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Posted by on Jan 29, 2010

The Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia and Joyce’s Ulysses

File this one under “How did I not know this was within striking distance of my home?”

I stand in amazement at the number of small, medium, and large museums and archives that dot the East Coast of the United States. They are everywhere and have absolute treasure troves for those who love all things original, ancient, or primary (source).

I will add another to my list. The name of the museum is the Rosenbach Museum and Library. It can be found at 2008 Delancey Street in the center of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It houses a number of wonderful individual collections with materials ranging from (text from the museum’s site):

  • Bram Stoker: notes and outlines for Dracula
  • George Washington: more than one hundred personal letters;
  • Lewis Carroll: more than 600 letters, his rarest photographs, books, and more;
  • William Blake: original drawings and books;
  • Cervantes: an extremely rare copy of the first edition of Don Quixote and documents in Cervantes’s hand;
  • Phillis Wheatley: first editions of the first book published by an African American;
  • Thomas Jefferson: an inventory of his slaves;
  • Charles Dickens: the largest surviving portions of the manuscripts for Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby;
  • Joseph Conrad: manuscripts for two-thirds of his literary works, including Lord Jim, Nostromo, and The Secret Agent;
  • Dylan Thomas: the manuscript and typescript for Under Milk Wood
  • Marianne Moore: manuscripts and letters. Her living room from her Greenwich Village apartment is recreated in its entirety in the museum.

However, the real reason I am intrigued (if I were talking to you face to face, I would say intrigued as all get out) is the autographed manuscript they have of James Joyce’s Ulysses from 1920 (predating the publication of the book by a few years). If you can, please be sure to check it out online at their collections page for Ulysses, but I provided a rudimentary screenshot below.

"Aeolus,” the seventh episode of Ulysses, takes place in the offices of a Dublin newspaper. Taken from the Rosenbach Museum at http://www.rosenbach.org/learn/collections/james-joyces-ulysses.

They have supplementary materials for the Ulysses collection that contextualize the manuscript a bit. This seems appropriate as Ulysses was so incredibly situated in time and space, so rooted on that day (June 16, 1904) and in that city (Dublin). This was intentional on Joyce’s part, judging by this now legendary quote:

“I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book.”

That is just about right. The beginning (sort of) and end locations of the story, the home of Leopold and Molly Bloom, takes place at 7 Eccles Street. Unfortunately, this particular location no longer exists, but not to worry as the Rosenbach Museum has thought of that.

In 1950, Harvard archaeology professor Phil Phillips captured one of the only known photographs of 7 Eccles St., Dublin—the Blooms’ fictional home—as an inhabited house. Taken from the Rosenbach Museum at http://www.rosenbach.org/learn/collections/james-joyces-ulysses.

Brilliant. There are plenty of other materials to keep you entertained in the Rosenbach Museum so be sure to give them your patronage if passing through the Philadelphia area. Or show them some social media love by following their Twitter or Facebook channels, or even read their blog.  Or even all three.

Either way, get thee to a copy of Ulysses and the Rosenbach Museum and savor the following quote.

“I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.” -James Joyce

Or perhaps savor that my name (like a dime a dozen in Ireland) is found in the book in the scene where Stephen Daedalus is perusing through Leopold’s Bloom stacks of (decidedly normal, somewhat respectable) books and starts cataloging them in his head. He encounters this one and reads the inscription (taken from Google Books):

“Short but yet Plain Elements of Geometry written in French by F. Ignat. Pardies and rendered into English by John Harris…Having ink calligraphed statement on the flyleaf certifying that the book was the property of Michael Gallagher, dated this 10th day of May 1822 and requefting the perfon who should find it, if the book should be loft or gone aftray, to reftore it to Michael Gallagher, carpenter, Dufery Gate, Ennifcorthym county Wicklow, the fineft place in the world.”

So there it is. County Wicklow in Ireland must be the finest place in the world as I said close to 200 years ago. Wondering about the odd-looking f’s in that paragraph? Those were the old type-set s’s. You can see when the typeset was corrected using the Data for Research service. Just do a search for it.

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