Bloomsday Gives Joyceans a Reason to Love Philadelphia
The Rosenbach Museum and Library celebrated its 17th annual Bloomsday on Tuesday, part of a world-wide celebration of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Hundreds of friends, neighbors, Joyce enthusiasts, book-lovers, and curious passersby were drawn to Delancey Place to commemorate the book’s fictional odyssey of protagonist Leopold Bloom through Dublin. Every year, Bloomsday features a marathon reading of Joyce’s novel by some of the city’s most interesting business, creative, and media personalities on the steps of the museum. This year, we had the fortunate opportunity to hear a reading from Philadelphia’s own District Attorney, the Honorable Lynne Abraham, among others. [caption id=”attachment_273” align=”aligncenter” width=”300” caption=”Bloomsday at the Rosenbach on Delancey Place”][/caption] Having the original manuscript of one of the world’s most well-known and acclaimed literary works is a privilege to the city of Philadelphia, one that leaves many people wondering, “Why here?” An article published this week in the Bloomsday Herald is printed below for your enlightenment: WHY IS THE ULYSSES MANUSCRIPT IN PHILADELPHIA? By Michael Barsanti, former associate Director of the Rosenbach Museum and Library In January of 1924 Dr. A.S. Rosenbach bought James Joyce’s manuscript of Ulysses at auction for $1,975. It was a curious purchase—modern literature was never Dr. Rosenbach’s strongest suit. The novel must have had a special meaning for him—two years earlier he had arranged for a copy of the first edition to be smuggled from Paris by a friend. Upon buying the manuscript, he said that it was for his own collection, and it was never put up for sale by the Rosenbach Company. Joyce first sold the manuscript to John Quinn, a New York lawyer, book collector, political activist, and patron of the arts. Quinn actively promoted Joyce’s career, and his purchase of the Ulysses manuscript was a means for providing financial support. In 1923 and ’24, however, Quinn decided to liquidate his impressive collection. Although the auction was expected to be one of the great book events of the year, if not the decade, neither Quinn nor the auction house thought the Ulysses manuscript would sell for very much. While the book had some degree of notoriety in the United States, it could not be legally printed or sold here at the time, so it was little known. Quinn had warned Joyce before the sale that the manuscript would not bring a very high price, but Joyce was nevertheless disappointed. It surely didn’t help that Quinn had sold his Joseph Conrad manuscripts a few months before for much more money—most of them to Dr. Rosenbach. In May of 1924 Rosenbach cabled Joyce directly, asking him if he wanted to sell the page proofs for Ulysses. Joyce wrote to Harriet Shaw Weaver that “When he [Rosenbach] receives a reply from me all the rosy brooks will have run dry” and appended this verse, which suggests that the Doctor’s cable must have misspelled the title of the book: “Rosy Brook he bought a book Though he didn’t know how to spell it. Such is the lure of literature To the lad who can buy it and sell it.” The limerick is unfair in several ways—Rosenbach was widely known for his exceptional knowledge of literature, but it is also apparent that he cared deeply about Ulysses. Ironically, Joyce had earlier inquired about buying the manuscript back from him, only to be told that Rosenbach’s interest in Ulysses was personal, not professional, and that he was unlikely to sell it, even back to its author. While the purchase of the Ulysses manuscript might appear to have been only one of Dr. Rosenbach’s canniest bargains, it better testifies to his desire to build a collection that would become a priceless cultural legacy to Philadelphia and the world.
Submitted by canary on Mon, 07/06/2009 - 3:59pm
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