Monday 21 August 2017

The good books: how church used pop art to guide young

John Spain Books Editor

'THE Young Lady Says No!', 'What To Do on a Date?', 'Shall I Be a Nun?', 'Divorce is a Disease!' and 'Shall I Start to Drink?'

The questions may seem a little quaint now, but the titles will be familiar to the older generation who will remember the racks of Catholic Truth Society pamphlets in the foyers of Catholic churches in Ireland in the 1940s, '50s and '60s.

The booklet covers were striking, provocative, even faintly titillating. They were designed to be "modern", to catch the attention of the young faithful, promising to answer their questions about sexuality, spirituality and life in general.

Inside the covers, however, was the same old conservative message.

Many of the authors were priests, doing their best to be "modern" and usually not succeeding.

While the booklets seemed to be about life in some parallel universe, they were very popular. In 1951 alone, 1,250,000 pamphlets were circulated in Ireland, selling at three old pennies each. Whatever about the message inside, the striking covers clearly worked.


The best of these covers – 117 high quality images with notes on the artists – have now been showcased in an art book which will be published next week by Veritas titled 'Vintage Values'.

The book will appeal to Catholics nostalgic for the old days.

But it will also appeal to be those interested in graphic design and comic book art.

Bold, bright and vibrant, the covers rejected the usual symbols of Catholic nationalism – Celtic interlace, shamrocks and harps – in favour of contemporary American showcard art and typography. The artists who produced the covers were among the best commercial artists of the day in Ireland.

The Catholic Truth Society of Ireland, founded in 1899, produced the pamphlets from the 1920s to the early 1970s.

Irish Independent

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