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.
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.
We are pleased to present a post by architect Rachel McKenna who, in research for her several publications on the architectural history of County Offaly, made a particular study of the diaries of Rev John Joly, the subject of an earlier post:
Reverend John Plunket Joly was a clergyman based at Hollywood House, Bracknagh, Clonbullogue and the Rector of Clonsast. He was born in 1826, married Julia (née Countess de Lusi), on 4 June 1853, daughter of a Prussian Count, and they had three sons. He died aged 32, 3 March 1858 before his youngest son John (scientist and polymath, graduate of Trinity College Dublin, who went on to become Professor of Geology and Mineralogy) was born, four months before the death of his father.
During his time as a young rector in Bracknagh, Reverend John Plunket Joly, kept up frequent diary entries. The diaries were written during a significant period in Irish history, including the Famine years, and they now form part of the Research Collections in the Library (MS 2299/1 (1843-1848) and MS 2299/2 (1852-1858)).
The Cuala Press operated from different premises during its existence. Initially, under the Dun Emer Press imprint, it was part of Dun Emer enterprises in Dundrum from 1902 until 1908. Elizabeth and Lily Yeats split from Dun Emer and Evelyn Gleeson, in 1908 and moved their printing and embroidery operations to ‘a four roomed cottage’ on Lower Churchtown Road in July of that year. It was housed in William and Georges Yeats home on 82 Merrion Square from August 1923 until February 1925. Cuala then moved to Baggot Street and sub-rented upstairs rooms from the building’s main tenants, Norman Allen Ltd. They remained at Baggot Street until January 1942, by which time W. B. Yeats (the Press’s editor) and Elizabeth were both dead. After 1942 the Press, now managed by George (W.B.’s widow), moved to her house on Palmerstown Road. The thirty-two years in Churchtown and Baggot Street were the most productive. Photographs with decorative and historical detail exist from all locations and are rich sources about Cuala Press life, industry, output, location, and much more.
This blog looks at one photograph taken in the Cuala Press Baggot Street premises in 1932, and the avenues of research that image invites and the questions it asks.
This year the world celebrates the 400th anniversary of the publication of the book now known as Shakespeare’s First Folio. Trinity College Dublin Library is proud to own the only copy known to remain in Ireland. While not exactly a rare book – slightly under a third of the print run of about 750 copies are still extant – it is not easy to come by, either. Very few remain in private hands and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC alone has collected over 80 copies! When it was printed, a copy cost about £1 – a great deal of money at the time. It was definitely a luxury item – in real terms costing about the equivalent of a high-end, brand new iPhone today. Even so, it had presumably sold out in under ten years as the “Second Folio” was printed in 1632, followed by a third in 1664 and a fourth in 1685.