Joyce's lost `Eumaeus' draft sells at auction for over £1.13m

 

The previously unknown "Eumaeus" notebook of James Joyce's Ulysses was sold for £861,250 sterling (£1.13 million) to a private buyer at Sotheby's auction house in London yesterday. Heavily annotated and densely worked with coloured inks, the 44-page notebook is the only known complete early draft of the "Eumaeus" episode.

The selling price was in the lower range of expectations. The estimate price was between £800,000 and £1.2 million sterling. A draft of the "Circe" episode of Ulysses was sold by Christie's for $1.4 million last year.

Bidding at the auction house was swift. One bidder on the floor of Sotheby's withdrew within a few minutes, leaving two telephone bidders to compete for the book.

Interest was intense, and Italian, Swedish, French and German Joyce enthusiasts were at Sotheby's to watch the sale. But it was all over a few seconds later as one of the bidders secured the notebook with the winning bid. In exile, Joyce sent several Ulysses manuscripts to friends, publishers and critics, many of which were lost. This is why the newly discovered "Eumaeus" draft has excited Joyce scholars.

"It's creativity in action," Mr Peter Selley, English Literature specialist at Sotheby's told The Irish Times. " `Eumaeus' is also very important because it says something important about his compositional processes.

"This has to be fully worked out by the scholars, but we know that when he was working on Finnegans Wake he would often draft many different versions of the same episode in one notebook. He doesn't normally do that in Ulysses, so this could be a unique example of that."

Also in the sale was a plaster-of-paris death mask of Joyce, which had been on deposit at the Rosenberg Museum in Philadelphia. The death mask, one of a small number made after Joyce's death in 1941, went for £41,650 sterling.