The Cuala Press began life in 1902 as the Dun Emer Press; the Yeats' sisters, Elizabeth Corbet ('Lolly') Yeats (1868-1940) and Susan Mary (Lily) Yeats (1886-1949) were founding members, along with Evelyn Gleeson (1855-1944). In 1908 the Yeats' sisters split from Evelyn Gleeson and the Dun Emer Press and they founded the Cuala Press in Churchtown, Co. Dublin. In the 1930s the Press moved to 133 Baggot Street, where the sisters showcased and sold their books, prints, cards, and embroideries directly to the public. Elizabeth Corbet Yeats died on the 16th January 1940, but the Press continued in Palmerstown Road led by Georgie Hyde-Lees (1892-1968, wife of W.B. Yeats) in conjunction with two of Elizabeth Yeats’ long-time assistants, Esther 'Essie' Ryan (1889-1961) and Maire 'Mollie' Gill (1891-1977), with F.R Higgins (1896-1941) working as editor until Hyde-Lees died in 1968. In 1969 the Press was taken up by W.B. Yeats' daughter Anne (1919-2001) and his son Michael (1921-2007), alongside Liam Miller (1924-1987).
The Cuala Press ceased operation in 1986, and in October that same year Anne and Michael Yeats presented the remaining business archive (IE TCD MS 11535) and printing equipment to the Library of Trinity College Dublin. The print collection (IE TCD MS 11574) was gifted to the Library by Vin Ryan of the Schooner Foundation in 2017. Funding provided by the Schooner Foundation in 2020/2021 has enabled the conservation, metadata creation, and digitisation of the Cuala Press collection.
The papers of the Cuala Press Business Archives include administration and financial papers relating to the establishment and administration of the Cuala Press from 1908-1986. The collection also includes correspondence from Elizabeth Corbet Yeats, financial and business correspondence, and correspondence concerning printing and publishing. These papers are held in the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library at reference number IE TCD MS 11535.
The Cuala Press Prints collection comprises 111 hand-coloured, photoengraved prints and cards designed, printed and sold by the Cuala Press between 1906-1968. These prints and cards were consistently reproduced from the original wood blocks throughout the life of the Press; they were made using an Albion hand press, and were painted by Press employees. The prints vary in size, and consist of a series of illuminated poems, some with text by W.B. Yeats. Others portray depictions of Irish landscapes, folk scenes, and Irish rural life, often with extracts from poetry and prose in Carson Old Face, 14pt. The collection also includes a printed booklet of St. Patrick's Breastplate, along with prints taken from this with illustrated letters. These prints have been digitised and are accessible below.
See the Library's blog pieces by Ciara Daly, and Dr. Billy Shortall and Dr. Angela Griffith's piece for RTE's 'Brainstorm' 'How Cuala Press created a sense of Irish national identity' for further information on the Cuala Press.
Please see the Manuscripts & Archive Research Library's catalogue entries for the original manuscripts 'Cuala Press Business Archives. IE TCD MS 11535' and 'Cuala Press Print Collection. IE TCD MS 11574'.