GENETIC JOYCE STUDIES - Issue 10 (Spring 2010)


“Everyword for oneself but Code for us all!”:

The Shapes of Sigla in Finnegans Wake.

By Jonathan McCreedy


The following is a brief historic-critical examination on Joyce’s sigla shape design in Finnegans Wake. Rose’s chapter “Hieroglyphics” in The Textual Diaries of James Joyce charts Wake sigla development throughout the Buffalo notebooks. However, he does not discuss in depth why the sigla look the way they do.[1] Roland McHugh’s The Sigla of Finnegans Wake, the only exclusive text on the topic, similarly avoids the question.

In short, the sigla are a collection of symbols or pictorials which Joyce composed for use in his Finnegans Wake notebooks. Each character: HCE, ALP, Shaun, Shem, Issy etc. has a sigla, which would represent their name in shorthand. Joyce detailed his basic sigla system to Harriet Shaw Weaver, in a March 1924 letter. The eight protagonists are listed here in their purest forms:[2]


*      (Earwicker, HCE by moving letter around)

*     Anna Livia Plurabelle

*      Shem

*     Shaun

*       Snake

*      S.Patrick

*      Tristan

*      Isolde

*      Mamalujo

*      This stands for the [novel’s] title but I do not wish to say it yet until the book has written more of itself.[3]


Since not all the sigla are pictorials, or indeed symbols, I have used the generalised term shape throughout to describe their appearance. I have examined Joyce’s sigla design methods in the first ten Buffalo notebooks: VI.B.10-VI.B.14. By ‘design’, I reference Joyce’s technique of making ‘shapes’. Taking the view that Joyce’s sigla are a rationale for the characterology in the text, and not the origin of the protagonists, I discuss how Joyce used single letter abbreviations for characters in the first five notebooks: (VI.B.10, VI.B.3, VI.B.25 and VI.B.2), which function as proto-sigla. Between Winter 1923 and Spring 1924 (in VI.B.11, VI.B.6 and VI.B.1), Joyce devised the sigla for , , , , , ,,  ,  and .  Although I detail the origin of most sigla on this list, my research allows me to argue against the theory that Shem  and Shaun  are stylised abbreviations of ‘C’ and ‘A’ (representing ‘Cain and Abel’). On the basis of units from VI.B.11, VI.B.6 and VI.B.1, it is possible to argue that  and  were in very early development at this stage, and that Joyce did not establish their warring brother relationship until VI.B.14 (August –November 1924). Therefore, the theory that he envisaged  and  as Cain and Abel in VI.B.6 is a chronological error. Instead, I would like to suggest that the code-like shapes of the Masonic alphabet supplied Joyce with a design source for,  and . The three shapes of the alphabet (also known as the ‘Pigpen Cipher’ or the ‘Freemasonry Cipher’) are identical in design with the sigla for Shaun, Shem, and ‘Finnegans Wake’. Through scanned images, quotes from Finnegans Wake, and Masonic genetic sources, I argue that Joyce adopted  and  to collect character attributes for Shaun and Shem in VI.B.11, VI.B.6 and VI.B.1. At this point, Joyce had barely formulated Shaun and Shem. Joyce created  first (just prior to VI.B.11), out of a desire to give Finnegans Wake a young male ‘voice’.  was adopted in VI.B.1, (late February-April 1924), when Joyce decided that a second male perspective was needed.    

Most theories determining Joyce’s ‘design’ principals have been by locating similarities between esoteric ‘shapes’ and sigla[4]. A well known example is that the Chinese ideograph for ‘mountain’ designs the  sigla. However, ‘San’ (or ‘yama’ in Japanese) is shaped differently from , nor is there genetic evidence proving this source. ɤ° (the accurate ideogram) has two ‘tails’, and a middle line with a slightly extended length. It points upwards also, unlike  which faces down. Another theory in electronic circulation is that E.A Wallis Budge’s transcription of ‘hieroglyphics’ in The Book of the Dead inspired the code-like design of the sigla. But Joyce did not begin transcribing Budge’s text until 1929.[5]

Daniel Ferrer, in his introduction to Brepols VI.B.14, hypothesizes that Joyce ‘modelled’ Shem and Shaun ( and ) on their parents HCE and ALP ( and ). Simply, if a line is removed from  it becomes , and if a line is added to  it becomes . He also incorporates the ‘box’ siglum :


* would then be not only a castrated  but also an incomplete (open) , a mere preface to the real thing. […] – and also that the  sign is not only an incomplete , it is also the shape of a caret, the typographical sign which marks the incompleteness of the sentence and keeps writing in perpetual expansion.[6]


Joyce first integrates sigla designs together in VI.B.14, dated Autumn/Winter 1924. Here, the  sigla (a pictorial ‘fusion’ of  and ) makes two appearances: ‘ you villain’ (VI.B.14.197f) and ‘ bilingual’ (VI.B.14.1986). As I shall show, Joyce’s initial sigla design in Winter 1923 was simpler, based on the need for clear-cut character abbreviation.  and ’s shape is noted within Finnegans Wake in fact, as part of an encrypted pictorial list of sigla in I.5:


[...] why not take the former for a village inn (), the latter for an upsidown bridge (), a multiplication marking for crossroads ahead (), which you like pothook for the family gibbet (), their old fourwheedler for the bucker’s field (), a tea anyway for a tryst someday (), and his onesidemissing () for an allblind alley ( ) leading to an Irish plot in the Champ de Mors [...][7]

[My edification]


*and  share no genetic heritage, as I shall show later. The shape connection ‘onesidemissing’ (i.e.  with ‘one side missing = ) is an addition to I.5, made after Joyce’s letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver in March 1924.  Beginning in late July-September 1925, (with VI.B.8), Joyce began to stylistically ‘toy’ with sigla, interpreting graphics of all kinds into their ‘shapes’. In the following examples from VI.B.8, the personalities and ‘appearance’ of characters are linked to their respective sigla ‘shapes’:


  crossroads ahead’ (VI. B.8.143j),

village’ (VI.B.8.143.k),

assback bridge over stream’ (VI.B.8.144a),

hillock’ (VI.B.8.144b),

Culdesac deadwallend of a graveyard’ (VI.B.8.144c),

‘delta (ie. ), pyramid’ (VI.B.8.144d),

pastrycook carrying on his brainpan a mass of lovejelly’ (VI.B.8.144e),

girl lying on causeway with one leg heavenwards, lacing her shoe’ (VI.B.8.145a)[8]


Onesidemissing’ (FW 119.31) is not a conceptual explanation of the conceptual design of .  If we seek shape linkages between sigla we are playing around in a similar fashion. Ferrer’s interpretation that the typographical caret (^) is a pictorial for  is another example of sigla play, similar to Joyce’s own in VI.B.8. But it is certainly not Joyce’s genetic source. A caret ^ is a small superscript chevron. Shaun’s siglum  is larger and base-level. Joyce’s sigla shape  is simply different to ^. Ferrer defines  as a ‘preface’, which is similar to the theory that it is actually a square parenthesis bracket ([ ). However,  and [ are essentially different too. A square bracket [, on close inspection, has unsuitably short horizontal lines whereas Shem’s  horizontal lines extend the same length as its vertical height. In short, ^ and [ are not Shaun and Shem since the ‘shapes’ do not match.

Vincent Deane states, to unanimous critical agreement, that Joyce conceptualised his sigla in the period between VI.B.11 and VI.B.6. The creative period in question is estimated as being late September 1923-February 1924. This leaves us with a frustrating problem, namely that all the intervening documents wherein Joyce designed his sigla have been lost. Rose names this missing notebook N7 (VI.X.2)[9]. The notebook may be lost because Joyce did not keep his workings once his fixed system of abbreviations was in place. Devising character abbreviations is quite different from transcribing external source words onto a page, Joyce’s main genetic technique in the notebooks. Indeed, in Finnegans Wake, he refers to his collected character system as: ‘The Doodles family, , , , , , , .’[10] which perhaps indicates the method of their composition. Were they ‘doodled’ on scraps of paper, or restaurant napkins, and not in a notebook at all?

The alphabetical capital letters ‘’ and ‘T’ are the basis for HCE and Tristan’s sigla design:  and [11]. Clearly, Joyce did not foresee the establishment of a sigla system in his early notebooks. However, Tristan’s basic character shorthand ‘’, and the usage of alphabetical abbreviation did eventually lead to this. Tristan is abbreviated to ‘Trist’ and ‘’ throughout VI.B.3: ‘ said/negrily’ and ‘Trist’, ‘Tr’ and ‘’ appear throughout VI.B.25 and VI.B.2. Issy appears as ‘I’ and ‘Is’: ‘Is & schoolboys’ (VI.B.3.086i). Her // sigla remains undeveloped until VI.B.11. Here, Joyce uses ‘rotation’ as a sigla design technique with Issy, specifically by turning the shape of  upside down: ‘ mirror of mirror’ (VI.B.11.105a). The first instance of rotation in VI.B.11 involves Tristan and Isolde. However in this case it is the letter ‘F’, not the , that is reversed:  ‘She loves  letters/ Peoples press, starts / w (sitting down) / F  (talking together)’ (VI.B.11.39a-b). Joyce took the section ‘F  (talking together)’ from Frédéric Queyrat’s Les jeux des enfants, a French text about children’s behaviour, which describes how children sometimes transform letters into persons. This is a specific account of a child who twists the letter F around, and declares that the F and its mirror image are having a conversation.[12] Deane states that sigla are ‘first used tentatively in VI.B.11[13], composed roughly September- November 1923. He indicates that the sigla had yet to be systematised, and that design of the pictorials was still in progress. Indeed, VI.B.2, the notebook chronologically prior to VI.B.11, dated August –September 1923, doesn’t have a single sigla shape. There are four distinct sigla shapes in VI.B.11 namely , ,  and . ALP’s equilateral triangle design is defined in VI.B.11: VI.B.11.2h: ‘ multiply’. ALP’s sigla  indicates Joyce’s shift towards symbolic sigla design, which he employs to ,  and  in later notebooks.  Joyce had not designed HCE’s sigla  at this juncture. It was not established until ‘V B D = ’ (VI.B.6.045e). Joyce used ‘’ as shorthand for Earwicker in VI.B.2: ‘eye bottle guta/ ’. (VI.B.2.110j). However, in VI.B.11 ‘HCE’ is employed:


‘HCE wins UH H’: (VI.B.11.3b)

‘HCE hears ballad sung’: (VI.B.11.30d)

 ‘HCE Santa Claus’: (VI.B.11.54b)

 ‘ablution national / sigla of HCE’. (washing)’: (VI.B.11.83a)


Joyce designed HCE’s sigla  last of all, following , , ,  and  which originate in VI.B.11. E is a 90° clock-wise rotation of the capital letter ‘’.

Vincent Deane states, in his introduction to Brepols VI.B.6: “The sudden appearance of Cain and Abel in VI.B.6 and the fact that their signs are already being used as graphic symbols for Shem and Shaun leaves little doubt that, like much else in the present notebook, they had been fully conceptualised by the time Joyce began to enter his notes.”[14] This interpretation, that Joyce based the design of  and  on the letters 'C' and 'A' for 'Cain' and 'Abel' is well accepted within genetic criticism. However, my research suggests that this theory may be open to challenge. The first half of VI.B.6 concerns HCE and ALP, defined respectively as the fixed sigla  and . The first appearance of  in VI.B.6 and  in all extant notebooks occurs as part of a list of sigla:  I   ’ (VI.B.6.101f). This unit is important, and we will return to it shortly. Shem’s sigla  appears semi-regular from this point, first used independently at: ‘ firstborn of Israel’ (VI.B.6.107k), and closely followed at: ‘’s birthday & place’ (VI.B.6.108a). Ingeborg Landuyt has identified Joseph Lamy’s Commentarium in Librum Geneseos as the source for this section.[15] Joyce’s Lamy transcription begins on VI.B.6.109l: ‘Abel kills 1st born/fat/1st fruits’ and ends VI.B.6.113g: ‘Enos, s of Seth, founds cult’.   is used for ‘Cain’ references. Joyce notes the similarity in shapes between  and ‘C’ at VI.B.6.112g: ‘C ^ +^ calls city after eldest’. He superimposes a ‘C’, turned 90° anti-clockwise, inside the С sigla. Deane states that this indicates: ‘[’s] origin and function as a stylised form of that ‘C’[16] and he adds that Joyce ‘stylised’ the physical shapes of the character abbreviations ‘C’ and ‘A’ by re-designing ‘C’ as a parenthesis or bracket () and by removing the middle line from the symbol for ‘A’ ().[17] However, the removal of lines is atypical to Joyce’s 1923/4 methods of sigla construction. Unlike ‘rotation’, which Joyce establishes with ,  and  Joyce’s missing sigla workings call for a critical ‘leap of faith’ here. Joyce’s transformation of ‘C’ into  could be interpreted as an attempt to show affinity with , which has a similar shape as discussed previously. However, since Joyce composed  prior to  in VI.B.11, this design concept is very unlikely indeed. 

It is the appearance of ‘writer’s cramp ’ (VI.B.11.88l) that damages the primary argument of the ‘C’ and ‘A’ theory. Shem’s sigla  shape is introduced in VI.B.11 quite separate from the genetic source of Lamy’s book, wherein the ‘Cain’ reference is said to originate. This  unit opens up the possibility of a differently sourced genetic design to ‘Cain’/‘C’.  doesn’t appear in VI.B.11 or indeed VI.B.6, strictly speaking. The three  appearances listed on VI.B.6’s back cover are part of a complex notebook filing system by Joyce, and they were added much later:[18]


d (b)  (c) ’ (VI.B.6.bcr:a).

‘Shem (b) Cain (c)  (d) b’ (VI.B.6.bcv: a)


d’ (VI.B.6.bcr.a) and ‘b’ (VI.B.6.bcv.d) do not indicate the sigla  but rather the chapters III.4 and III.2 respectively. This indicates the locations wherein Joyce destined much of VI.B.6’s material. The absence of  from VI.B.6 is puzzling, if we accept the ‘C’ and ‘A’ theory. Indeed, Joyce refers to Abel by name not  when transcribing Lamy:


VI.B.6.109l: ‘Abel kills 1st born/fat/1st fruits’.

VI.B.6.110a: ‘Abel off milk and wool/(Grotius)’.

VI.B.6.110b: ‘Abel butcher’.


 Why does VI.B.6.109l not read: ‘ kills 1st born/fat/1st fruits’? It seems unlikely that Joyce conceptualised as being Abel.

Returning to ‘ I   ’ (VI.B.6.101f), Rose interprets this unit as a pictorial of the Garden of Eden, before and after the fall. This is despite ‘ I   ’ preceding Joyce’s transcription of Lamy’s Commentarium in Librum Geneseos by 10 pages in VI.B.6. ‘ I   ’ appears between the ‘Growth of the English Language’ and Irish Independent sections of the notebook, prior to the first Genesis unit: ‘Abel kills 1st born/fat/1st fruits’ (VI.B.6.109l).  Rose defines  and  as ‘Cain’ and ‘Abel’, S as the Snake, and  and I (Tristan and Isolde) as Adam and Eve. He states: “The presence of Tristan and Isolde can be explained if we assume that they represent HCE and ALP before the fall’[19]. But this is very problematic.  and  are also in ‘ I   ’ so why are there two sets of lovers in Rose’s image of the Garden of Eden?   It is more likely that Joyce is simply writing out a phonetically possible word with the sigla that he had thus far devised, namely ‘MATISEA’. The shapes of the sigla represent letters. = ‘M’,  = ‘A’ and  and  are an ‘E’ and an ‘A’ respectively. ‘    ’ (VI.B.1.006g) or ‘MACATIX’ is another such example of sigla ‘word’ arranging. The ordering of ‘ I   ’ and ‘  ’ is untypical of most notebook sigla lists, which are distinctly non-lexical. For example:


*      *  

*      * 

* : (VI.B.26.101)


Since the ‘Cain’ and ‘Abel’ theory shows critical weaknesses, I hypothesise that Joyce based  and  on an entirely different genetic ‘model’. Namely, ‘writer’s cramp ’ (VI.B.11.88l) illustrates a new shape which is an exact match for a letter design in the Masonic alphabet.[20] The shape , a three sided symbol connected via right angles, is a letter in its alphabet; so is Shaun’s sigla  and also the Finnegans Wake sigla  which Joyce first used in his letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver, in March 1924. The Masonic alphabet consists for the most part of  and  shapes, with  and  appearing 16 and 8 times respectively. The other is , which appears twice. The similarity of these shapes to Joyce’s sigla is striking. Avery’s A Ritual and Illustration of Freemasonry, (which Ulrich Schneider surmises Joyce read[21]), transcribes it in full.[22] The three shapes of the Masonic alphabet rotate in 90° and 45° combinations: 


Line 1.jpg


Line 2.jpg


However, different lodges frequently used variations of the alphabet to increase its difficulty. In fact, Avery prints a second alphabet wherein ,  and  read ‘y’, ‘k’ and ‘i’.[23] ‘ Béresniak’s Symbols of Freemasonry defines ,  and  as ‘z’, ‘m’ and ‘i’,[24] and in Harwood’s The Secret History of Freemasonry’, v’, f’ and ‘e’ are its meanings.[25] Essentially, the Masonic alphabet has no standardisation in relation to the ordering of the letters. However, the interpretative ‘method’ of the cipher remains constant. Each alphabet derives from a grid layout, with a letter configuration. The following de-codes Avery’s transcription of the alphabet:  


Line 3.jpg


The popular nick-name of the alphabet, ‘The Pigpen Cipher’, derives from its visual arrangement.  Joyce references it in II.3 of Finnegans Wake: ‘I’ll tittle your barents if you stick that pigpin upinto meh!’[26] (FW 331.12-13) ‘Pidgin’ and ‘pin’ itself are additional meanings of ‘pigpin’. To de-code the Masonic alphabet, the lines around the gridded letter must be written down as a shape. Half of the letters require the use of dots. The most common are the 90° rotation of shapes. However there are also 8 examples of 45° rotation. This grid was officially called the ‘Trestle-Board’[27] and it has symbolic links with the mosaic chess-board pavement (called ‘Moses Pavement’) which decorates many Masonic lodges. Quoting Duncan’s Masonic Ritual and Calendar, Laura Peterson states that King Solomon’s Temple had a chequered ground floor: ‘The mosaic pavement [...] [represents] this world, which, though chequered over with good and evil, yet brethren may walk together thereon, and not stumble’[28]. This symbolism was designed to make Freemasons think about ‘opposites’.‘Moses’ Pavement’ is referenced twice in Finnegans Wake, with connection to floors: “That mon that hoth no moses in his sole [...]’. (167.36) and ‘Humperfeldt and Anunska, wedded now evermore in annastomoses by a ground plan of the placehunter [...]. (585.24-26) ‘Annastomoses’ is a homonym referencing scientific ‘anastomosis’, meaning the connection of two blood vessels by a cross branch[29].

As Book I developed, Joyce felt the need for a male voice other than HCE’s. In VI.B.11 and VI.B.6 he uses the siglum  to facilitate and construct this ‘role’. Since Joyce composed  from scratch it appears he used the Masonic letter shape  to act as his blank canvas. It seems that he does the same with ALP in VI.B.11. Here, Joyce uses a  to symbolise a mature female character, and wife to HCE.[30] multiply’ (VI.B.11.2h) and ‘ = III children’ (VI.B.6.189d) indicate motherhood. VI.B.1, (written late February-April 1924), includes three units indicating that the female genital region, provided inspiration for :


‘bush pyramid ’ (VI.B.1.0235b)

‘trees look at  nude/legs in the air/a whole grove [is]/looking on.(VI.B.1.055i)

‘delta = pubic ’ (VI.B.1.065i)     


Indeed, II.2’s triangular diagram[31], (a dual image of ‘Proposition 1’ from Euclid’s ‘Elements’ Book 1), is also Shem’s drawing of his mother’s genitals. ‘s initials, in Roman (ALP) and Greek (αλπ), mark its three points. The anatomy of the vulva is quite detailed. The π symbol, above the , is shaped like a clitoris, and the circles are her outstretched legs. P and π symmetrically correspond since the two triangles mirror each other about the AL axis.

Returning to Shem’s sigla, ‘Writer’s cramp ’ (VI.B.11.88l) indicates a profession for his blank character .  However, in VI.B.6 the units relating to ‘writing’ are attributed to a figure called ‘Shem’: ‘Shem cuts old books’ (VI.B.6.95a) and ‘Shem jots down notes for ’ (VI.B.6.117a). Joyce defines  as Shem in a letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver, in 16th January 1924. Here, he also gives  three other personas, including Cain: ‘[I include] a description of Shem-Ham-Cain-Egan etc. and his penmanship [...]’.[32] The character of ‘Shawn (sic) the post’ is also mentioned for the first time, in this letter. ‘Shawn the post’ is a  prototype since in January 1924, prior to VI.B.1, Joyce had not yet created the  sigla. Similarly, note that Abel in VI.B.6 is neither  nor Shaun. Abel is an associative character partnered with Cain, who is clearly . In later revisions, V became Abel, but only after Joyce had established the theme of Shaun and Shem as warring brothers.  and  are not paired as Brunian opposites until VI.B.14, written August-late November 1924:


we enjoy in plural/  suffer in sing’ (VI.B.14.215h),

conte/  legend’ (VI.B.14.215e),

 objections to use of/†ian name’, (VI.B.14.202d).


Between VI.B.6 and VI.B.1, Shaun seems to have developed into the second young male voice in Finnegans Wake. The siglum  is used throughout VI. B.1: ‘ zigzag v spiral/corsi ricorso Vico’ (VI.B.1.029c), and ‘ has green paint/for doors’ (VI.B.1.028).  Joyce’s decision to use  as a shape is most likely influenced by Shem’s sigla , which derives from the Masonic alphabet. This shared genetic source respectively ‘bonds’  and  together, which is appropriate because  and  comprise the collective young male voice. Incidentally, the third and final shape of the Masonic alphabet, , became the ‘Finnegans Wake’ sigla, around this time (see VI.B.1).   is a ‘pictorial’ siglum, much like  and . Its four sided nature clearly represented the ‘book’ itself (Finnegans Wake). The VI.B.1 unit: ‘competition for/ name of ’ (VI.B.1.066j) details Joyce’s future guessing game involving his novel’s secret title. Ellmann states:  ‘[Joyce] had often issued a challenge to his intimates to guess [the title of Finnegans Wake], and offered a thousand francs to anyone who succeeded.[33] One reason for Joyce’s attraction to the Masonic alphabet may be its usage of ‘rotation’ as a design concept. Joyce chose  out of 8 rotation possibilities (and not 16, since the ‘dots’ add to, and do not change the alphabet ‘shapes’).  would hence have been chosen out of 4 possibilities. These two directions appealed to him most, but it is difficult to determine why. Joyce was clearly interested in rotation as a concept. For instance, the unit: ‘F  (talking together)’ (VI.B.11.39a-b) appears in Finnegans Wake as ‘ace to ace!’ (18.36). Similarly,  is a ‘reflection’ of  in design. However, the directions of  and  remain fixed in the notebooks.

The Masonic alphabet’s identity as a secret coded language is a second reason for its selection. Since , , and  appear only in the notebooks, in un-rotated forms, there is no secret message within Finnegans Wake based on Masonic symbols. In fact, whether any coded messages exist in the novel is debateable, unlike in Ulysses where Martha Clifford sends a letter to Bloom in ‘boustophedontic’ code: ‘N. IGS./WI.UU. OX/W. OKS. MH/Y. IM’. Solved, it reads “M RTH/DR FF LC/DLPH NS/B RN”[34]. However, Joyce does summarise the sigla system, in relation to cryptology in the VI.A unit: ‘Everyword for oneself but Code for us all’ (VI.A.755),[35] (written approx. 1931-36). ‘Everyword for oneself’ details how Joyce’s characters have multiple names and identities in Finnegans Wake. Indeed, ‘Everyword’ has replaced the single title as a means of identification.  ‘Code for us all’ represents Joyce’s sigla system, (with ‘us’ meaning: , , , ,  etc.)  VI.A.755 parodies the motto: ‘All for One, and One for All!’ from Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, which celebrates unity, loyalty and collective strength. Here, Joyce references how his ‘Codes’/sigla are fixed titles for his characters, an essential tool for him in the composition process.

The potentially superficial objective of determining the shapes of sigla has consequences for other genetic issues. The Buffalo notebooks clearly present Finnegans Wake characterisation in a primordial state, as demonstrated in Shaun and Shem’s sigla development in VI.B.11-VI.B.1. Indeed, Joyce’s notebooks are creatively experimental documents wherein characterisation appears in a tentative and incomplete state. I have found that some of the Wakean themes/relationships,  and  ‘s violent filial opposition, for instance, have been incorrectly sourced to notebooks wherein Joyce was only basically formulating character. The date of ‘s creation has been pre-empted in VI.B.6, for example, because of confusion relating to the first appearance of Abel. In addition, the process of analysing changing shorthand techniques, from previously listed single letter abbreviations: ‘T’, ‘I’ and ‘’ to sigla, illustrates Joyce’s development of character in Finnegans Wake at a close reading level. Initially, Joyce’s characters in Finnegans Wake possessed either ‘fixed’ identities, or a single personality. The early vignettes of Finnegans Wake: “Roderick O’Connor”, “Tristan and Isolde”, “Mamalujo” and “St. Patrick and the Druid” would be revised and incorporated into the main text of the book, in the 1930’s. Although Roderick O’Connor, Tristan and Isolde would later be revised as HCE, Shem, and Issy avatars,[36] their initial characterisation was very basic. Roderick O’Connor, the last high king of Ireland, is presented as a staggering drunk in his palace, for instance, quaffing the dregs of all the cups in the room before falling over (FW 380.7-382.30). Sigla development in 1924 brought order and structure to character in Finnegans Wake, focusing the writing of Book I, concerning the Earwickers, and helping to find a collective purpose for his early vignettes. Finally, sigla shape research encourages new genetic interpretations, such as the Masonic alphabet being the source for ,  and .



Works cited:


Avery, Allyn, A Ritual and Illustration of Freemasonry, New York: William Gowans, 1865.


Béresniak, Daniel, Symbols of Freemasonry, New York: Assouline Publishing, 2000.


Ellmann, Richard, James Joyce, new and revised edition, New York, Oxford, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1982.


Gifford, Don; Seidman, Robert, Ulysses Annotated: Notes for Joyce's Ulysses. 2nd edition, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.


Harwood, Jeremy, The Secret History of Freemasonry, London: Anness Publishing Ltd, 2006.


Joyce, James, The Letters of James Joyce, edited by Gilbert, Stuart, London: Faber, 1957.


Joyce, James, Scribbledehobble: The Ur-Workbook for Finnegans Wake, edited by Connolly, Thomas E., Evanstone: Northwestern University Press, 1961.


Joyce, James, Finnegans Wake, London: Faber and Faber, 1975.


Joyce, James, Finnegans Wake: A Facsimile of Buffalo Notebooks VI.B.5 – VI.B.8, prefaced and arranged by Hayman, David, James Joyce Archive, vol.30, New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1978.


Joyce, James, The Finnegans Wake Notebooks at Buffalo VI.B.6, edited by Deane, Vincent; Ferrer Daniel; and Lernout, Geert, Turnout, Belgium: Brepols, 2002.


Joyce, James, The Finnegans Wake Notebooks at Buffalo VI.B.10, edited by Deane, Vincent; Ferrer Daniel; and Lernout, Geert, Turnout, Belgium: Brepols, 2004.


Joyce, James, The Finnegans Wake Notebooks at Buffalo VI.B.14, edited by Deane, Vincent; Ferrer Daniel; and Lernout, Geert, Turnout, Belgium: Brepols, 2004.


Joyce, James, The Finnegans Wake Notebooks at Buffalo, VI.B.32, edited by Deane, Vincent; Ferrer Daniel; and Lernout, Geert, Turnout, Belgium: Brepols, 2004.


Landuyt, Ingeborg, ‘Words in Distress' A Genetic Investigation into James Joyce's Early Work in Progress, PhD thesis, University of Antwerp, 1999.


Landuyt, Ingeborg, “Tale Told of Shem: Some Elements at the Inception of FW 1.7”, ‘Genitricksling Joyce’, edited by Wim Van Mierlo and Sam Slote, European Joyce Studies, 9, Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1999, 115-34.


Landuyt, Ingeborg, “Cain-Ham-(Shem)-Esau-Jim the Penman”, How Joyce Wrote Finnegans Wake: A Chapter by Chapter Genetic Guide, edited by Luca Crispi and Sam Slote, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2007, 142-62.


McHugh, Roland, The Sigla of Finnegans Wake, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1974.


McHugh, Roland, Annotations to Finnegans Wake, 3rd edition, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.


Peterson, Laura, “The Bygmester, His Geamatron, and the Triumphs of the Craftygild: Finnegans Wake and the Art of Freemasonry”, James Joyce Quarterly, 27, iv (Summer 1990), 777-92.


Rose, Danis, The Textual Diaries of James Joyce, Dublin: the Lilliput Press, 1995.


Schneider, Ulrich, “Freemasonic Signs and Passwords in the Circe Episode”, James Joyce Quarterly, 5, iv, (Summer 1968), 303-10.

[1] See Danis Rose, “Hieroglyphics”, The Textual Diaries of James Joyce (Dublin: the Lilliput Press, 1995), 42-88.

[2]  does not appear in the notebooks, suggesting that Joyce quickly dropped the concept.  evolved into Shem as FW progressed.  

[3] James Joyce, The Letters of James Joyce, edited by Stuart Gilbert (London: Faber, 1957), 213.

[4]Joyce used the term ‘signs’ and not sigla when referencing his system: ‘I showed Mr Larbaud the signs I was using for my notes:  HCE  Anna Livia  Shem  Shaun. He laughed at them, but it saves time’. (James Joyce to Harriet Shaw Weaver, 27 June 1924). Ibid., 216.  However, I shall be using ‘sigla’ as it is the standardised term within Joycean criticism.

[5] See, Daniel Ferrer’s introduction to: James Joyce, The Finnegans Wake Notebooks at Buffalo, VI.B.32, edited by Vincent Deane, Daniel Ferrer, and Geert Lernout (Turnout, Belgium: Brepols, 2004), 11.

[6] James Joyce, The Finnegans Wake Notebooks at Buffalo VI.B.14, edited by Vincent Deane, Daniel Ferrer, and Geert Lernout (Turnout, Belgium: Brepols, 2004), 15-16.

[7] James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (London: Faber and Faber, 1975), 119.27-32.

[8] James Joyce, Finnegans Wake: A Facsimile of Buffalo Notebooks VI.B.5 – VI.B.8, prefaced and arranged by David Hayman, James Joyce Archive, vol.30, (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1978), 366.

[9] Danis Rose, The Textual Diaries of James Joyce, 26.

[10] FW 299n4.

[11] Issy’s sigla (the tripartite // ) is linked creatively with .

[12] ‘Il fit aussi un F tourné du mauvais côte, et retraçant la forme correcte du côte  gauche, F , il s’écria: “Ils causent ensemble”. See Ingeborg Landuyt, Words in Distress' A Genetic Investigation into James Joyce's Early Work in Progress (PhD thesis, University of Antwerp 1999), 61.

[13] James Joyce, The Finnegans Wake Notebooks at Buffalo VI.B.10, edited by Vincent Deane, Daniel Ferrer, Geert Lernout (Turnout, Belgium: Brepols, 2004), 4.

[14] James Joyce, The Finnegans Wake Notebooks at Buffalo VI.B.6, edited by Vincent Deane, Daniel Ferrer and Geert Lernout (Turnout, Belgium: Brepols, 2004), 6. See also, Ingeborg Landuyt, “Tale Told of Shem: Some Elements at the Inception of FW 1.7”, ‘Genitricksling Joyce’, edited by Sam Slote and Wim van Mierlo, European Joyce Studies, 9 (Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1999), 115-34.

[15]Ingeborg Landuyt, “Cain-Ham-(Shem)-Esau-Jim the Penman”, How Joyce Wrote Finnegans Wake: A Chapter by Chapter Genetic Guide, edited by Luca Crispi and Sam Slote (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2007), 151.

[16] Brepols VI.B.6, 127.

[17] See also Landuyt, Words in Distress, 152,

[18] They are written in different pens and pencils to the rest of VI.B.6. See Brepols VI.B.6, 223.

[19] Rose, 57.

[20] Daniel Béresniak, Symbols of Freemasonry (New York: Assouline Publishing, 2000), 32.

[21] Ulrich Schneider, “Freemasonic Signs and Passwords in the Circe Episode”, James Joyce Quarterly, 5, iv, (Summer 1968), 304: ‘It is probable that one of the many editions of the ‘Ritual’ was Joyce’s source; at least I have found the signs and passwords nowhere else’.

[22] Allyn Avery, A Ritual and Illustration of Freemasonry (New York: William Gowans, 1865), 109.

[23] Ibid., 109.

[24] Béresniak, 32.

[25] Jeremy Harwood, The Secret History of Freemasonry (London: Anness Publishing, 2006), 90

[26] FW 331.12-13

[27] Béresniak, 32.

[28] Laura Peterson, "The Bygmester, His Geamatron, and the Triumphs of the Craftygild: Finnegans Wake and the Art of Freemasonry." James Joyce Quarterly, 27, iv (Summer 1990), 790.

[29] Roland McHugh, Annotations to Finnegans Wake, 3rd edition (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), 585.

[30] For information regarding ALP’s sigla , and the source of its shape, see McHugh, The Sigla of Finnegans Wake (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1974), 67-72.   

[31] FW 293.

[32] Letters I, 208.

[33] Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, new and revised edition (New York, Oxford, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1982), 708.

[34] Martha has also ‘suppressed’/removed the vowels, and reversed her surname, making the code harder to crack. See Don Gifford, Robert Seidman, Ulysses Annotated: Notes for Joyce's Ulysses. 2nd edition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 596.

[35] James Joyce, Scribbledehobble: The Ur-Workbook for Finnegans Wake, edited by Thomas E. Connolly (Evanstone: Northwestern University Press: 1961), 138.

[36] ‘Avatar’ is McHugh’s coinage. See ‘As Noah is a primary  avatar, the septenary are the specifically  –oriented mode of  ‘. McHugh, The Sigla of Finnegans Wake, 54.