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A recent exciting addition to the National Print Museum collection is a conserved 19th century Bookbinders' Union banner. It was painted in 1887 by an artist called S.Watson and carried in a labour day demonstration in 1894. Double sided and fully painted, the detail on the banner is very interesting. The Bookbinders Union Banner The banner commemorates an important date in Bookbinders' history, June 28th, 1788. This was the year that several members of the profession were prosecuted and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment in London. In the 1780's a number of social clubs for bookbinders were set up in London. They weren't trade unions per se, but they would have discussed common issues. However, in 1786 a situation occurred which gave the separate groups a joint purpose. In those days, bookbinders had extremely long working days. They started at 6am and finished at 8pm, Monday through to Saturday. They had half an hour for breakfast and one hour for dinner. The thinking of all members of the social clubs was that this was far too long and so they decided to ask for a reduction of one hour per working day. This proposition outraged those in authority and so the bookbinders felt forced to take strike action - this resulted in 24 men being prosecuted for conspiracy. The society members managed to get them out on bail but were warned by the presiding judge to go back to working the same hours as before. However, they refused to do so and five members were subsequently imprisoned for two years each. The judge did not think this too severe saying it was "in order to check the growing evils...in a trading and free world." One of the men died of jail fever 10 months later. A sheriff who was disturbed by the severity of the sentence managed to secure a release for the remaining four men, 14 months after they had gone into jail, on the 28th June 1788.

The mottoes on the banner read, "Bind right with might" and "united to support, but not combined to injure". The arms of the four provinces of Ireland appear in each of the corners. On the reverse of the banner there is a large oval portrait of a monk seated in his cell illuminating a manuscript. Surrounding this portrait are six smaller ones of Swift, Moore, Davis, Burke, Griffin and Goldsmith.


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