University of Notre Dame


Hesburgh Libraries

Rare Books & Special Collections

The Cuala Press Collection

In 1902, Elizabeth and Lily Yeats, sisters of the poet William Butler Yeats founded the Dun Emer Press in the village of Dundrum, Ireland. It was originally part of Dun Emer Industries, a larger artistic collective producing fine Irish handicrafts, particularly linen, embroidery, printing, and binding, as well as instruction in painting, design, and the Irish language. The press had as an advisor Emery Walker, who had provided William Morris with the inspiration for founding the Kelmscott Press. In 1903, the Yeats sisters quit their association with Dun Emer and rechristened their operation the Cuala Press.

The Cuala Press was never known for exceptionally fine printing or design. Its importance lies in its four decade long history of publishing first editions of Irish authors such as W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, and J.M. Synge. In addition to books, the press also printed much ephemeral material, such as Christmas cards and illustrated literary broadsides. Many of the books and broadsides were illustrated by Jack B. Yeats. Beyond its publishing history, the press was significant as an operation owned and largely operated by women with the intention of providing them with employment and vocational training during the most turbulent decades in modern Irish history. The press was run by the Yeats sisters until it largely ceased operations in the late 1940s. It continued to print cards under the supervision of Mrs W.B. Yeats until the late 1960s, when it was revived to publish several illustrated works of literature.

The Department of Special Collections owns 71 books printed by the Cuala Press between 1908 and 1946 in addition to a complete collection of broadsides and Christmas cards. This is supplemented by a collection of nine books printed by the Dun Emer Press between 1903 and 1907.