The Cuala Press Archive

Catalogue of the Cuala Press.
Catalogue of the Cuala Press, November 1908. From the Cuala Press Archive.

The Cuala Press Archive was presented to Trinity College Library by Michael and Anne Yeats in 1986. The Cuala Press, initially operating as the Dun Emer Press, was run by Elizabeth Yeats from 1902 until her death in 1940.  The press grew out of Dun Emer Industries, founded by Elizabeth and Lily Yeats and Evelyn Gleeson in Dundrum in 1902 with the aim of employing Irish women in the making of beautiful things, and contributing to the training and education of working class girls. Elizabeth Yeats was in charge of the press, while Lily Yeats organised the embroidery workshop. In 1908, following a split with Evelyn Gleeson, the Yeats sisters left Dun Emer Industries and continued their work as Cuala Industries. The name of the press was accordingly changed from the Dun Emer Press to the Cuala Press. Elizabeth Yeats ran the press until her death in 1940, whereupon William Butler Yeats’ wife George took over along with Mollie Gill and another assistant. The press stopped printing books in 1946, but continued to create cards and prints. Seventy seven books were published by the Cuala Press between 1908 and 1946, starting with ‘Poetry and Ireland’ by W.B. Yeats and Lionel Johnson, and ending with Elizabeth Rivers’ ‘Stranger in Aran’. From 1969 the Cuala Press began printing books again, under the direction of W.B. and George Yeats’ children, Michael and Anne, who later presented the archive to Trinity. The archive, though fragmentary, contains useful material such as minute books of directors’ meetings, cash books, letters, business papers, some original drawings for prints and sample books. We also have the printing press itself, metal type and printer’s blocks.

A general descriptive listing of the archive is available in the Early Printed Books Reading Room at OL P 016.0941 CUA.

In the US, Boston College University Libraries also holds an archive of materials relating to the Cuala Press. The Cuala Press Printed Materials Archive consists of materials built up by Mollie Gill, one of Elizabeth Yeats’ assistants at the Cuala Press. In 2008-2009 Boston College University Libraries’ Burns Library mounted an exhibition using materials from the archive, ‘Sixty Years of the Cuala Press: A Collaboration of the Yeats Family and Mollie Gill‘. A slideshow of images from the exhibition is available at

They’re books Jim, but not as we know them

Hilary Fannin’s recent review in the Irish Times of a new app that re-works Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ was fascinating. The app is not unlike adventure books of old where the reader gets to interact with the text. Remember titles that gave you options such as ‘If you turn right go to p.120, turn left go to p.90’? In tablet form of course the interaction is improved with features such as annotated galleries and an easy-to-use interface.

A young reviewer was quoted on using the app that ‘You would assume it was going to be boring, because it’s old, that it wouldn’t apply any more, but when you start it you can’t stop. I went to my school library this morning to look for the actual book.’ So are old books perceived as boring? The question for our library is will this new technology and format help or hinder the promotion of 18th and 19th century texts? Happily another quote from the feature ‘I definitely want to read the original book now. I was completely drawn into the monster, what he was seeking, what his storyline will be’ would suggest the latter.

Solely in the interest of research I downloaded two tablet titles from iTunes. First off was Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The black cat.’ The app was impressive with haunting sounds and stunning graphics which enhanced the reading experience. It was created by Crocobee who also created my other download, the James Joyce story ‘Araby’ which is equally entertaining. Neither title is as interactive as ‘Frankenstein’ but both do enhance the text in a unique way.

Oh, and even better both apps are available for free in the iTunes app store. Frankenstein can be currently purchased for €3.99.[slideshow]

Australian Ambassador Visits Trinity

Susie Bioletti, Robin Adams, Meg Johnson, and Bruce Davis looking at the display honouring ANZAC day in the Berkeley foyer.
Susie Bioletti, Robin Adams, Meg Johnson, and Bruce Davis. Photograph by Sharon Sutton.

Last Friday the Australian Ambassador, Bruce Davis, accompanied by Meg Johnson, visited the Library. They were met by the Librarian, Robin Adams, and the Keeper of Preservation & Conservation, Susie Bioletti, who first showed them the display honouring ANZAC day in the Berkeley Library foyer and then brought them to the Henry Jones Room where Helen Beaney from the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections had laid out a number of items relating to 19th century Australia, including settlement, exploration, birds and mammals. After some time perusing and discussing this material, the party continued to the Long Room to visit the Tercentenary exhibition.

Still Harping on Treaties …

It’s hard to escape talk of treaties at the moment, with all the usual suspects setting out their stalls in preparation for the upcoming referendum on the EU Fiscal Treaty. No need here to revisit the long, complicated, and often fraught, relationship the Irish electorate has had with treaties. Indeed, none to date have proved more contentious than that which marked simultaneously both our first tentative steps toward nationhood, and civil war.

One of our ongoing projects here at EPB is to catalogue the Samuels Collection of Irish printed ephemera. Collected by Arthur Warren Samuels (variously royal Lord Chief Justice, Solicitor General and Attorney General, to Ireland) during the political upheavals of early 20th century Ireland, it provides real insight into the public debates of that time. In particular, many of the pamphlets relate to that period between the signing of ‘The Treaty’ (Dec. 1921) with Britain, and the beginning of Civil War (June 1922). While the subject matter of the treaty debates has moved on, the themes, headlines, arguments and even some of the main players, remain strikingly similar. Emigration, sovereignity, and political responsibility are still the watchwords of the discourse. Of the interested parties, Sinn Féin is as vocal today as it was in 1922, and indeed still advocating a ‘no’ vote.

Would the following selection of headlines really look so out-of-place on any blog or broadsheet today?


See our online catalogue listings for the Samuels Collection, for more information.

Harry Clarke: Darkness In Light

The television station Sky Arts has in the past devoted air time to programmes related to Ireland and its literary heritage, most notably Mariella Frostrup’s ‘The Book Show’ which broadcast from Kinsale Arts Week in 2011. This week the station is showing a documentary on one of our favourite artists, Harry Clarke. The documentary entitled ‘Harry Clarke: Darkness In Light’ goes out on Saturday 5th May at 2.25 a.m. and again at 9 a.m. It is repeated on Sunday 6th May at 5 a.m. For readers who do not have access to Sky, the Library shop has copies of the dvd for sale priced at €29.99.

Promotion image used by Sky Arts for the Harry Clarke documentary
Promotion image used by Sky Arts for the Harry Clarke documentary

President Michael D. Higgins Opens Old Library Tercentenary Exhibition

Image of the the Provost, the President, and the Librarian at the opening of the Tercentenary exhibitionLast Friday evening President Michael D. Higgins opened the sumptuous new exhibition in Trinity’s Old Library. The exhibition, A great many choice books: 300 years of the Old Library, was curated by Felicity O’Mahony of The Manuscripts and Archives Research Library, assisted by her colleagues in M & ARL, and Lydia Ferguson of the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections. The exhibition includes many absolutely stunning “treasures” of the library, both manuscript and printed.

A fuller account of the exhibition opening is available on TCD library’s main blog.

The exhibition is part of the celebrations marking the tercentenary of the laying of the foundation stone of the Old Library. Further information about these can be found on the Tercentenary website.

Two special collections libraries under threat in London

Staff in the Department of Early Printed Books were concerned to learn that the Women’s Library and the Trades Union Congress Library face an uncertain future following the decision by London Metropolitan University (LMU) to seek new homes, custodians, or sponsors for them. The libraries’ collections are an important resource for researchers in the areas of social history, social justice, and of course trade union and women’s history.Image of the Women's Library

More information can be found here

A online petition to show support for the Women’s Library is available at

Quote of the day

“I am lately enterd into my Citadell in a disconsolate Mood, after having passd the better part of a sharp & bitter day in the Damps & mustly [sic] solitudes of the Library without either fire or any thing else to protect Me from the Injuries of the Snow that was constantly driving at the Windows & forceing it’s Entrance into that wretched Mansion, to the keeping of which I was this day sennight elect’d under an inauspiciary Planet.”

– George Berkeley, shortly after having been appointed to the office of Librarian in Trinity, as quoted by Peter Fox in his essay “They glory much in their library”, in Peter Fox (ed.), Treasures of the Library, Trinity College Dublin, (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 1986).

New exhibit for ANZAC Day in the Berkeley Library foyer

As part of our remit, the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections mount regular exhibits in the foyer of the Berkeley Library. Generally the single case exhibit ties in with anniversaries or local events. As today is ANZAC Day, staff member Helen Beaney has displayed the third volume of John Gould’s The mammals of Australia, shelfmark: Fag. HH.3.8.

Gould used to make rough annotated sketches which were worked up to finished images by artists, including his wife up to her death in 1841, and also Edward Lear, William Hart and Henry Constantine Richter. The production of the plates for this three-volume set was spread out over eighteen years, beginning with the Goulds’ travels in Australia in 1838-40 and with new material being sent over to Gould at frequent intervals after their return home. In his preface, Gould emphasises the opportunities to discover new species through exploration of unmapped parts of the world.

He became an authority on the birds of Europe, Asia, Australia and America as well as the mammals of Australia. The beautiful illustrations are still of scientific importance and provide great aesthetic pleasure.

Celebrated every year on April 25th, ANZAC Day originally commemorated the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who died at Gallipoli during World War I and now recognises all New Zealand and Australian soldiers who have given their lives in military operations for their countries. So which of the images seen here did Helen choose to display? Why not pop along to the Berkeley Library and find out?

Early Italian Printings

Image of Veronic Morrow at the workshop
Veronica Morrow

This morning staff from the Department of Early Printed Books were pleased to facilitate a workshop on Early Italian Printings organised by Dr. Clare Guest of TCD’s Long Room Hub and Department of Italian.

Subjects covered were varied, with Dr. Guyda Armstrong of the University of Manchester speaking about the Manchester Digital Dante project and Veronica Morrow, a former Keeper of Collection Management in TCD library, speaking about the Bibliotheca Quiniana (a particularly beautiful collection now in the care of the Department of Early Printed Books). As Dr. Helen Conrad O’Briain of TCD’s School of English was unfortunately unable to attend in person, Professor Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin gave Dr. O’Briain’s paper, entitled “Grammar and gardens: a pirate’s garden in the commentary tradition, Georgics IV, lines 125-48”. The final paper of the workshop, “The development of the modern classic: format and criticism”, was given by Dr. Clare Guest.

Image of scholars examining the books used in the workshop
Scholars examine some of the books used in the workshop

Following the papers there was an opportunity to examine the books discussed by the speakers in more detail. Here’s a few pictures of some of the treasures that were on display.