James Joyce Manuscripts Online, Free Courtesy of The National Library of Ireland

Soon, the Nation­al Library of Ire­land will re-scan, re-orga­nize, and ful­ly con­tex­tu­al­ize its online col­lec­tion of James Joyce man­u­scripts. But the die-hard Joyce enthu­si­asts among us prob­a­bly found this out in April, when what the NLI calls “The Joyce Papers, c. 1903–1928″ first became avail­able. They would have had to do some click­ing to get there, though, since the col­lec­tion debuted and remains buried sev­er­al lay­ers deep in the site, enjoy­ing what the restau­rant indus­try calls a “soft open­ing,” before its more user-friend­ly “grand open­ing” in the near future. But when you’ve got the chance to read mil­lions of euros’ worth of writ­ing in Joyce’s own hand — drafts of Ulysses, proofs of Finnegans Wake, notes dat­ing back to his uni­ver­si­ty days — why daw­dle?

The col­lec­tion awaits a detailed guide, offer­ing at the moment only a list of man­u­scripts labeled 36,639/1 through 36,639/19. But you can get a sense of what’s in there from assis­tant keep­er Peter Ken­ny’s sum­ma­ry at the top of the page. Ter­ence Killeen in the Irish Times draws spe­cial atten­tion to doc­u­ment 36,639/2/A, a jour­nal or “com­mon­place book, which Joyce used for an unusu­al vari­ety of pur­pos­es: as an account book, as a repos­i­to­ry of var­i­ous pas­sages and poems from his read­ing that struck him (Ben Jon­son is a par­tic­u­lar favourite); read­ing lists; thoughts and reflec­tions on aes­thet­ics; remarks on friends (JF Byrne, for instance); and, even­tu­al­ly, notes for Dublin­ers and for the fig­ure of Stephen Dedalus as he emerged in the lat­er fic­tion (some of the notes even look for­ward to Ulysses).” As if that weren’t enough, he also rec­om­mends the next doc­u­ment down, a “sub­ject note­book” for Ulysses includ­ing “notes on the Irish,” “the Clerken­well bomb­ing of 1867, “the Celtic view of hell by a Ger­man pro­fes­sor,” and “the Jews and theos­o­phy.” And if actu­al­ly deci­pher­ing Joyce’s own hand proves too daunt­ing a task, well, you can always wait for the tran­scrip­tions.

Relat­ed con­tent:

James Joyce Reads ‘Anna Livia Plura­belle’ from Finnegans Wake

Pas­sages from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake: The Film

James Joyce’s Ulysses: Down­load the Free Audio Book

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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