In honor of St. Patrick’s Day today, many people on campus will be wearing green and thinking about some of the various ways this day is celebrated (no doubt there will be some Irish foods and green cakes in the Pit today). But right under your students’ noses – likely invisible – is a very important piece of Irish studies that I hope they will one day discover.
It’s called the D0lmen Collection, and it can be found in the Rare Books Room of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library. In 2006, the News Service wrote an article about the collection, saying in part:
“Literary history buffs, Irish poetry lovers and scholars can now enjoy tracing the steps of Irish publisher Liam Miller and his renowned Dolmen Press at Wake Forest University’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library. After nearly 20 years of careful documentation and cataloging, the library announces the official introduction of the archive.
Following Miller’s death in 1987, Wake Forest purchased Miller’s personal papers and the Dolmen Press Archive. The archive includes manuscripts, papers, correspondence and artwork that track the history of the Dolmen Press and reflect the lives of prominent Irish poets, including William Butler Yeats, John Montague, Thomas Kinsella and others. One of the highlights of the collection is a series of illustrative printing blocks dating from 1902 to 1985, including a few from Cuala Press, the private printing press founded by Yeats’ sisters Elizabeth and Lily.” (full article here)
Your students may not have such ready access to this sort of historical archive once they leave Wake Forest. So urge them to take a trip to the Rare Books Room and read, touch, and experience Irish literary and artistic history.
Here is the ZSR’s description of the Dolmen Collection.
“Biographical and Historical Note
Liam Miller was born April 24, 1924 in Mountrath, Ireland. Educated in Ireland at Ballyfin College and University College Dublin, he studied architecture. He married Josephine Browne in 1947, and together they founded the Dolmen Press in 1951. The Press operated in Dublin from 1951 until Liam Miller’s death in 1987. A printing division was opened in the late 1950s as an additional revenue source, and was eventually shut down in 1979. The division took printing jobs from publishers as well as theaters, art galleries, businesses and individuals.
Founded to provide a publishing outlet for Irish poetry, the Press also heavily featured the work of Irish artists. The scope of the press grew to include prose literature by Irish authors as well as a broad range of critical works about Irish literature and theater. The life and works of W.B. Yeats is a recurring theme in a variety of works, including the Yeats Centenary Series. One highlight in the Press’ history was the publication of The Tain in 1969. Thomas Kinsella’s translation of the Irish epic poem took 15 years from concept to publication and represented a milestone in Irish publishing. By the 1980s the Press had created the Brogeen Books division for juvenile works, and many of the later publications were under this imprint.
Liam Miller was also a book designer. Liam Miller’s major design projects stemmed from the post-Vatican II changes to the Catholic Church missals, mass books, etc. Occasionally, jobs for the printing division were also works that Liam designed. In addition to his role with the Dolmen Press, Miller was very active in the Dublin community. An avid philatelist, he served for many years on the Irish Department of Posts and Telegraphs’ Philatelic Advisory Committee. Passionate about live theater, Miller helped revive the Abbey Theatre and the Abbey’s Peacock Theatre. He became director of the Lantern Theatre, and frequently used his architectural skills to design and create sets for the Lantern’s productions. An authority on Yeats and Irish theater, he wrote and spoke frequently on these topics.
This collection consists of information relating to the publications and printing jobs of the Dolmen Press, the administrative and financial documents of its operation, and the design work and personal papers of Liam Miller. The Publications and Printing and Design Series include author correspondence, general business correspondence, typescripts, proofs, art, galleys, reviews, paste-ups, dust jackets, and printing notes. The Administrative and Financial Series consist of general business files, correspondence, publication files, awards, events files, office documents, personnel information, exhibition files, samples, bank files, invoices, journals, ledgers, receipts, and reports. The Liam Miller Personal Papers Series features biographical information, correspondence, typescripts of speeches and writings, notes, journals, programs, original and reproduction art, and photographs. The Printing Blocks Series contains illustrative printing blocks used for Dolmen publications. The documents range in date from 1890 to 1987, with the bulk of the documents dating from the 1960s to mid-1980s.
Major individuals, businesses and subjects found in the collection include Abbey Theatre, Tate Adams, Juanita Casey, Austin Clarke, Padraic Colum, Columba Press, Jack Coughlin, Brian Coyle, Mia Cranwill, Dawson Gallery, T.P. Donnelly, Douglas Hyde Gallery, W.A. Dwiggins, George Fitzmaurice, Thomas Flanagan, Four Masters Press, Eric Gill, S.W. Hayter, Seamus Heaney, Humanities Press, Irish Book Publishers Association, Maurice Kennedy, Anthony Kerrigan, Kingdom Books, Thomas Kinsella, Lantern Theatre, Louis LeBrocquy, James Liddy, Lilliput Press, Liturgical Books, Donagh MacDonagh, Louis MacNeice, Wolf Mankowitz, Hugh Maxton, John Montague, Merrill Moore, Richard Murphy, Flann O’Brien, Sean O’Casey, Brendan O’Reilly, Oxford University Press, Pilgrim Press, Anthony Porter, Kathleen Raine, Elizabeth Rivers, Robin Skelton, John Millington Synge, Talbot Press, Thoor Ballylee, Arland Ussher, Veritas Press, William Morris Society, The Yeats Association, Jack Butler Yeats, and William Butler Yeats.”