Medb Relieving Herself by Louis le Brocquy
Open Collections capstone digital Project 2020

I chose to examine the 1969 Dolmen Press edition of The Tain, a translation of the Irish Epic ‘Táin Bó Cuailnge’, for my Capstone project. This edition was created by three collaborators from 1965 to 1970; Liam Miller, Louis le Brocquy, and Thomas Kinsella.  The aim of the Dolmen Press edition was to be an artefact that readers can engage with holistically. Miller’s self-confessed “obsessions with typography and design…could be indulged” in the project (Redshaw 88). Kinsella’s efficient translation allows the realisation of the brutality, whimsy, and passion of the characters, while le Brocquy’s ink brush drawings encourage the reader’s engagement with the folkloric nature of the Epic tale.

Kinsella’s primary intention in his translation was to leave “as few obstacles as possible between the reader and the original” (Kinsella vii). As the original arose from the Irish oral storytelling tradition, Kinsella ensured that his publication embraced the alterity of the narrative. He views ancient Irish narratives as “a great inheritance”, which must be properly restored in order for audiences to connect with the history of Irish storytelling (Kiberd 587). This collaboration between independent press, artist and author proved to be an important innovation in the preservation of the story of the ‘Táin Bó Cuailnge’.

The aim of this digital project is to expand on the primary ideas from the essay component of the capstone, as well as explore new ones. The exact criteria of the Open Collections Capstone can be seen in the ‘About’ section above. My entries will focus on the materiality of the publication, the capacity for it to be reincarnated, and finally a creative response to the publication itself. Each of the three entries introduces a creative element of the work and explains its importance.

‘On Reincarnation’ investigates the essay The Task of the Translator from philosopher and essayist Walter Benjamin, and the way it aligns with Kinsella’s translation practice.

‘On Materiality’ outlines a brief history of le livre d’artiste tradition and the reasons the Dolmen Press edition of The Tain is considered one.

‘On Material Argumentation’ is a creative research response to the project as a whole.

Kiberd, Declan. Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation. Random House UK, 1995.

Kinsella, Thomas. The Tain. Dolmen Press, 1969.

Redshaw, Thomas Dillon. “Making The Tain, 1951–70: Thomas Kinsella, Louis Le Brocquy, and Liam Miller.” New Hibernia Review, vol. 23, no. 1, 2019, pp. 86–105., doi:https://doi.org/10.1353/nhr.2019.0006.