The Rosenbach Acquires Important Joyce Portrait
By Michael Stillman
The Rosenbach Museum and Library recently purchased an important drawing of James Joyce to add to its collection. The addition of the portrait is particularly significant to the Rosenbach Library, as it is there which rests a handwritten manuscript of Joyce's Ulysses. What's more, this drawing has a particular connection to the Ulysses manuscript.
In 1924, Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach purchased the Joyce manuscript. The expert bookman half of Philadelphia's Rosenbach brothers, "the Doctor" had a keen eye for important books. Ulysses had been an immediate success when published in 1922, but it was still less than two years old when Dr. Rosenbach made his purchase. The manuscript had been put out for auction by John Quinn, a New York attorney and collector of modern literature. According to Rosenbach, a 1960 biography of Dr. Rosenbach written by Edwin Wolf, the Doctor paid the then princely sum of $1,950 for the manuscript. It proved to be an incredible bargain. Ulysses has gone on to be recognized by many as the greatest English-language novel of the 20th century. Wolf tells us that Rosenbach briefly offered the manuscript for sale at $3,000, but quickly pulled it back again. He resisted any further importations, including one from Joyce himself, evidently distraught that Quinn had sold the manuscript. Joyce hoped to buy it back so he could give it to the French Library. Rosenbach held onto it for the rest of his life, and when he died 30 years later, the manuscript was donated to the Rosenbach Museum and Library.
The latest purchase by the Rosenbach is remarkable because of its tie to the Joyce manuscript. It is a drawing of the writer by Frank Budgen, a British artist who befriended him. Budgen had taken dictation from Joyce and wrote down much of the "Wandering Rocks" episode in Joyce's apartment in 1919, the author's eyes giving him too much trouble to write. It is believed that it was during this period in Joyce's apartment that Budgen made the sketch. It shows a contemplative Joyce, head resting against his hand. You can imagine the great writer is thinking of the next words of Ulysses to dictate to Budgen.
The Rosenbach recently held its annual June 16th "Bloomsday" celebration. It celebrates the day Ulysses' protagonist Leopold Bloom made his journey through Dublin. For those who missed this Philadelphia extravaganza, don't worry. Another one comes around in 11 1/2 months. Mark it down. Until then, you may visit the Rosenbach any day except Mondays and holidays. For those not conveniently located in Philadelphia, you can learn more about the Rosenbach Museum and Library and the collections it holds by visiting their website at www.rosenbach.org..