Women of the Cuala Press

We’re back with another blog from the Cuala Press Print Project – this one will showcase the women of the Cuala Press. The Cuala Press began its life as the Dun Emer Press and was part of Dun Emer Industries, established by Evelyn Gleeson (1855-1944) and Susan and Elizabeth Yeats in Dundrum, Co. Dublin, in 1902. Their aim was to employ and train local Irish girls and young women in ‘the making of beautiful things’. Elizabeth (1868-1940) trained two people at a time on an Albion printing press and they gained knowledge of composition, typography, type setting, and ink rolling; they were also involved in the hand painting of the prints and the other material they printed. Susan Yeats (1866-1949) ran the embroidery section and taught embroidery herself. The trainees were also instructed in Irish by the writer Susan L. Mitchell (1866-1926) and in the dramatic arts by the Fay brothers, who were among the founders of the Abbey Theatre. 

Continue reading “Women of the Cuala Press”

Cuala Press Prints Project

A collection of one hundred and eleven hand-coloured Cuala Press Prints (TCD MS 11574) was donated to the Manuscripts and Archives Research Collection in Trinity College Dublin where they are currently being catalogued as part of a project to make them accessible to researchers. It is a visually stunning collection and represents an important part of Irish visual culture. It also includes work by many female artists from the early 20th century. The collection was a gift from a private individual who built the  collection in the  mid 20th century and the philanthropically-funded project to make them available includes the appointment of an archivist, a conservator, a digital photographer and a post-doctoral researcher in the history of art. The project will not only focus on the new collection of prints but will also look at the business archives of the Cuala Press itself (TCD MS 11535). Thus, we will ensure and enhance the usability, visibility and accessibility of these significant materials to support the teaching, learning and research needs of staff, students and the wider research community.  

Continue reading “Cuala Press Prints Project”

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 http://bcm.bc.edu/elements/summer_2008/thisbeautifulcraft/.