Can I have your autograph please?

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MS 161-37Autograph books were a popular way to collect the signatures and other messages from well-renowned poets and artists in Ireland during the 20th Century. Jill Noone, Teresa Kelly, and Mary Ryan were among those who kept autograph books. All three books contain notes, poems, playbills, drawings, and autographs from a number of local performers and high-profile individuals and are now housed at Dublin City Library and Archive. Taken together, these autograph books highlight the growing importance and popularity of the arts and local, Irish figures.

Image: Painting of flowers from Teresa Kelly's autograph book (Ms-161-37)

Jill Noone’s autograph book (Ms 129), dated 1922-1925 contains the signatures of a number of different individuals, many of whom left poems and stories along with their signatures.  Miss Noone herself was a contralto in the Sligo Philharmonic Society Chorus, and her autograph book features a signed programme.

Teresa Kelly’s autograph book (Ms 161) contains signatures from an eclectic group of people. Her book features poets, artists, and musicians in addition to those unrelated to the arts. Many of the autographs in her book were originally written on scraps of paper and note cards and later added to the book. Some noteworthy signers include Colonel James Fitzmaurice, a pilot who made made the first successful Trans-Atlantic aircraft flight from East to West and tennis player Alice Marble. Kelly’s autograph book contains signatures in both the English and Irish languages.

The autograph book (Ms 71) belonging to Mary Ryan is particularly noteworthy as it boasts a number of famous signatures. Many of the autographs in Ryan’s book pertain to the Peacock and Abbey Theatres in Dublin as well as the Irish Literary Revival.  Poet William Butler Yeats and author Lady Gregory were two of the founders of the Abbey Theatre whose autographs are collected in the book. Yeats's brother, the artist Jack, also signed the autograph book. Other theatre related personnel such as Hilton Edwards, Lennox Robinson, Frank Fay, and Barry FitzGerald have also signed the book. Not all of the signers were directly related to the arts, however, as the autograph book also boasts the name of politician Éamon De Valera. Many signers of the autograph book left their best wishes alongside their name, while others still wrote poems and songs in the book as well.

Autograph books provided a way for ordinary citizens to connect with well-known individuals and have a souvenir of their encounter. Many of the people who signed the autograph books were local figures in the worlds of the arts, athletics, and politics; these autograph books can be seen as a tangible source of national pride.

About our Guest Blogger

This blog was put together by Kaitlin Marie Owczarski, undergraduate at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA; History major, class of 2017. Kaitlin interned at the Dublin City Library and Archive through the EUSA internship program.

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