The Dun Emer Press was an Irish private press founded in 1902 by Evelyn Gleeson, Elizabeth Yeats, and her brother, William Butler Yeats, as part of the Celtic Revival. It was named after Emer, wife of the legendary Cú Chulainn, and evolved into the Cuala Press, writes Sheila O’Kelly.


The Celtic Revival, a movement in the late 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, was a resurgence of interest in all aspects of Celtic culture, including the making and purchasing of handmade products, and ‘cottage industries’ such as stain-glass, ceramics, tapestries, embroidery and more.

At the same time as the Celtic Revival, the Arts and Crafts Movement was making its way across Europe. Influenced by the Celtic Revival taking place in Ireland, British embroidery, tapestry and carpet designer, Evelyn Gleeson, decided to promote Ireland’s cultural heritage in the domestic arts.

She established Dun Emer Press, an Irish private press, in her home in Dundrum, County Dublin, in 1902, with Elizabeth (Lollie) and Susan Mary (Lily) Yeats sisters of renowned poet, William Butler Yeats and painter Jack B Yeats.

Evelyn Gleeson named Dun Emer Press after Emer, the wife of Irish mythological legend, Cú Chulainn, and who was renowned for her beauty and skills. Dun Emer Press specialised in printing and other crafts with Elizabeth Yeats in charge of the printing section. Susan Mary Yeats was responsible for embroidery and Evelyn Gleeson worked in the weaving section.

They produced and printed numerous Celtic theme works and materials by well-known Irish authors and artists. The aim of Dun Emer Press was to train local Irish girls and young women in the making of handmade products so they could pass on their skills.

In 1904, Dun Emer crafts studio was organised into two parts, the Dun Emer Guild, under Evelyn Gleeson, and the Dun Emer Industries, under the Yeats sisters. Elizabeth managed the printing department and Susan Mary managed the embroidery section.

The press produced broadsheets designed by Jack B Yeats and had coloured greeting cards. It produced limited editions of books, printed by hand. William Butler Yeats, their literary editor, selected the texts. The paper used was made of linen rags and without bleaching chemicals.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own