Through Ireland, 2 vols (Dublin, 1780), ii, p.66. ESTCT78931. Derrick estimates the population of Cork at 80,000 in 1760, while Young puts it about 67,000, based on hearth money returns, in 1780. Young’s figure is considered the more accurate.

[2] Arthur Young, A Tour Through Ireland, ii, p.65.

[3] Edward Lloyd, A Description of the Flourishing City of Corke (Corke, 1732). ESTCT164728

[4] Charles Smith, The Antient and Present State of the County and City of Cork (Dublin, 1750), pp.407-8. ESTCT97653

[5] Maurice Hurley, ‘Below sea-level in the city of Cork’, Howard B. Clarke (ed.), Irish Cities (Cork, 1995), p.47.

[6] For a detailed discussion of Cork’s importance as an agricultural centre see David Dickson, Old World Colony: Cork and South Munster 1630-1830 (Cork, 2005), and for a more succinct account David Dickson, ‘The South Munster Region in the 1790s’, in John A. Murphy (ed.), The French are in the Bay: the expedition to Bantry Bay, 1796 (Cork, 1997).

[7] Young, A Tour Through Ireland, ii, p.68.

[8] Campbell, A Philosophical Survey, p.191. Edward Lloyd, Description of Corke, p.8.

[9] William Smith Clark, The Irish Stage in the County Towns 1720-1800 (Oxford, 1965).

[10] James O’Toole (ed.), Newsplan, revised edition (London and Dublin, 1998). Robert Munter, The History of the Irish Newspaper 1685-1760 (Cambridge, 1967).

[11] Charles Smith, The Antient and Present State of Cork, ii, p.407.

[12] Copy of the Deed or Charter entered into by the Associated Society to Raise a Fund for Erecting a Coffee-House … in the City of Cork (Cork, 1794).

[13] Seán Beecher, An Gaeilge in Cork City: an historical perspective to 1894 (Cork, 1993).

Ireland’s 18th-century provincial book trade

The Dublin book trade experienced a golden age in the eighteenth century. Its prosperity was largely due to the reprint business. The provisions of the British Copyright Act of 1709 were not considered by the Irish Parliament and were not adopted as law in Ireland. Dublin booksellers could legally reprint any new publication first published in London, without having to pay for copy. Production costs were also lower in Dublin resulting in substantially lower prices for the reprints than for the London originals. This angered the London booksellers who labelled the Dublin booksellers ‘pirates’. The loss of the Irish market was considerable (Ireland was the second largest export market for books after America), but when Irish reprints were sold into Britain, undercutting local publications, steps were taken to reduce the impact. The British Importation Act of 1739 forbade the importation into Britain of any book first written, printed and published in Britain and reprinted abroad.[1] This act also had implications for the Dutch book trade. Relations between Irish and British booksellers were not all negative, authorised reprints and exchange of copy did occur. Subscriptions were taken for British publications and advertising of London publications did appear in the Irish press, but this was less than it would otherwise have been.

Irish provincial towns in which the eighteenth-century book trade was centred acted as focal points for their own regions, but all were inextricably linked to the Dublin trade. Dublin dominated all other ports in the importation of books, and Dublin booksellers provided for the bulk of the country trade in books and stationery. Yet from at least mid-century the regions could boast a vigorous local trade which, while largely dependent on the capital, displayed distinct local characteristics. Each of the four provinces can be seen to have regional variations, in some instances linked to linguistic or ethnic factors. The Post Office network, so vital to the book trade up to 1800, employed four clerks to administer the service, clerks of the north, south, east and west roads, connecting the four provincial capitals to the G.P.O. in Dublin. These clerks were responsible for newspaper and periodical distribution to subscribers in the country. The publication days of the early Dublin newspapers were set to coincide with post days for the country.


A spread of towns was active in the eighteenth-century book trade, towns where printing was carried out, where a newspaper was produced, where books were imported from abroad, or where books, periodicals and stationery were sold by wholesale and retail. Chief among these towns by mid-century were Kilkenny, Carlow, Drogheda and Athlone in Leinster, Galway and Sligo in Connacht, Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Ennis, Tralee and Clonmel in Munster, and Belfast, Derry and Newry in Ulster, with many others becoming important in the last quarter of the century. It is noticeable that towns in the hinterland of Dublin were slower to set up their own printing and newspaper businesses, as they could be supplied promptly and cheaply from the main distributors in Dublin.

Seaport towns had many advantages over their inland counterparts when it came to book and newspaper production and sale. As transport costs contributed greatly to the price of books, booksellers who could directly import paper, type and leather for binding, as well as unbound books, periodicals and newspapers, could dispense with the extra costs involved in purchasing through a wholesale distributor in Dublin. In practice, provincial booksellers tended to employ both methods of acquiring materials. Up-to-date news was also more readily available in the ports, where incoming packets brought personal and commercial correspondence and foreign newspapers and gazettes. During the American war of independence, newspapers from southern ports like Cork and Waterford, often scooped the Dublin papers with the latest news, gathered from trans-Atlantic shipping carrying the mails. For the sale of books also the ports had the advantage of regular connections with other ports in Ireland and abroad. John Ferrar, printer and bookseller in Limerick, and proprietor of the Limerick Chronicle, offered quantities of his publications at special reduced rates to ‘Masters of ships’ in 1769. [2] It has long been suspected that an illicit trade in book exportation may have been carried on with the American colonies in the period prior to the free trade acts of 1780/81, but evidence to date is slight. It is known that a thriving trade in smuggled books existed between Dublin and Scottish ports in the late eighteenth century. [3]

Literacy and the means of communication: Two basic elements are necessary for a provincial trade in books to be viable. The first is the ability to read, combined with the wish to acquire reading matter, on the part of a significant proportion of the population, and the second involves the means of supplying the printed texts to likely consumers, advertising to draw attention to them and to create a demand among readers. By the middle of the eighteenth-century in Ireland both elements were beginning to be in place. Literacy in the English language increased substantially throughout the country, but development was uneven.

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  1. M. Pollard, Dublin’s trade in books 1550-1800, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1989, pp 70-72.
  2. Limerick Chronicle, 13 March 1769.
  3. Warren McDougall, ‘Smugglers, reprinters, and hot pursuers: the Irish-Scottish book trade, and copyright prosecutions in the late 18th century’ in R. Myers and M. Harris eds. The Stationers’ Company and the book trade 1550-1990, Winchester, 1997, pp 151-183.