Fingers to stray on Joyce's guitar again after its restoration


“STRINGS IN the earth and air / Make music sweet.” So begins the first poem in James Joyce’s collection, Chamber Music. The strings of Joyce’s own guitar are set to make music sweet again shortly, following a major restoration project.

The guitar has been in the museum at the Joyce Tower in Sandycove, Co Dublin, since 1966. It was donated to the museum by Joyce’s Zurich friend Paul Ruggiero, who had received it from him as a gift. The museum’s then curator, Vivien Igoe, recalls that before he handed it over, Ruggiero played on the guitar and sang for her a Greek love song that he and Joyce used to sing together.

The donation was accompanied by a written statement from Ruggiero testifying that Joyce did indeed play this instrument. It was one of a number of items given to the tower by Ruggiero, to whom Vivien Igoe was introduced by Zurich Joycean Fritz Senn. There is a famous photograph of Joyce playing the guitar in Zurich, taken by his friend Ottocaro Weiss, probably in 1915.

Since its arrival in the tower the guitar has been carefully preserved, but it has not been playable for many years. It is now being restored by English luthier Gary Southwell, using the facilities of the conservation department of the National Museum at Collins Barracks in Dublin.

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