James Joyce:
The Finnegans Wake Notebooks
at Buffalo
Vincent Deane, Daniel Ferrer, Geert Lernout, eds.
(Belgium, Brepols Publishers, 2001): VI.B.10; VI.B.29; VI.B.3;

(2002): VI.B.25;  VI.B.14; VI.B.6.
Yearly subscription price, $510. (6 volumes, approx. 1200 pp.)
Reader’s Guide to the Edition, $15. 16 pp. 

reviewed by Faith Steinberg
Click here for pdf file with
more information about the Notebooks

Click here for a Word doc
of the review below

     In this day and age of word processors when with a click of the delete key  “works in progress” are lost in cyberspace, we are fortunate to have the working notebooks, now referred to as the Buffalo Notebooks, for Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, arguably the greatest writer of the twentieth century.  What are the Buffalo Notebooks? 

            In 1922, when Joyce started writing Finnegans Wake, he was rarely without a notebook,  jotting down words and phrases that resonated with him, from books, newspapers, periodicals, overheard conversations and even, on occasion, conversations from his personal life. After Joyce’s death, the notebooks were in the possession of the Joyce family (Nora and Georgio); and in “the early fall of 1950, the bulk of the material [which included] Joyce’s library, manuscripts, notebooks, letters, press clippings, and personal possessions” was acquired by the Lockwood Library of the University of Buffalo.” (James Joyce’s  Scribbledehobble; The Ur-Book for Finnegans Wake, Thomas E. Connolly, ed., Northwestern Univ. Press, 1961, p. vii).

            The 48 notebooks plus some loose pages, which were numbered by the Buffalo cataloguer Peter Spielberg (the accurate and intensive research on dating did not take place until later), are being published chronologically (for the most part) by a distinguished group of scholars.  It should be mentioned  that the notebooks and drafts were previously published by the James Joyce Archives (hereafter JJA) (Garland, 1978, Michael Groden, ed.); but these publications had no transcriptions or annotations. 

The six notebooks which have been published, and future volumes, will be an invaluable resource for scholars and the serious amateur and are the beginning of a monumental and exhaustive undertaking including facsimile reproductions of the many notes and drafts which Joyce amassed during the 17 years in which he created the Wake.  (The Antwerp James Joyce Centre is setting up a website to accept suggestions and to answer queries).  Dates have been established through the letters Joyce wrote, his purchases of literary magazines and newspapers, first-hand eyewitnesses, enabling the researcher to unravel the intricate network of Joyce’s additive and revisionist style.

The complexity of the task at hand is daunting and the thoroughness of the editors is  prodigious.  They have generally favored publishing the earliest notebooks first so that we may see how the themes and characters in the Wake develop.  A Reader’s Guide to the Edition, (hereafter RG) and the densely packed Introductions to the volumes (varying from 10 to19 pages) are in themselves a great source of information, outlining the detailed research that has been accomplished and what we may expect in the future volumes.  The editors are sometimes unsuccessful in locating sources but given the enormity of the task, this is inevitable

Each volume contains the aforementioned Introduction; a Bibliographic Description specifying the size and condition of the notebook; and an Abstract of Draft Usage, indicating which color crayon was used in which of  Joyce’s drafts, for which chapter, sometimes as many as six drafts for one chapter. (As Joyce transferred a word or phrase from the notebook to the Wake he would cross it out with various colored crayons—orange, red, blue, green, brown, black.)  When he was unable to write himself due to his eye problems, he would use an amanuensis— his wife, Nora, his son Georgio, his daughter Lucia, his friend Paul Léon, and his longtime hired amanuensis, Mme France Raphael,  among others. 

The next section includes facsimile reproductions (reduced in size) of the actual notebook pages which comprise the bulk of the volumes.  Adjacent to these are transcriptions of Joyce’s illegible writing (when he was having eye problems); sources of the notes often with annotations; catalogue numbers where these notes can be found in the original drafts in the British Library collection (numbers starting with MS); an elaborate coding system, e.g., “ILA – Interlinear addition (includes addition between paragraphs)” where the word can be found on the page in the British Library drafts; where in the JJA; and finally where the note may be found in Finnegans Wake, if at all (many notes did not make it into the book).  As the editors indicate, “The sources are quoted extensively, so that readers will be able to assess for themselves how or why Joyce would have selected particular words and phrases, and enough of the draft context is given to allow readers to draw their own conclusions about the rationale of the insertions” (RG 3).  For example, VI.B.10, 058e refers to the phrase “by runner to Luxor.’”  We learn the source of this quotation—Irish Times 30 Nov. 1922-7/3—which relates to the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen.  Further, reference is made to which manuscript the phrase can be found in the British Library collection—both MS number and where on the page; indicates where in the JJA;  and finally shows on which page and line in the Wake it appears.  In the end Joyce uses only the words “by runner” (FW 30.17).

A handy feature that I appreciate is that when a notebook page has many entries and necessitates turning a page, the reproduction is repeated so that the reader does not have to turn back to see the reference (e.g., VI.B.29,.105-6).  . 

At the end of each volume there are extremely useful appendices—Table of Usage in FW, cross-referencing the page and line of the Unit (a word, or phrase having a discrete meaning) and the page and line in the particular volume at hand; A First-Draft Version Index; and another very useful register,  A Selective List of Sources and Topics listing the names, words, places and where they can be found in the Notebooks.  (It would be wonderful if at the end of the publication of say nine notebooks, these indexes could be collated into one index so that a researcher does not have to go to each volume to research one particular entry).  And the appendices finally offer high quality Colour reproductions of selected pages from the notebooks.

Generally, only the words, names or phrases that have been crossed out were used in the Wake, but browsing through the notes, we find there is so much of interest even in the words or phrases that have not been used, that we get a glimpse into the working of Joyce’s mind and his broad range of interests.

As is frequently pointed out, the final text is the essential element in the reading of FW, but sometimes the sources and the notebooks may give us a clue to its understanding.  As the editors note in the Reader’s Guide: “If  we are able to place a note within a sequence taken from a source, or locate it in a draft, the meaning frequently shines forth at once” (RG, p.4).

            Following are brief descriptions from the introductions and annotations of the individual volumes highlighting a few entries (among so many) that caught my attention.

VI.B.10. It has been assumed that this is a very early notebook by the absence of sigla and no mention of HCE.  There is some background from the newspapers Joyce read relating  to the political situation, the 1922 uprising,  the founding of  the Free State, the Civil War, and Anglo/Irish relations.. The vocabulary is rich in “fruity English idioms” (p. 8).  There are suggestions as to the origin of the name Earwicker and the incident in the park (p. 12) and notes relating to Ulysses (LB, SD, and Pen) which would be incorporated into the Wake, as were all of Joyce’s works.

The editors cite a letter from Joyce to Harriet Weaver (8 November 1922).  He writes: “That solitary detective is an interesting figure.  Is he what the English call a King Beaver, that is an Irish constabularyman with red whiskers, riding a red bicycle?” (pp.4-5).  This appears in VI.B.10. 001r in a slightly altered version as a green bicycle.   I would guess that this is the inspiration for the book “The Third Policeman “ by Flann O'Brien.

VI.B.29. The majority of notes in this volume are not in Joyce’s hand due to his eye problems. Joyce enlisted the help of those around him and there are four distinct handwritings which have been categorized as A B C D.  B is purportedly Lucia Joyce’s and C is Paul Leon’s; A and D have not been identified. 

Joyce worked with five volumes of the Encyclopedia Brittanica (11th edition) a volunteer reading aloud the names of capitals of Europe as Joyce puns on the names, often written in an illegible hand.  He uses reference books to establish the character of HCE as a city builder and seemingly turns randomly from city to city , e.g., Christiana (where Slotspark becomes Sluts’ Park), Bucharest, New York, Vienna.  From the Dublin Postal Directory of 1904 he inserts the names of 60 Lord Mayors of Dublin (p.4).  The sources of Scandinavian influences in Dublin are taken from an historical study linking HCE’s ancestry to Scandinavia and suggesting he is essentially a foreigner in Ireland (p.6).

VI.B.3.  This notebook was compiled around March 1923 at the same time the “Roderick O’Conor” episode (FW 380-82) was being written, and is considered to be among the first drafts of the Wake.

The influence of J.M. Flood’s Ireland: its Saints and Scholars  (Dublin:  Talbot Press, 1917) is found in the notes, but there are no direct quotations from this book.  Flood was a contemporary of Joyce; they exchanged letters and Flood even sent him some of his books (pp.5-6). It is from Flood’s work that Joyce collected information regarding St. Kevin which appears in this notebook in Nora’s writing (042-045).  The editors link these notes to FW 605.4-606.12, affording the reader an opportunity to experience how fully the notes are finally transformed.

The editors also point out that,  “The initial notes from this chapter [five of Flood’s Ireland]…also contain the seeds of the Prankquean (and later the Norwegian Captain’s) threefold journeys” (p.6.). Compare “I All I ablaze” (020b) to  “and fireland was ablaze,”  FW 21.16,17. 

VI .B.25.  This notebook is unique in its bad condition—many pages have disintegrated due to the poor quality of the paper (a stenographer’s note pad).  It has also been suggested that the pages were deliberately destroyed.   VI.B.25 is one of the early notebooks and what remains of it is all in Joyce’s own hand.  For the first time we see a few sigla:  /\c ∆, (168m) i.e., Shaun, Cain (Shem?) and ALP 

VI.B.14.  This notebook is in very good condition, very little lost to the ravages of time making it  the largest book in the series to date.

 The front flyleaf verso has a large HCE sigla in the middle of the page in the m position.  The handwriting throughout belongs to Joyce which indicates that it was an early notebook.  But most importantly, it is a notebook that Joyce carried with him while on vacation on the island of Saint-Malo in Brittany where he was recovering from eye surgery.  But Joyce was never on vacation as this notebook testifies.

Due to inclement weather Joyce spent his time in the local library in Saint-Malo and found material unavailable elsewhere, e.g., local books on the archaeologly of the area; references to local territories disappearing into the sea; and fantastical local lore of the ancient Gauls and Celtics  (p.4).  Joyce filled notebook VI.B.14 with these findings.  History and legend are intermingled in the lore, confirming Vico‘s theory that legend may have as much validity to a people as history.

There was an abundance of literature available on St. Patrick particularly from a book entitled Boulogne-sur-Mer: St. Patrick’s  Native Town by William C. Fleming.  There is one tidbit that I feel compelled to repeat; apparently Joyce felt it warranted an entry in the notebook although it does not show up in the Wake:  ”Some say that St. Patrick was of Jewish origin.  After Our Lord had died on the Cross for the sins of the human race, a Roman army, avenging His Passion had laid Judea waste, and the captive Jews were dispersed amongst the nations of the earth.  Some of their number settled down among the Armorican Britons, and it is stated that it was from them that St. Patrick traced his origin” (073k).  This amuses me no end because my mother was inclined to believe that almost everyone was Jewish, e.g., Columbus and Charlie Chaplin, but never, ever St. Patrick. Although many of the notebooks include the legends of St. Patrick, VI.B.14 has 50 pages dedicated to this saint (pp. 8-11).

Feminists will be happy to read that in Ireland at the time of St. Patrick women had the same rights of ownership of land as their husbands and that there were women lawyers and doctors (143f). 

Another Irish saint associated with Brittany is St. Columbanus, who had set foot in this territory for missionary work.  As the editor comments Joyce had a penchant for punishment (p.8). It is reported that Columbanus (circa 540-615) was indeed a task master:  “If he [a monk] has spoken unnecessarily in the refectory, struck the table with his knife or forgotten to bless his spoon, he will be lashed six times with the rod” (113m).  This does not appear in the Wake.  What does wangle its way into FW  (passim) is the controversy over the date of Easter in which St. Columbanus was involved and which created a rift between the Irish monasteries and the far-flung Christian communities (p. 8).

Another source of amusement is to read that the Bretons chauvinistically thought that their language was that of the Garden of Eden (p. 14). 

VI.B.6.  What distinguishes this notebook, according to the editor, is that the note taking is less random than the earlier notebooks.  Joyce starts to string together his narrative Work in Progress and the notes are more selective.  The sources for these notes refer to usage of the English language and graphology (pp. 5-6).  The title Les éléments de l’ écriture des canailles (The Features of the Handwriting of Scoundrels) by Jules Crépieus-Jamin (Paris: Flammarion, 1923) would have attracted Joyce’s attention.   Jamin states in his introduction what he means by a “canaille”—“an individual afflicted with defects, i.e., with glaring deficiencies or vices of character,” the beginnings of Joyce’s characterization of HCE.  For example, 049m reads:  “lives on loans/ & is 35” a quotation from the Handwriting and in fact shows up in FW 173.7 only slightly revised. (Undoubtedly Joyce himself identified with this characterization.)

            The editors also point out that in the few months between Dec.1923 and Feb.1924, (p. 4), Joyce had already conceived of the rivalries between the brothers (p. 7).  In  VI.B.6 the use of the sigla for the brothers is extensive.(108-114).

Among his notes on the Rosary taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia, dealing with the circular and floral nature of rosary beads, Joyce entered the note “daisy chains” (126e).  I doubt whether he found this phrase in the CE.

Although I have high praise for the Notebooks at Buffalo, I have a few minor quibbles. The nature of the work is very complex, requiring cross-referencing and many abbreviations which need getting used to.  Because of this complexity I would like to see the “Quick Reference Guide”(QRG) (a single loose sheet of heavy laminated paper printed on both sides) in every volume, perhaps printed on the inside of the front and back covers.  If the Reader’s Guide and QRG are lost, the researcher is at a loss, particularly a first-time user.

Sometimes abbreviations are unexpectedly thrown in where they are not expected, e.g., LB or SD; after a while you catch on that these initials refer to Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus.

The first time use of a person’s name in each book should have the full name and identity of the person..  For example in VI.B.10,  p.4, there is a reference to Spielberg. Who is Spielberg?  This information is finally found on p. 16, footnote 1—Peter Spielberg being the cataloguer of the manuscripts in the Buffalo University collection.  

I wish the editors had indicated the size of the notebooks in inches as well as metric measurements so metrically challenged Americans could get an idea of the size of a notebook.

    The volumes are very beautifully produced--the paper and reproductions are of the highest quality—and very beautifully expensive making the editions available only to the more affluent Joyceans and libraries that can afford such a publication.  However, I recommend that serious Joyceans avail themselves of the opportunity to study, or at the very least, peruse these beautiful and informative books.