On 22 November, judgment was handed down in a case brought against Macmillan and Danis Rose by the estate of James Joyce. Ulysses: A Reader's Edition, edited by Rose, was published by Macmillan in 1997. Joyce died in 1941, and under the Copyright Act 1956 any of his work that appeared while he was alive passed out of copyright on 1 January 1992. Three days later, Rose read a newspaper article entitled 'Now it is open season on James Joyce' and began work on a new edition of Ulysses. The first thing he did was type out the entire text of the 1922 first edition (this was a time-consuming business, 'precluding him from any other full-time job' for several months). He then downloaded another version of 1922 from the Internet and got his computer to compare the two: any discrepancies between them he checked and corrected, in this way establishing an immaculate copy of the first published edition. The next stage was to go through every available manuscript, typescript, corrected proof, published edition etc, and amalgmate all the variants, before eliminating every version but one. Finally, and most controversially, he put the text into his own 'house style', which involved altering the punctuation, splitting up compound words and checking the facts. For example: most editions include the phrase, 'its unplumbed profundity in the Sundam trench of the Pacific exceeding 8000 fathoms'. In the 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which Joyce owned, the Sunda Trench, in the Indian Ocean, sounded in 1906, was said to be 3828 fathoms deep. The Mariana (or Marianne) Trench, near Guam, was said in the same encyclopedia to be 5629 fathoms, but has since been measured to 6033. Rose therefore (I suppose there's some logic to it) changed the phrase in Ulysses to read: 'its unplumbed profundity in the Marianne Trench, exceeding 6000 fathoms' (the comma is one of many he inserted throughout the novel). If only he'd done all this seventy years earlier, when Joyce could have read it.
The Joyce estate is one of the fiercest in the business. Last year, the Irish Times told the story of David Fennessy, a 23-year-old Irish composer studying in Scotland who asked for permission to use 18 words from Finnegans Wake in a three-minute choral piece. Stephen Joyce refused. 'My wife and I don't like your music,' he said.
LRB 13 December 2001 | PDF Download