This article provides a chronological insight into some of the private presses and small presses largely created to support Irish poets from the beginning of the 20th century to present day.
After six years, and eleven titles, the Yeats sisters moved to Churchtown in Dublin and founded the Cuala Press.
1908 : The Cuala Press was supported by Elizabeth's brother William Butler Yeats and continued to play an important part in the Celtic Revival through to 1946. In addition to W B Yeats (30 of the 68 titles were by or about Yeats - see On the Boiler for example) and other leading literary figures of the day, authors published by the Cuala Press included Baron Dunsany (Selections from the Writings of Lord Dunsany 1912. See The King of Elfland albeit published by G P Putnam for an example of his work) and Augusta, Lady Gregory (Kiltartan Poetry Book 1918 and Coole 1931). "Cuala’s ambition to produce beautiful limited-edition books was continually hampered by its restricted finances: Susan Yeats described how “we toil all day and all year round and only get in at the Industry something over £800 a year – to pay ourselves what no man over 25 would do clerk work for, we want to get in another £250.” (source: Irish Times). Elizabeth Yeats worked at the press until her death in 1940 at the age of 71. The press continued until 1946.
In 1951 the founders of the Dolmen Press, Liam and Josephine Miller began work using a borrowed hand press. In common with all the presses featured here their original objective was to support Irish poets and artists but they expanded to include prose literature as well as literary and theatrical criticism. Poets they supported through the press went on to become leading Irish literary figures, such as Thomas Kinsella. They also published work by W B Yeats. The press operated through to 1981, the year of Liam Miller's death.
The Gallery Press published their first book in 1970. It was founded by Peter Fallon, who continues as editor. Given he was just 18 when he started it, it must be on target to become the longest operating Irish small press. It is known to be a leading Irish poetry publisher - currently we stock ten first editions of their titles (here). Peter Fallon has attempted to champion Irish female poets, although just under 25% of their titles are by women he says “no list includes more of the finest Irish women poets... Irish poetry is a broader church now, with more diversity, which we welcome and encourage.” (source: Irish Times)
The Raven Arts Press was founded in Dublin in 1977 by Dermot Bolger when he was seventeen. Bolger was encouraged by another Irish poet, Anthony Cronin, to publish his own work as well as others. Through the 80's and early 90's the scope enlarged to include fiction and non-fiction. Raven Arts Press authors included Sara Berkeley, Paddy Doyle, Anthony Cronin, Harry Clifton, Paul Durcan, in addition to Dermot Bolger. The Press closed in the 90s, partly as a result of Bolger's burgeoning writing career - he said at the time “Raven was two fingers being shoved in the face of tradition...but after publishing 122 books, your fingers get a bit sore.”
- Tara Telephone Publications
- Ulsterman Publications
- Arts Council of Northern Ireland
- Field Day
- Liliput Press
- Millenium Court Arts Centre
- Poetry Ireland