It came pretty much ‘out of the blue’, though I had heard rumblings. Walton Litz called to ask if I would join the team contemplating a facsimile edition of all the Joyce manuscripts. He told me that Gavin Borden, the head of the facsimile publication house, Garland Press, was so enthusiastic about Joyce and especially about Ulysses that the edition was his dream. It was 1975, and suddenly, what had seemed impossible when I started work on my First-Draft Version nineteen years earlier was seriously contemplated by a serious scholar with a palpable publisher. Of course I agreed though it took me a while to believe that anything would come of anything that quixotic. Was there really a market for those images? Would the estate grant permission? Could a private press really swing the expense? Etc.
My First-Draft Version had been produced with the help of the most modern technologies: eye-killing micro-film projectors, portable typewriters, colored pencils and snail mail. Though the manuscripts were available, there was no way to type from them in the wonderfully silent Rare Books Room of the British Museum. The cost of photocopies was and remains exorbitant. I remembered how many times my poor wife typed my hand-written versions and then retyped them with my corrections, how much time was spent finding ways to approximate the creative process. My rationale for doing all that was that publication of the manuscripts was out of the question, but versions of the drafts plus a draft catalogue would give scholars access and whet appetites. (It did, and in ways I could not have predicted.) In 1975, the idea that all of the Wake manuscripts would be available (for a price) was immense. A facsimile edition could occasion an explosion of scholarship. Of course I had no idea how much work it would be or how much I myself could learn from the experience.
According to Michael Groden, Gavin had been inspired by Harry Levin, a master teacher if there ever was one. Apparently, Levin spoke of the Joyce manuscripts in his undergraduate class in Joyce. This reminded me of my own experience. When I was a student in Paris writing what became Joyce et Mallarmé, Lucie Noel got me an appointment with Levin, then visiting professor at the Sorbonne. I told him that I had gone to Buffalo in the summer of 1952 to study the recently inaugurated collection. He responded by telling me about Harriet Weaver’s donation to the British Museum. That was enough to inspire my first visit (1954) and indirectly spark all that followed, including this reminiscence.
According to Groden, Walton Litz was the third person approached by Gavin (after Ellmann and Staley). Before I read Mike’s essay, I had a picture of the clubable Walt charming the upper crust Gavin on a golf course in Princeton. As Mike says, Gavin had no knowledge of Finnegans Wake and certainly knew nothing of the enormous quantity of Wake materials. In the event, despite its bulk, the Wake played second fiddle to the rest of the oeuvre and especially to Ulysses. This is understandable, given its position in the world of Joyce scholarship at the time. Besides, though he had been the first to study the British Museum manuscripts and the second after me to publish on them, Walt was never that interested in the minutiae of Wake manuscripts, and the other members of the original committee (Hans Walter Gabler and Mike) were focussed exclusively on the early work. Still, there was no getting around the fact that of all the books, only that monster text had the fullest genetic record, a record so full that it should have been seen as daunting. I suspect that, along with the others, Gavin didn’t know quite what he had rushed into. He was certainly, frequently, visibly, and audibly disturbed by what ensued.
Garland had made its name by publishing facsimiles of out of print source materials in limited editions and marketing them largely to educational institutions; so the business and production methods were already in place. But facsimiles of unpublished and largely unedited materials were not in its line and the risks were real. I credit Gavin and especially Litz, the elder statesman, and Groden, the facilitator, for the success of the project. I also credit Garland’s very capable staff. Did I say that Gavin could be abrasive? Fortunately, Litz and he had good chemistry.
Preparatory to Anything
I myself began to take the Garland project seriously a few months after Litz’s telephone call when I was summoned to our first meeting as a committee in New York.Present were Gavin, Walt, Mike Groden and me. Hans Gabler had also been recruited, but he never met with us. Much had been accomplished before my first meeting. Walt had enlisted Groden, his prize student, to organize the materials, locate the manuscripts, and head the project. Gavin had taken care of the finances and gotten permission from the estate and agreements from most of the libraries. The presentation of the collection had been established. (It was to conform to Garland’s other collections.) There had been some question about the inclusion of the Wake notebooks, probably on Gavin’s part, but in consultation with Mike, by recommending a double-page quadruple-page format, I had assured their publication.
The meeting was called partly for my benefit: to familiarize me with the details of the project and introduce me to Gavin. But it was called mainly to firm some things up and face some unresolved problems. Permissions were in, but several universities were balking. We discussed and fixed upon strategies, not all of which succeeded. (One library never did agree.) Since the formats of the manuscripts varied widely as did the conventions of the various libraries, we did not yet have a page count. Nevertheless, as Mike has noted, Garland had to fix the number of volumes for a variety of reasons, so, without knowing how large each would be, we decided on 63. We had no sense of how long it would take to edit each of them or even when we would have all of the permissions. (In the end the Wake volumes, by far the most original were finished and published before some of the earlier ones.) At Mike’s suggestion, we settled on a sufficiently bland descriptive title, one that has served very well indeed.
The nature and extent of the introductory material would depend on the problems raised by each volume, but even the overall principles had yet to be decided. Nevertheless, for practical business reasons, a printing schedule had to be approximated. Unlike a university press, which can afford to take its time, a press like Garland needs to see product promptly and minimize uncertainty. To that end and reluctantly, we agreed to publish volumes as they matured rather than in logical order. That made it impossible to number them with the result that consultation was bound to be cumbersome. After all these years, I still find myself turning to the back of the JJQ for the Wake-related numbers, though, however clumsily, Groden’s Index can serve the same function.
Then there was the matter of dividing the spoils. Litz and Gabler had already decided to limit their contribution to the early work. Groden, fresh from his dissertation and his book, could easily handle Ulysses alone, though others had been considered. This on top of being general editor. That left the Wake. We knew it would be big, especially if we included the notebooks. I agreed to take it on, but after trying to reorient myself in relation to my ‘Draft Catalogue’, I thought that someone else should do the arrangement. I suggested Clive Hart with whom I liked working. Clive initially agreed. Later, he bowed out in the face of his heavy administrative duties at Essex. It was his suggestion that led to the inclusion of suggesting an unknown private scholar, a Wake Newslitter veteran, named Danis Rose. (Clive wrote me that he would not turn into a Dalton.) Rose turned out to be a popular and convenient choice because he was already planning his edition of Finnegans Wake. (By that time Gabler’s edition was well advanced and it was assumed that, with such a function, the Archive was assured a good scholarly reception.) None of us knew how young Danis was, or how ambitious.I had no idea that he would opt for a system so complex that I still have trouble navigating it. In the end, he made very few changes in the more user-friendly account given in the First-Draft Version. More about this later.
The result of these developments, plus some later improvisations, was a revolutionary edition produced in incredibly short order. But that success, and it was one, was shadowed by collateral byproducts. The first was the aforementioned absence of volume numbers. Another was the absence of coherent tables of contents, which makes consultation of the Ulysses volumes particularly difficult, though the Wake volumes also raise serious problems. In theory, of course, Rose’s charts should serve that function. Instead, because they were designed to serve his edition, they reach a level of bewildering complexity, obliging readers in search of particular passages to depend on my introductions, where they will find no page references. This would probably not have been the case if we had had time to organize the collection as a unit.
Ultimately, the most serious consequence was built into the project from the start. Garland’s operating principle was to publish single and very limited runs and to sell them to institutions at rather high prices.The assumption was that only libraries and the very dedicated scholar or enthusiast would be interested in what were frequently arcane materials. As for the Archive, how many bibliographers and critics could there be with a deep interest in Joycean sweepings? At the time there were very few, and it appeared that most of them were on our board. There was never any plan to print a second edition, which would have been fairly easy at the time.Unfortunately, when a market appeared, it was too late to rethink, or so it appears. By that time the remaining Wake volumes had been snapped up at bargain prices. Now, until some better choice comes along, future genetic scholars will have to go to institutional libraries to do their research.
By now, the existence of the Archive, theinvention of the ‘web,’ and the expansion of Genetic Criticism have led to significant usage and great advances. The Joyce section of ITEM in Paris, which has over the years held a series of remarkable conferences devoted to manuscript studies has been seconded by an equally active Antwerp group. Though originally at cross purposes (Post-Structuralist vs ‘Radical Philology’), the two groups have combined forces, participating in each other’s conferences and publications. The latter, reinforced by journal and book publications, have attracted growing attention at Joyce conferences. Most recently, we have the quixotic-seeming edition of The Finnegans Wake Notebooks at Buffalo, edited by the Paris, Antwerp, Buffalo troika consisting of Ferrer, Lernout, and Deane. In a sense, the notebook volumes of the Archive were and remain Garland’s most challenging and original contribution. Who could have predicted that when the question of their inclusion was raised? At that time they were terra incognita.
Process: the Chapters It took a while for things to shake out, for the remaining permissions to come, for Clive to decide, for Mike’s series introduction to be written and revised, for the bibliography to be established, for Rose to get his system in motion, and for galleys of the facsimiles to appear. It was only then that I began work on my descriptions of the chapters’ genetics. We did them in the order in which they cleared the system, that is, out of sequence. To do each one I had to have Danis’ ‘Draft Analysis’ in front of me.
Having spent years reading, transcribing, rereading, etc. the early drafts, I had plenty of experience with their contents. But I had never before meticulously followed the revision process through all the drafts, typescripts, proofs, page proofs and galleys. A tedious but necessary process, it was also enlightening. I saw things that would not have been revealed by any other approach: creative shifts, false starts, lost revisions, . . .. I even found first-drafts (especially in Book II) I had not included in my book. But then there are many things that escaped me even after the JJA reading. Just recently, while preparing my genetic essay on II.3, I realized that I had overlooked the way Joyce tardily constructed the brilliant transitional passages including what turns out to have been the last passage written and revised for the Wake.
The masochistic intensity of my JJA reading process was motivated partly by my curiosity, but mostly by my belief that the introductions to each volume should justify Danis’s arrangement while rationalizing Joyce’s moves. The latter gave me fewer problems than the former because Danis’s method required my reorientation. Frequently, I had questions and Danis had to justify his decisions. Generally, we managed to agree and the arrangement is probably better for it. Only once was our disagreement so strong that I simply threw up my hands and suggested that he write his own introduction. All of this was done by mail, sometimes through Mike. Incidentally, despite our interaction, I have never met Danis (or his brother).
My approach obliged me to set up a temporary space lit by a naked bulb in our basement. That was the only place where I could work steadily night after night and all weekend for months on end. I actually enjoyed the process perhaps because the challenge was more mechanical than intellectual. Even though my method had to be elastic enough to accommodate the many different approaches used in the chapters, I quickly found a pace that was both efficient and satisfying, but hardly speedy.
The whole editorial process was taking time, often more time than Gavin would bear. Having announced the appearance of the series, he saw himself and Garland as under the gun to produce. Since he did not understand (or value much) the Wake and since so much of the edition was given over to that book, he put the most pressure on us. We resisted as best we could, but I took most of the blame. I sometimes wonder if, given more time, we wouldn’t have produced a marginally better product. On the other hand, it could have taken years to do so.
During this period, Mike and I spent weeks in New York overseeing the editorial process. It was then that I got to know Elspeth Hart, the extremely competent and discrete, and very smart daughter of Kenneth Burke. Together we made some important decisions about formatting and other things. To cut expenses, Gavin put us up in his club, the Knickerbocker, permitting me to live in a style to which I was unaccustomed on the lower edge of Central Park. What I remember about the place was the air of privilege and exclusivity, the good breakfasts, and the claw-footed tub in my rather spartan and distinctly unmodern room.
Process: the Notebooks
Originally, I had been assigned the whole run of notebooks, a monumental project, given the fact that I had studied only a few of them. Originally, we planned to give them no more than summary treatment. It was only later that I decided we should give them fuller treatment, cutting through the apparent chaos with a cross between a table of contents and a summary. The possibility of doing this, the need to do it in the service of ease of access and eventually, scholarship, only gradually dawned on me.
My notebook experience dated of course from my first trip to Buffalo, but at that time my focus was limited by thesis concerns, wrongheaded for the most part. I wanted to find evidence of Joyce’s interest in Stephane Mallarmé. That, and my curiosity about all things Joycean, led me to flip through all of the documents. In the process I discovered the Tristan notes in VI.A, which were to prove important for my later work.
Editorial work on the first-drafts led me back for a second, more thorough look, an attempt to understand the notebooks’ contribution to the genetic process. Still later, I began making transcriptions from microfilm copies in an attempt to clarify my views. I believed then and I still believe that amidst the jumble of source-based factoids there lurk some clues to the workings of Joyce’s mind.Those probes continued sporadically for years, yielding relatively little publication (beside my study of the Tristan materials). In the process, though at one time or another I reviewed all of the notebooks, I developed a thorough knowledge of only a handful. In the meantime, Jack Dalton, inspired by my introduction, began trumpeting his intention to publish an edition. (He called me one evening to find out how serious my current notebook work was.) I don’t know for certain, but it seems plausible that Rose’s work was a response to Dalton’s as was Roland McHugh’s, and others in the Newslitter group, including Vincent Deane. This was by no means a bad thing, but, given my less than constant attention, it left me somewhat behind.
Then came the Archive. Before we began editing, I went with Mike and Garland’s photographer, Bill Ludwig, to the embattled Buffalo Poetry Collection to reproduce and paginate the notebooks. The librarian, Karl Gay, who had been more than decent to me in the 50s, decided that we were the enemy or worse, thieves, bent on stealing the collections crown jewels. He gave us the silent treatment assigning an assistant to us as a mute page-turner. I felt and it has turned out that we were doing the collection a real service by at once exhibiting the fragile notebook’s content, publicizing it, and making overuse less likely.
We spent at different times good chunks of time supervising the project and numbering pages, itself an important contribution to scholarship. Since Buffalo, which was recovering from the heaviest snow storm in its history, offers few diversions despite its hospitable faculty, there was plenty of time to cast a unprogrammed eye on the notebooks’ contents. While Bill did the photographing, I did the numbering. In the process, I began jotting down anomalies. What struck me most forcefully was Joyce’s continued interest in the sort of moments enshrined earlier in his epiphanies. I had no idea what he was hoping to do with these highly personal observations when preparing to write a book that would be relatively unmoored from the everyday behavioral detail. Nor did I know how many of them there were (about 500 by the latest count). At the time it did not matter. These were of course only one class of engrossing entry. But my survey was, given time constraints, cursory. At that stage all I could do was familiarize myself with the range of content and concentrations of interest. It was then that I began tentatively compiling internal evidence for the dating of each notebook, using and reacting to the work of Peter Spielberg and Roland McHugh. Evenings in my motel room all of this was further refined and systematized.
During the (xerox) photographing process we noticed that the reproductions could be more readable than the originals and tried filtering out the coloured strikeouts to add more clarity. Color was actually a big issue. Gay was insisting on color reproductions, and we knew that the strikeouts could be keyed to specific campaigns and hence specific passages. But our budget ruled out such extravagance. To compensate, Mike had the idea of photographing the big notebook (VI.A or “Scribbledehobble”) in color. One of my duties was to record the colors of the crayons as we progressed, but I quickly found that, though Joyce used a limited number, there was often a range of tones which could refine our results. It was soon clear, however, that recording them with precision was difficult if not impossible, and we decided that not recording them precisely would be wrong. Time was also a factor. Dilemma. Finally, Mike cut the knot by simply and rapidly scanning the pages, limiting himself to the primary colors. The lists appear at the end of each volume. They are no less useful I should say than the colors listed in the notebook edition, and since we can’t systematically compare at close range notebook and manuscript entries, we will have to be content with the imperfect but adequate.
Some time between Buffalo and the arrival of the reproductions, Danis Rose convinced Gavin that things would be sped up if he did half the notebooks. Though I was surprised, I had no serious objections. We decided that I would do the earlier notebooks (those numbered between 1 and 24) and he would take the remainder including the C series. That seemed fair since my interest was in the early stages of the creative process. I wasn’t prepared, however, for the co-opting of VI.A, a notebook on which I had lavished much attention and even contemplated including as an appendix to my First-Draft Version. Perhaps under pressure to keep it short, perhaps because he saw no reason to go into it in depth, perhaps because he recognized how complicated the notebook history actually is, Danis provided only a schematic overview of the notebook, paying next to no attention to its contents. We must remember that the introduction was written before we had settled on a descriptive format. This had been another of Gavin’s decisions. Now I can say, never mind, because in the long run it was a good thing. It left the field open for more detailed work on that complex, intriguing, and still puzzling document. In saying relatively little, Danis said nothing outrageous.
Anxious and impatient, Gavin gave Danis the nod because he found our progress slow and because Danis had assured him that the notebooks were less of a problem than the chapters. I suspect that that opinion was based partly on his knowledge of the work of other Newslitter enthusiasts, partly on his own considerable expertise. He had already written his study of the ‘Index Notebook.’
My approach was dictated by curiosity and enthusiasm rather than an established position. From the start, I tried to see what was there and describe what emerged when I attentively parsed every page. Gradually, my attention was caught by a handful of categories (some of them noticed during the Buffalo stays): autobiographical detail (often with initials), literary (names of writers), books (titles), personal observations (epiphanoids), conceptuals (forecasts of later developments), and important clusters of notes devoted to specific subject matter or topics. Add to this the occasional peculiarity of format or image. This made the introductions a bit fuller than the others expected, but after an initial reluctance to let me have my head (resulting some radical editing) the others acquiesced. As a result, the notebooks were given treatments full enough to highlight aspects that might be useful or suggestive. This approach influenced the ITEM group’s decision to begin its study of notebook 19.
In a considered attempt to refine the dates posited by Steinberg (generally loose approximations) and McHugh (more rigorous), I studied each notebook for evidence. My opening paragraphs laid out what I saw as facts and drew conclusions that often differed from those of my predecessors. Among other things, I used the dates established in my ‘Draft Catalogue’ buttressing them with information in Ellmann’s volumes of the Joyce letters and his biography to date specific entries and establish patterns. Though I saw my dates as approximations, I presented them with what assurance I could muster and gave the evidence that I felt justified them.
After a slow start, Danis followed my example, though he highlighted different categories. He began by accepting McHugh’s dates, but gradually established his own, many of which he altered in Textual Diaries where he presented a remarkably fresh and on the whole convincing set of dates, though without laying out his evidence. My experience using his introductions has on the whole been positive. Indeed, our collaboration proved to be a good one in the end. The important thing was to present the notebooks as coherently as was possible at the time so that others could further advance their study.
In the ensuing years, great progress has been made. Vincent Deane, Geert Lernout and his group, and Daniel Ferrer and the ITEM group have been persistent and productive. Already an important key to the creative process, the notebooks are now in the process of becoming fully available to scholarship and criticism.
 I faced a similar dilemma when editing the first drafts.When in the British Museum Library I was struck by the differences in format, papers, watermarks, notebooks, and even writing materials used.Believing them to be important, I made a careful record that remains among my papers. It could not be included in the already complex and expensive edition. Doubtless, had it been included, it would have caused further controversy, butI still regret its absence since it too could be of bibliographic and even genetic interest, perhaps answering questions and settling disputes. To my knowledge, no one has pursued this avenue in the interim.