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  • Textual Authority and Diagnostic JoyceRe-Reading the Way We Read the Wake
  • Jeremy Colangelo (bio)

The publisher asks the reader’s indulgence for typographical errors unavoidable in the exceptional circumstances.

—S. B.


The lines that open this essay are from the first edition of Joyce’s Ulysses, on an un-numbered page just before the main text begins. Any scholar of Ulysses knows how much of an understatement that sentence is, how great an “indulgence” the edition had asked Joyce’s readers, and how much that indulgence has been given, in the form of the now-standard Gabler edition. The line is an apology in both the modern sense of the term, in which one asks for forgiveness, and in the ancient Greek sense of apologia, in which one mounts a defense or offers an explanation (think here of that most un-apologetic of texts, the Apology of Socrates). In neither case is the apology successful, and its failure extends in part from its signature—”S. B.,” or “Sylvia Beach,” Joyce’s publisher, who would, presumably, bear responsibility for the “typographical errors” (if only the problems in the 1922 edition were so simple as that!) committed by Darantiere, the printer she hired. But this signature has two problems: First, one can hardly blame Beach for hiring a French (and French-speaking) printer, given that an English printer would have refused the job for fear of an obscenity charge, and second, Beach may not have written the apology to begin with. A look at the manuscript reveals that the more accurate signature could well be “J. J.”—for the final version of the text was clearly composed in Joyce’s handwriting (JJA 27.305). [End Page 66]

I hedge my bets and say “could well be” because, like the rest of Ulysses, the note’s composition history is in no way straightforward. The original hand-written version that must at some point have been given to the printers has (as far as I have been able to tell) been lost, but by looking at the note’s different versions we can make several inferences about it. Volume 27 of the James Joyce Archive contains three versions of the note, on pages 303, 305, and 309, and these versions have likely been reproduced in reverse chronological order. The version on 309 is printed in a larger typeface than what was eventually used (so that it takes up four lines instead of two), and contains several variations in wording: “The publisher of this book asks for the indulgence of readers [sic] for typographical errors unavoidable in the exceptional circumstances.” The odd phrasing of “the indulgence of readers” conforms to French grammar, being a hyper-literal translation of “l’indulgence du lecteur.” Many of Joyce’s type-setting instructions to Darantiere are in French (like those on JJA 27.296, for example), and so it is quite likely that the oddities in this first version are the result of a poor translation of a written request that has since been lost.

Later versions of the note contain edits in Joyce’s handwriting. On page 305, we see the final version of the note written in English, fixing the grammar and also omitting the phrase “of this book.” Joyce also includes a request (in French) to shrink the font so that the note takes only two lines. On page 303, we see Joyce wavering on his decision to omit “of this book”—editing the note so to return the phrase but then crossing that edit out. While none of this material shows for certain that the original decision to include this apology did not come from Beach, it does show that Joyce exerted the same meticulous attention over it that he did the rest of Ulysses and its front matter, and also that he exercised control over its precise wording. If this note is indeed Beach speaking, it is clearly on Joyce’s stage, and it is impossible to extricate Joyce fully from the note’s composition. Yet the signature at the bottom gives no indication of this doubled authorship, meaning that what we encounter are two voices emanating from a single mouth...


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pp. 66-83
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