The Dublin Group: Irish mezzotint printmakers and the Dublin print trade c. 1740 to 1750
Doherty, Neassa Therese
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This thesis explores the unique cultural and historical conditions leading to mezzotint portrait reproduction in Dublin during the 1740s. Arguably, the experiences and activity of the Dublin Group at Cork Hill facilitated the construction of their cultural and social group identification as Irish mezzotint engravers. The contribution to knowledge emerging from this dissertation is the revelation that the construction of the Dublin Group, as a posthumous label and as an actual network of engravers, was formulated by their affiliations within the Dublin print trade at an earlier point. In particular, their consistent use of Dublin newspapers for the advertisement of mezzotint illustrates a collective engagement with, as well as a response to, the burgeoning luxury goods market. For this reason these engravers made significant contributions to Irish print culture. The dissertation is structured in three parts: Historical Context (chapters one and two); Literary Criticism and Paratextual Investigation (chapters three to six); and Visual Analysis (chapter seven). An initial discussion will establish the literary foundations of this project by tracing all relevant scholarship concerning the historical narrative of the Dublin Group specifically, the printed image broadly, and contemporary concepts or constructions of Irish identification. Part one introduces the historical context; firstly in order to chart the significance of Dublin within the post-restoration English and Irish print trades, and secondly to document the expansion of the book and commercial trades during the 1740s. In order to supplement this discussion, there will be an assessment of the historical and civic importance of the area surrounding Cork Hill with specific relation to the mezzotint engravers who form the study. Part two will then consider the Dublin market for mezzotint reproduction throughout the 1740s. For this purpose a selection of Irish newspaper advertisement pages will be examined both for their literal content and paratextual arrangement. In doing so, part two will draw on the commercial expansion of Dublin. In particular, the focus will be on how the efforts towards social and cultural improvement, such as through the Dublin Society premiums, influenced and encouraged the production of new Irish-made goods sold on the domestic market. The newspaper selection will be explored with particular emphasis on competitive assertions made by Dublin merchant advertisers and mezzotint engravers. A paratextual assessment of the variety of goods advertised alongside mezzotints will also be conducted in this section. A discussion on paper history and the context of eighteenth-century Ireland will follow this, and will include an investigation into mezzotint watermarks. Chapter six involves close textual and visual analysis of a unique mezzotint subscription list. Finally, the visual analysis of a small selection of Dublin Group mezzotint prints will be conducted in chapter seven. The examples were chosen because they reflect the historical context in which the engravers worked, their connections to Ireland, and their engagement within the Irish and London print trades.