Celebrations are taking place around the country this week to mark 150 years since the birth of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, on 13th June 1865 in Sandymount in Dublin. We in Trinity College Library Dublin have a particular reason to celebrate as our holdings in the Department of Early Printed Books & Special Collections include important collections of material relating to the Cuala Press, the Irish private press where many of Yeats’s works were first printed.The Cuala Press, originally the Dun Emer Press, was founded in Dundrum, Co. Dublin, in 1902 by Evelyn Gleeson and Yeats’s sisters Susan and Elizabeth (known as Lily and Lolly), as part of the Dun Emer Industries. The printing part of the Industries was renamed the Cuala Press after the Yeats sisters separated from Evelyn Gleeson in 1908, setting up their business at a cottage in Churchtown, just a mile away from the original premises in Dundrum. There, Elizabeth was in charge of the printing workshop while Susan continued with the embroidery work she had been doing at Dun Emer.
W.B. Yeats was closely involved with the activity of the Press from the time of its foundation. He acted as its literary editor, thereby ensuring that works of many of the leading Irish writers of the time were published by it. Several of his own books were among these. Indeed, the first book printed at the Dun Emer Press was his collection of poetry, “In the Seven Woods”, which included the first version of his play “On Baile’s strand”. This was followed by further books of poetry, essays and autobiographical works, such as “Reveries upon childhood and youth”, printed in 1915 and in which he described aspects of his life up to the deaths of his maternal grandparents in 1892.
A selection of items relating to W.B. Yeats and the Cuala Press, from the collections of Trinity College Library, is currently on display in the Long Room of the Old Library.