One of our passions here is learning about the history of printing and book-making, and, in particular, women in this lineage of craft and art. Some weeks ago we shared about one of our heroes, Mary Ann Shadd Cary. Now, here's a little spotlight on another amazing printer and publisher: Elizabeth Yeats.
If the surname sounds familiar, you are right ~ Elizabeth (1868-1940) was the sister of famed Irish poet William Butler Yeats. Here she is alongside her brother, in portraits that were done by their father, John.
While the Yeats family lived in London, Elizabeth learned the craft of book printing at the Women’s Printing Society. Her sister Lily became a talented embroiderer (studying with William Morris' daughter). They eventually moved back to County Dublin, Ireland, and helped to found the Dun Emer Guild & Industries in 1903. Operating as a kind of co-op, the Guild provided occupational training for women in several crafts like needlework and book making, and played a central role in the Irish Arts and Crafts movement.
Elizabeth ran what was first called the Dun Emer Press (in 1908) and then was the Cuala ("Koo-lah") Press.
Elizabeth wanted expressly to “revive the beautiful craft of book printing” in Ireland. She concentrated on publishing new work by many of the day’s famous authors, especially those associated with the Irish Literary Revival, including Ezra Pound and her brother WB. They also printed cards, pamphlets, and a monthly magazine. They had a huge output — some 70 books. The Cuala Press outlived her, and continued publishing books until 1946 (smaller ephemera until 1969).
Thanks for joining me, friends. We'll have more spotlights on women in printing history in the months to come. If you have a favorite example you'd like to see featured, let me know!
All my best to all of you,
St Brigid Press