TITLE 05 - The Jarvey

1 - Open Jarvey LedgerDuring the years 1889 &1890 Percy French, with contributions from a small group of friends, principally wrote and edited a comic magazine in Dublin. The only complete 104 original editions of Percy French’s ‘Jarvey’ are held by the National Library Dublin. Access to the two large ledgers, each containing one year’s publications, has been restricted for some time in order to protect the documents. With this in mind, the Percy French Society initiated the ‘Jarvey Project’.

2 Jarvey 1In the beginning, the ‘Jarvey Project’ advanced cautiously in a series of small steps, yet each step marked inexorable progress towards the overall aim of having all 104 editions presented in ten bound volumes. Following the initial restoration of the 1st edition, it was personal contributions from the members of the Percy French Society that allowed the next 9 editions to be cleaned, restored and bound in an attractive bespoke cover, designed to complement the 1st volume. A fundamental obstacle was overcome when financial support was secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This grant ensured that the project would proceed to completion within the proposed three to four year timescale.

It should be emphasised at the outset, that this was not a true restoration project in the conventional sense. The purpose was to clean, repair and reproduce the material as both newly printed, hard backed, paper copy and eventually in digital format, in order that it could be viewed and studied by as wide an audience as possible. ‘The Jarvey’ is much more than a treasured yet simple historical artefact. It is in the wealth of its historical, cultural and educational content that it becomes an invaluable source of social history at the turn of the 19th Century.

Each of the 104 editions, published over the 2 year period, comprises 16 pages, making a total of 1664 pages. It was not possible to physically access the genuine documents and so to facilitate the Percy French Society, the National Library of Ireland supplied digital image files of the original material. These had clearly been copied from a much older reel of film, shot using a rostrum camera above the large ledgers in which the original paper documents were tightly bound. The files were therefore copies of photographic representations rather than high quality photographs, photocopies or scans.

3 Torn Jarvey 1.pngThere is an enormous range in the condition of the original pages and consequently, an even greater range in the quality of the digital images. Each page may be, rotated, skewed, distorted, deformed, annotated, stained and in some cases badly defaced, with some parts torn or missing. It was necessary to convert the digital image files into a suitable format in order to undertake the cleaning and restoration process using modern computer based photographic technology.

‘The 1st Edition’, a more than satisfactory facsimile of the original Jarvey, was produced to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Percy French. Seeing the good quality reproduction of this edition added momentum to the project at a crucial level of development. The work then assumed a much greater importance because the Society was informed that the two original volumes were being withdrawn from public viewing to protect the artefacts. The urgency of the Jarvey Project took a prominent position not only as an addition to the Society’s existing memorabilia but also as the only accessible and tangible resource of a piece of national heritage.

4 Jarvey CoverWhen imported into the photographic manipulation software, the digital images of each page could be manipulated to undo the various deformations as well as to enable cleaning and to improve the image quality. However, as each image was unique in character, even with the aid of excellent software packages there was no way to use bulk manipulation methods and therefore the repair work was extremely labour intensive. In some cases it was even found necessary to reconstruct small parts of each page to ensure that the finished document was presentable and legible. Great attention was paid to the authenticity of any repairs of missing or severely damaged material to remain in keeping with the character and as close to the original as possible.

The original ‘Jarvey’ publication was printed on a variety of paper sizes, all of which are not readily available, or economically viable to obtain today. It was considered that a small compromise to 21st century media was unavoidable. A modification in size (typically less than 5%) was acceptable to enable all the pages to be printed on A4 media. The images were then collated and repaginated before being printed and compiled into a presentable format for publication.

The final stage comprised printing on high quality paper and binding into a hardback cover with a full colour inset on the front and gold lettering on the spine. All ten volumes are now available in a beautiful presentation box.

6 Dublin PresentationOne of the conditions of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant was that copies of the restored Jarvey be placed in major museums and libraries to enable as wide public access as possible. Consequently, the Society presented several exhibitions nationally. In 2009, The National Library in Dublin hosted a Percy French exhibition featuring ‘The Jarvey’ where they offered to exhibit the original ‘Jarvey’ artefact beside the restored copy. At the culmination of this very successful exhibition, Paul French, the great-nephew of Percy French was persuaded, on behalf of the Society, to present the National Library with the box-set containing all ten volumes of the restored ‘Jarvey’.

7 LHL PresentationIn 2010, another excellent exhibition was hosted by the ‘Linen Hall Library’ Belfast. Entitled, ‘The Jarvey Years’, the exhibition enabled some of the very best artefacts and memorabilia held by the Society to be displayed. Several specially commissioned banners were used to explain the restoration process and publicise many of the ‘Hidden Gems’ to be found within the pages of ‘The Jarvey’. The Linen Hall Library having also been presented with a copy of the box-set, inform us that it has already been accessed for research on numerous occasions and is currently available on request.

5 Jarvey Boxed SetIt is the Society’s intention to make copies of the complete box-set available to as many museums, libraries and appreciation societies as possible. Currently, venues in England are being explored and it is anticipated that exhibitions could be hosted in some of the places where Percy French himself originally performed.