Monday, May 11, 2009

Giacomo Joyce by James Joyce; Love me, love my umbrella.

On June 26, 1914, Italian novelist Italo Svevo wrote James Joyce a letter in response to the newly published Dubliners. asking, "When will you write an Italian work about our town? Why Not?" Joyce's Giacomo Joyce seems to be just that, a sixteen page manuscript written on both sides of eight large sheets of paper, written during his time in Italy. Similar in theme to much of his other work,
Giacomo Joyce is a hazy chronicle of erotic fascination between the narrator and a female student to whom he was teaching English in Trieste, Italy. While the pages of Giacomo Joyce were not dated, many signs (as detailed in Richard Ellmann's introduction) point to the summer of 1914 as the piece's date of completion.

Unpublished until January 1, 1968 by the Viking Press in New York, the manuscript of
Giacomo Joyce had been kept in a private library until it's anonymous owner graciously allowed the pages to be reprinted in facsimile for a one-time limited edition. The Viking press did a splendid job re-creating the mystery of a previously unknown Joyce publication. The book is housed in a dusty green slipcase bearing nothing more than a sticker featuring the book's title in Joyce's shaky script.

Richard Ellman's introduction actually fills the majority of the book's pages. The sixteen pages of
Giacomo Joyce are first presented in a text-facsimile, meaning the line breaks and spacing are reprinted as best they can typographically. Following the text, Joyce's handwritten pages are reprinted from the original manuscript.

These facsimile pages also include two fold-out full-scale pages reproductions, printed on both sides, just as it was originally written. All the white space just adds to the emotional weight of the various sections:

Unreadiness. A bare apartment. Torbid daylight. A long black
piano: coffin of music. Poised on its edge a woman's
hat, red flowered, and umbrella, furled. Her arms:
a casque, gules, and blunt spear on a field,

Envoy: Love me, love my umbrella.

Having seen the facsimile of Joyce's original Ulysses manuscript, it's fascinating to see the actual format of another work. In Ulysses, towards the end of the book he started to write upside-down on the backs of other pages. Leave it to Joyce to remind us all that there are some things that can't be represented in typeface.

I picked this up in a lovely bookshop called Bell's Book Store in Palo Alto. Keep an eye out for this in rare stores, or you could get it online. Last I checked it still lists for a modest price.


  1. Dear You,
    I'm in france, i'm traducting this text in French, where can i find this book with the entire fac-silimé.
    I can't find this book that you're talking about in the internet...
    Best regards
    Nunzio d'Annibale

  2. Hello Nunzio, wish I could help--if you were in New York I'd be happy to show you the book.

    I see there are copies on Type in Giacomo Joyce as the title, and sort by price-descending... you'll see there are a handful for sale for around $200.00. Hope this helps!

  3. Dear "Oxen of the Sun" -- I'm writing an article on Giacomo Joyce for the TLS, and would like to quote from your blog if I may -- how should I credit you? --Stephen Brown

  4. Dear Stephen, what exciting news--

    Feel free to email me at jeffreyralford [at] and we can discuss things further.