When her husband Daniel Died Ruth Graisberry found herself alone with five daughters and a deaf blind mother to support. As her son Daniel was not of full age (21) at the time she was the heir to her late husband’s assets. Nowadays she could have just stepped into her de
ceased husband’s shoes and took up where he let off but it was not as simple back in 1822. Ruth had to make her case to Trinity College to be allowed to continue on as their official printer.
A resourceful woman, she used her wiles to make she self indispensable to the college. In 1823 she made the following petition:
“Being possessed of the Presses, Types, and materials for Printing and having proper and respectable Work people in her employ, she feels herself fully capable with the aid and assistance of several of the most respectable Master Printers in Dublin, who have kindly and voluntarily come forward and signed a paper undertaking to aid and assist your Memorialist if necessary to carry on the business…”
Ruth Graisberry was not above mentioning her dependents (five daughters and her invalided mother), and the fate that would befall them if she were denied the position of college printer. Her pleading worked she given the contract. It was not wasted on her she she held on to the position until 1837, when an ongoing health complaint forced her to sell her part of the business to her once apprentice and eventual business partner Michael Gill.
Ruth was no stranger to the printing industry when she took over from her husband. She may have worked in the industry before she married. It was not uncommon for young female employees of print works to marry the apprentices and sons, like Ruth to Daniel Graisberry II. Keeping it in the industry was common of the Graisberry family. Ruth’s sister in law Elizabeth, married the apprentice Richard Campbell, who later became a partner. Her daughter Emily, Emily’s mother married Richard McArthur a bookseller.
Ruth was a member of the McCormick family, who were stationers and paper sellers. There is an entry in the dictionary of members of the Dublin book trade 1550-1800, of a John McCormick who was a blind news hawker (early newspaper street vendors). He and a Patrick Smith murdered his wife and was sentenced to hanged and quartered, Smith was acquitted, but McCormick met his demise at Newgate Prison on December 16 1754. He may or may not have been related.
To find out more about the printing and book trade in Ireland visit the National Print Museum’s website. If you are in Dublin pay them a visit.
All photos courtesy of the National Print Museum