GENETIC JOYCE STUDIES - Special Issue JJA (Summer 2002)



The James Joyce Archive: A Publisher’s Gift to Joyce Studies


Hans Walter Gabler  


A suggestion to reproduce manuscripts unmediated by a textual editor, without any accompanying transcriptions and in plain black-and-white photo reprint would among scholars even today run entirely counter to notions of professional propriety. It certainly did so in the mid-1970s when Gavin Borden proposed precisely such a project. Wishing to give significant profile to his emergent enterprise, Garland Publishing, he challenged A. Walton Litz with Michael Groden, David Hayman, Danis Rose and myself to grasp the opportunity he was offering of making all of James Joyce’s unpublished literary materials multiply available, materials whose originals were held in a variety of libraries and private collections. He wanted them reproduced and disseminated worldwide, albeit in a carefully considered limited edition of 250 copies. Anyone around the globe with a feeling for the hand-written, the manu scriptum, who could recognise the work-in-progress as enhancing our collective understanding of the work, would be able to look at these materials. In particular critics and scholars would be able to consult them and draw on them. Innovative techniques of reproduction would be harnessed for the purpose, making the undertaking affordable: high definition photography and xerox techniques, under painstaking control of the supervising scholar employed by the publisher, would feed into high quality book printing. The James Joyce Archive was intended as a landmark in that field of large-scale reproductive publishing of aids to scholarship so characteristic of the 1960s and 1970s. And a landmark it did indeed become.

The James Joyce Archive thus began as the creative idea not of scholars, but of a publisher. What, one might ask, was the situation in academia, three-quarters of the way through the 20th century: what was it that had made it impossible, for critics and scholars, even to imagine creating such an archive? One answer is that, at that point, ours was very much a print culture. On the one hand, we had not yet entered the age of multi-media communication based upon electronic data organisation. On the other hand, we had long left the age of the manuscript behind us. Manuscripts had been culturally marginalised, relegated to the private sphere. Every scrap and document falling into that category belonged exclusively to the writer’s workshop. There, for most academic purposes, it was off limits, on grounds of discretion and courtesy as well as of scholarly method and critical principle.

Older cultural roots survived, it is true, in the shape of the bibliophile’s fascination with fair-hand manuscripts, which were (and are) objects of desire, even if merely in facsimile substitutes. Facsimiles were a challenge to printers in that they made the highest demands on the quality of reproduction. Such demands would in turn be thoroughly supported by textual scholarship. In windfall enterprises of facsimile publication, textual scholars would aid the publisher and printer in catering for the bibliophile and private collector. For it was the textual scholar whom trained expertise defined as a privileged representative of the cultural community with professional access to, and usually some understanding of, manuscripts.

Yet the forces that determined the professional outlook were themselves selective and timebound. In textual criticism in the latter half of the 20th century, authorial papers were held above all as witness documents tributary to establishing definitive critical texts. Yet essentially only the originals themselves would provide the desired evidence. If and when these were reproduced in facsimile, the highest fidelity of image was required, so as to preserve as much as possible of what the eye could discern on the original manuscript surface (its depth as created by physical dimensions of writing and over-writing, of blottings or erasures, as well as the touch and the smell of the original, would have to be sacrificed in any case). Moreover, the demand was for transcriptions to accompany facsimiles. The idea seems to have been that – or rather, no idea seems to have been formed beyond the assumption that – manuscripts in reproduction would be used for the purpose of reading them. That manuscripts are documentary sites of writing before becoming transmission documents for text had not yet been properly conceptualised. Nor was there yet a full awareness of textual genetics, and genetic criticism. In a developing theoretical and critical climate, that awareness grew, for Joyce criticism and scholarship, from the stimulus provided by the James Joyce Archive.

My pleasure during the first phase of my involvement with the James Joyce Archive derived from the opportunity it gave me to succinctly describe the documents I had been allotted the Archive responsibility for, and which, in the years before the Archive was even thought of, I had scrutinized with a bibliographical eye in comprehensive rounds of the libraries with original Joyce holdings both in Europe and in the United States. The understanding of the documents that I thus put on record was, on the one hand, a concentrate of what I had already gained from them and laid out in bibliographic and proto-editorial, critical and genetic studies of the Stephen Hero and Portrait manuscripts. On the other hand, it was an important preparation for the critical editions of Portrait and Dubliners that I realised in the 1990s.[1] As for Stephen Hero, what I had learnt from and about the manuscript, I was able to pass on to Claus Melchior, to be enriched in his text-critical and editorial dissertation (the achievement of which, in terms of the newly edited text itself, still awaits publication for reasons beyond his control).[2] My interaction with these manuscripts – all of them virtually fair copies, it should in fairness be pointed out, and not working drafts – was thus thoroughly orthodox. I approached them as text carriers and from them established critically edited texts.

The use of the Archive for the critical and synoptic edition of Ulysses,[3] while ultimately just as textually oriented, was altogether more complex. The edition could not have been realised without the James Joyce Archive. This would be a mere statement of the obvious, were it not that it is true at several levels. Most intriguing perhaps is the paradox that the rich, as well as multiply available, documentation – in the case of Ulysses importantly augmented by the separate, extra-Archive , publication of the Rosenbach Manuscript facsimile – essentially untied the fixed equation of text and document in traditional text-critical thinking. Customarily, critical editing edits texts of, and from, documents – straightforwardly even ‘edits documents’, as the phrase, and often enough, as the editorial practice, goes. The strength –resulting from envigorating restrictions in method – of the critical and synoptic edition is that it edits the text of Ulysses. There is simply no document to edit, or to edit from – no one document: instead, there is the James Joyce Archive. Finding Joyce’s hand (in writing Ulysses) spread and spreading, beyond the Rosenbach fair copy, over all the successive typescripts and proofs which the Archive assembles, encouraged me to evolve the concept of a ‘continuous manuscript’: that concept by which one could imagine all the elements superimposed in layers, on one virtual document, elements that in reality were disseminated over the rich array of physical documents reproduced in the Archive.

But although they may be found, the written elements cannot be tracked down so easily in the 12 Archive volumes for Ulysses. The synoptic coding of the edition, it turns out, serves as a welcome subsidiary index to the Archive. From an editorial point of view, this takes on some significance. The edition can afford to be predominantly a text edition because it is relieved of many of the traditional duties of a critical edition, namely to report the details of the document, such as the positioning and other circumstances of manuscript inscription. Alert users (with access to the Archive volumes) can go and see for themselves what the passages and inscriptions look like in the documents. This unprecedented opportunity of moving from the edited text straight back to (reproductions of) the documents has also, of course, made possible the unprecedentedly close and often fault-finding scrutiny that the critical and synoptic edition has been subjected to – and by which it was doubly proven, despite, inevitably, a small handful of mistakes.

In strictly practical terms, moreover, the critical and synoptic edition could not have been realised without the Archive because it would have been impossible to work day by day over years from the original documents, spread as they are over eight or ten libraries on two continents. And the alternative – of procuring films and xeroxes or preparing manual transcriptions of the originals – would have been prohibitive in terms both of expense and time. In our day-to-day efforts to establish the critical and synoptic edition of Ulysses, we did of course work from facsimiles, just as we were accused of doing, though accused disingenuously[4] by textual scholars and editors who must themselves have been practising what they preached against: they knew and we knew that there is little alternative. Yet to be more precise: it was only in the case of the Rosenbach Manuscript that we worked from a facsimile, a reproduction in colour that preserved shadings in paper (even shadows of watermarks), tints of ink, and distinctions between ink and pen inscription. Otherwise, we worked from photo reproductions. We worked from the James Joyce Archive. To draw this distinction is not, however, to regret that the Archive is not a facsimile. It is, rather, to emphasize that there is a distinction, that we were aware of it, and that we knew what we were dealing with, or were up against.

Even though they have lent their expertise to advancing facsimile reproduction, it seems that textual scholars and editors are beset with moral scruples about facsimiles, with regard to their own work. The reason seems to be a muddle about method and a confusion about the nature of the facsimile, or the document image generally. In these days of proliferating visual reproduction – with the digital scan rapidly making the facsimile of print culture out of date – it is high time to think seriously about what reproductions provide, and what they do not, and how they might be integrated into our scholarship under controlled conditions. What I proposed on this subject some ten years ago still seems pertinent enough to warrant repetition here.

“[T]he Ulysses edition provides occasion to reflect […] generally on the use and the functions of visual copy in modern scholarly editing. The realities of the day-to-day labour are that the scholarly editor can and does not work with and from original documents. Bar exceptional circumstances, his or her resources are copies. The situation is conditioned by distance, and by losses. Yet the degree of loss differs significantly between the orders of materiality, inscription, and textual record. At one end of the scale, a copy, by definition, preserves nothing of the materiality of an original: its size, paper, paper quality, foldings, quirings, creases and tears, its inks, crayon markings or pencilings. At the other end, the textual record – the conventionalized graphics of letters, numerals, and marks of punctuation doubly controlled by the conventions of the alphabet, and of grammar, syntax, and semantics – ideally loses nothing in copying. The problematic area is that of the inscription: the positionings, spacings, shapes, and sizes of the marks on paper of a given manuscript, which (even if they are supposed to be of the controlled orders of the textual record) are random and unpredictable. It is this that modern technology, in providing visual rather than transcriptional copy, has succeeded in bringing up for permanent close attention.

Modern photographic and photoreprint reproduction retains the textual record not as transliteration, but as an image of the original inscription. This shifts significantly the demarcation line between what, and what not, of an original may be perceived from a copy. The loss of the original’s materiality remains a serious impediment, and is under all circumstances ignored only at the editor’s peril. Nevertheless […] the visual copy acts as a superior reminder, as well as an incentive to further refinement, to the analytical findings of textual criticism. More importantly still, such copy supports the editorial tasks of transcription and verification of the text. It reduces in number the successive transcriptions required where editions are prepared in the traditional way. In the era of computer-based editing and electronic typesetting, the repeated transcriptions may be reduced to one and, [save for any number of corrections to the input], one only. The associated advantage for the textual verification derives from the circumstance that, as observed, the copy better stands in for the textual record than for any other feature of the original. Wherever the text, under the double control of the conventions of writing and of language, is unambiguous, the copy is wholly adequate as a control document to verify it.

The modern visual copy renders a scholarly edition transparent in ways unparalleled before the advent of the technology of photoreproduction. The opportunity to improve, as well as to check on, the accuracy of the editorial performance, however, is but the lowest order of such transparency. The potential for innovating the format of editions is of greater moment. The availability of visual copy makes practical sense of designing apparatuses both to convey the solutions of editorial problems in terms of the editor’s critical understanding of the text, and to function as a system of reference to the writing processes in the originals. In heightening the transparency of the text itself, this holds out opportunities for a deepened engagement, through an edition, with the work and text edited.”[5]

One may puzzle over the need to be so detailed and analytically explicit in a matter that, while it requires differentiation, is yet at bottom so simple and straightforward. But it seems less surprising if one calls to mind that really very few textual scholars and professional editors before us have had our experience of a truly comprehensive run of documentary materials in reproduction such as the James Joyce Archive offers it to the Joycean scholar and critic. As editors of Ulysses we have made extensive use of the Archive. It will however have become clear enough from the material perspective I have emphasised that we exploited it above all as a textual repository. This is the traditional editorial approach which only opens the door to what it might mean to explore the Archive critically. We must remember that the critical and synoptic edition of Ulysses was prepared and published before the advent of genetic criticism. Nonetheless, through the referential relation in which it stands to the James Joyce Archive, it also holds out possibilities for genetically oriented criticism of Ulysses. So far Joyce studies have not availed themselves of these possibilities. If and when they do, it may be that the document images to which the critics turn will be digital ones, surpassing in their richness of visual information what the Archive photo reprints could ever achieve. Yet even so, the value of the Archive will not have been wholly lost. It could then act as an index to the digitizations by serving, say, as the researcher’s material notepad to the virtual screen images. That would mean more than Cinderella service. There is an important future ahead for the James Joyce Archive as paper anchor to digital virtuality, a future in which Gavin Borden’s determination to realise his Archive idea will bear a second crop of fruit.


[1] James Joyce, Dubliners. Edited by Hans Walter Gabler with Walter Hettche. New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc., 1993.

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Edited by Hans Walter Gabler with Walter Hettche. New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc., 1993.


[2] Claus Melchior, "Stephen Hero: Textentstehung und Text. Textedition und Untersuchung der Kompositions- und Arbeitsweise des frühen James Joyce."  Ph.D.Diss. Munich, 1987.


[3] James Joyce, Ulysses. A Critical and Synoptic Edition. Prepared by Hans Walter Gabler with Wolfhard Steppe and Claus Melchior. 3 vols. New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1984.


[4] Prominently so in G. Thomas Tanselle, “Reproductions and Scholarship.” Studies in Bibliography 42 (1989), 25-53, esp. p. 32.


[5] Hans Walter Gabler, “On Textual Criticism and Editing: The Case of Joyce’s Ulysses.” In: George Bornstein and Ralph G. Williams (eds.), Palimpsest. Editorial Theory in the Humanities. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1993, 195-224; this excerpt pp. 213-215.