ABC AND CATECHISM [in Irish]. Aibidil gaojdheilge & caiticiosma. Translated by John O'Kearney, printed in Gaelic type at the expense of John Ussher, alderman. [Dublin, John O'Kearney?], 20 June 1571.
Small 8° in 4's (133 x 82mm). Collation: A-G4, including final leaf of errata; first title and title to 'Articles' on F1, both within border of typographical ornaments. (Headline on F4 cropped; small corner torn from E3 not affecting letters.) Early 19th-century calf gilt (rubbed and joint of upper cover split). Provenance: Bute bookplate. GENERALLY A FINE COPY.
The English translation of the title reads: Alphabet of the Irish language and Catechism that is Christian instruction or teaching along with certain articles of the Christian rule that are proper for everyone who would be obedient to the law of God and the Queen in this kingdom. Translated from Latin and English into Irish by John O'Kearney.
ONLY EDITION OF THE FIRST BOOK PRINTED IN IRISH and the fifth or sixth book or broadsheet printed in Ireland. Printed in an 'Elizabethan fount of Irish type', similar to that used in the New Testament of 1602. This is an adaptation of John Day's Anglo-Saxon type created for Archbishop Parker in 1566. For letters not present or unsuitable, such as 'a', Roman type from Humphrey Powell's fount was used. At the time of this publication, Powell, the first Irish printer had already retired from business. The problem of the identity of the printer of this catechism has not been solved. STC attributes the printing to William Kearney, the nephew of the translator, who, however, is otherwise not known to have started printing in Dublin before 1592. A more likely suggestion is that John O'Kearney himself, although not a printer by trade, not only translated the Catechism and arranged the publication, but also printed this book. He was the treasurer of St.Patrick's Cathedral and alderman of the City of Dublin. Cf. R.Munter, Dictionary of the Print Trade in Ireland, N.Y. 1988, p.153. Another suggestion, that it was printed by John Ussher, alderman and later mayor of the city of Dublin, at whose expense the book was published, has been refuted by E.R.McC. Dix, 'William Kearney the second earliest known printer in Dublin', Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 28 sec.C, no.8 (1910) pp. 157-61. It was preceded the same year by an Irish poetical broadside, evidently by the same printer and also at the expense of John Ussher. This is known only in one copy, a proof sheet or perhaps a type specimen (STC 19844.5, at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge).
STC 22.3 records only 4 copies: B.L., Bodleian, Lincoln Cathedral and the present; E.E.McC. Dix & J. Cassedy, List of Books, Pamphlets, &c. printed wholly or partly in Irish. (Dublin 1913) no.2; E.R.McC.Dix, Printing in Dublin prior to 1601. (1932) p.8