Last year, Research Collections was lucky enough to acquire a collection of 52 beautiful books with fine bindings and fore-edge paintings. They were donated by Bettina Bollmann, who had joined her mother Elsbeth over several decades in assembling them. This is the most important collection of bindings to be acquired by the Library in over 200 years.
Pictured in the main image are Principal Librarian, Early Printed Books & Special Collections, Dr Lydia Ferguson and donor, Bettina Bollmann.
TCD Library is home to the Cuala Business Archive (TCD MS 11535). However, like all archives, inevitably it is incomplete as materials over the years of the business and subsequent storage may be discarded or damaged. Of what does remain, Cuala’s minute books, artist lists, and sample designs for prints and embroideries are, arguably, among its most important artefacts, and as shown in earlier posts in this series, this material enables a deeper understanding of Cuala Industries, the Irish Arts and Crafts movement, and Irish history more widely. Historian Anne Dolan has stated that because history is written from available records, and these may show people in a professional capacity, or at their lowest, such as, in court reports, military pensions, business troubles, the happier moments, unrecorded times of play, holidays, relationships, are often overlooked. This blog is about a happy Yeats family occasion with threads to the TCD Cuala Business archive.
In the first part of this post, I shared something of the contents of TCD MS 667, and its value as a witness to the cultural hybridity of the activity of friars in medieval Ireland, but I never explained what might lead one to locate it in the Dominican priory in Limerick. In fact, for about a century, it was thought of as a Franciscan, not Dominican, manuscript, and located usually in Co. Clare, rather than the town of Limerick. What changed all this?
Among the many religious communities in the medieval town of Limerick was St Saviour’s Priory, home to the Friars Preachers or Dominicans. Right at the northern edge of Englishtown, it was founded in 1227 under the joint patronage of Gaelic aristocrat, Donncha Cairbreach Ó Briain, and the English crown.
Like any community of friars, St Saviour’s was not a stand-alone entity, but a node in an international network of friars, through which texts, ideas, stories, and friars themselves travelled with ease across national and ethnic boundaries. Like communities of friars everywhere, the founding aim of St Saviour’s was to preach the Gospel at a popular level, in an engaging and entertaining fashion, not only to those who worshipped in their church, but throughout the hinterland.
As already discussed in this blog series, Dun Emer Press (1902-1908) and Cuala Press (1908-1946) books were renowned for both their content, contemporary literature, and their arts and crafts aesthetic. The Press differentiated itself from other private letterpress publishers by printing new material by important writers of the Irish literary revival. Most British private presses, to minimise costs and avoid paying fees to living writers, invariably issued out of copyright classic texts. From the start, Cuala’s production values were praised for their elementary design and execution, ‘a fine clearness is the prime trait in the hand-printed volumes of Miss Elizabeth Yeats’, they used an eighteenth century (c. 1725) Caslon ‘fashioned … Old-Face type, and it is with this that Miss Yeats works exclusively.’ In setting up her Press, Elizabeth Yeats was advised by printer, private press publisher, and powerhouse of the English Arts and Crafts Private Press Movement, Emery Walker. Due to Walker’s co-directorship of the Doves Press and his role as an advisor to William Morris’s Kelmscott Press, the Dun Emer and Cuala Press may be viewed as a key development within this revival of bespoke publishing.