Publishers and Sinners

The misadventures of James Joyce's Ulysses at the hands of publishers and editors has recently been in the news. Many of the commentators seem to believe that what Joyce suffered was unusual, and that most contemporary authors are treated better. Listen to Thomas Marc Parrott (writing in 1934) on George Bernard Shaw:

Mr. Shaw, for instance, when he is ready to publish a play contracts for its appearance with a publisher, sends him a neatly typed manuscript, receives several sets of proof which he carefully corrects, and finally sees his work given to the world in a printed form as nearly accurate as human ingenuity and care can make it.

But Shaw is the exception. Some authors are partially to blame, because they engage in substantial rewriting of their books in proof. When they are supposed to be correcting printers' slips, they are in fact adding pages and even chapters to the work. Often, however, it is the publishers and their editorial staff who are at fault.

Since we possess Joyce's handwritten copy of Ulysses (the Rosenbach manuscript), and it has been published in a fine, legible photographic reproduction, you would think that establishing Joyce's text would be short and easy work. Unfortunately, Joyce rewrote most of the book while it was being typed for the printers and then again in proof, adding such famous passages as Molly Bloom's monologue...

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