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  • Introduction:A Special Issue on Editing Ulysses
  • Charles Rossman

James Joyce's Ulysses was plagued from the outset by hundreds of printing errors. The 1922 first edition, published in Paris by Sylvia Beach through her bookstore "Shakespeare and Company," contained an insert apologizing "for typographical errors unavoidable in the exceptional circumstances." During the course of eleven printings and two editions between 1922 and 1930, Shakespeare and Company attempted to correct their errors without achieving a reliable text. Subsequent editions by other publishers fared little better. Random House, for example, mistakenly set its first American edition in 1934 from an exceedingly corrupt (and cleverly disguised) pirated version. Although Random House tried to make things right by completely resetting the text of Ulysses for their 1961 reprinting, specialists agree that the 1961 edition is marred by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of errors. From 1922 to 1961, then, most efforts to establish a correct text of Ulysses appear to have added as many mistakes as they eliminated.

In 1977, Hans Walter Gabler, a German scholar who had done post-doctoral work under Fredson Bowers at Virginia, undertook to establish an authoritative text of Ulysses. Financially supported by a $300,000 grant from the German government and encouraged by the trustees of the James Joyce estate, who welcomed a substantially changed text of Ulysses as an opportunity to extend the soon-to-expire copyright, Gabler and his assistants worked at re-editing Ulysses for seven years. Their new, computer-generated Ulysses: A Critical and Synoptic Edition was published by Garland Publishing on June 16 ("Bloomsday") 1984. The new Ulysses was not, however, merely a corrected reading text. It was a three-volume critical edition with a genetic display of the history of the text's composition on the left-hand pages, the established reading text on the right-hand pages, and some two hundred pages of textual apparatus.

Moreover, in preparing his edition Gabler eschewed orthodox methods of "copytext editing," which probably would have yielded a corrected version of either the 1922 first edition or the 1961 Random House edition. [End Page 98] Instead of correcting an existing edition, Gabler undertook a complete, genetic reconstruction of Joyce's text from the existing manuscript materials. Beginning with the so-called Rosenbach manuscript, which is the fullest extant version of the early text in Joyce's own hand, Gabler traced the processes of Joyce's subsequent deletion, revision, and expansion. The result was a wholly new version of Ulysses that differed in some 5,000 details from the version that Joyce himself saw through the press in 1922, and in nearly as many for the 1961 Random House edition.

Because of the magnitude and importance of the editing task, Gabler's bold editorial theories, and the novel (at the time) application of computer technology to the humanities, the Gabler Ulysses captured extraordinary attention even as work-in-progress. Upon publication, it achieved instant success in the popular press, with front-page coverage in the New York Times, a major review in Time magazine, and wide coverage in numerous lesser journals. Like the commentary in the popular press, most of the early academic reviews glowed with admiration for Gabler's achievement. The new Ulysses did not receive its first sustained and serious critical scrutiny until John Kidd presented a paper, "Errors of Execution in the 1984 Ulysses," at the Society for Textual Scholarship in New York City in April, 1985. There, Kidd ignited a controversy that has raged for five years. Gabler, Kidd, and a host of other commentators have battled in the pages of The New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement; Kidd has published a 175-page monograph in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America (1989) attacking the new Ulysses; a hard-cover volume called Assessing the 1984 ULYSSES appeared in 1986; and two international conferences—one in Monaco in 1985, another in Miami in February 1989—have been devoted to its evaluation. Most recently, Philip Gaskell and Clive Hart, two distinguished scholars who are cited on the edition's title page as members of its Academic Advisory Committee (along with Richard Ellmann) have published Ulysses: A Review of Three Texts...


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