Introduction to the Cuala Press Collection

 

 

Photograph inside the Cuala Press room from The Dun Emer Press, Later the Cuala Press by Liam Miller, 1973.

 

Historical Sketch

The principal founder of the Cuala Press was Elizabeth Corbet Yeats (1868-1940) sister of the poet W. B. Yeats. The press was really a family affair publishing the writings of W. B. Yeats with contributions from brother Jack and sister Lily Yeats. Originally set up in 1902 at the house of Evelyn Gleeson in Dundrum, County Dublin as part of a movement to promote the training and employment of women, the press was originally called the Dun Emer Press in honor of a figure in Irish legend. Lady Emer was the wife of the hero Cuchulainn and known for her beauty, wit and skills in the domestic arts. Since Dun in Irish means fort, Dun Emer is most appropriate for an enterprise organized and carried out by women.

The first book published by the Dun Emer Press, In the Seven Woods by W. B. Yeats, appeared in August of 1903. Eleven titles were published by December 1907 and the first number of the series, A Broadside was issued in 1908. That year the Yeats sisters left Dun Emer and established Cuala Industries in nearby Churchtown. Elizabeth's sister Lily ran the embroidery operation while Elizabeth, know as Lolly, ran the press.

 

Over the next thirty years under the supervision of Elizabeth the press published numerous broadsides works by such writers as Ezra Pound, Jack B. Yeats, Robin Flower, Elizabeth Bowen, Oliver St. John Gogarty, Lady Gregory, John Masefield, Frank O'Connor, John Millington Synge, and John Butler Yeats.

W. B. Yeats died in June 1939 and Elizabeth died the following January. The press was taken over by Mrs. W. B. Yeats and with the assistance of Frank O'Connor and others continued publishing books until 1946. Lily Yeats died in 1949, but Mrs. W. B. Yeats continued to manage the operation producing mainly colored prints and greeting cards until her death in 1968. The press was revived briefly in the early 1970s and published a few books. The information in this sketch is excerpted from The Dun Emer Press, Later the Cuala Press by Liam Miller published in 1973. Another valuable resource is The Yeats Sisters a biography of Susan and Elizabeth Yeats by Joan Hardwick, 1996.

 

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