On this day…14 January

On 14 January 1924 Dr ASW Rosenbach bought the manuscript of Ulysses.

The manuscript that Rosenbach bought had been commissioned by American lawyer and collector John Quinn. Joyce’s drafts of Ulysses were written in a large number of notebooks and in marginal notes added to typescripts and proofs as the book appeared in print in magazines and finally in book form. But when John Quinn asked Joyce in June 1919 if he wanted to dispose of the manuscript of Ulysses, what he had in mind was a single fair copy manuscript – literally, a hand-written copy of Ulysses.

Already, at the end of 1919, Joyce had given part of a manuscript of Ulysses to Edith Rockefeller McCormick. Once he retrieved it from her, he sent it on to Quinn in 1920 and received 3,400 francs for it. Joyce continued to send the manuscript to Quinn in installments from 1920 to 1921 and in total Quinn paid Joyce about $1,200 for it.

Quinn was well known in Irish literary circles as a friend of Lady Gregory and WB Yeats, and he subsidised artists and writers by buying their paintings and manuscripts. He was also the defending attorney when Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, editors of the Little Review, were prosecuted for publishing parts of Ulysses that were considered obscene. Joyce didn’t appreciate Quinn’s strategy at the trial and was unhappy with Quinn when the ban on Ulysses was introduced.

In 1923, Quinn, who was dying of cancer, decided to sell his collection. The auction took place at the Anderson Galleries in New York on 24 January 1924, and the manuscript was sold to Rosenbach for $1,975. Joyce, who felt he was being undervalued, refused to accept a share in the profits offered by Quinn. He asked Quinn to find out how much Rosenbach would sell the manuscript for, but Rosenbach refused to sell.

Armed with a letter of introduction from Quinn to Joyce, Rosenbach arrived in Europe in March 1924 looking to buy the proofs of Ulysses. Joyce refused to sell, but offered him instead the surviving pages of the Dublin edition of Dubliners. Rosenbach wasn’t interested. Though Joyce was peeved with Quinn because of the obscenity trial and the low price for his manuscript, he was genuinely shocked when Quinn died in July 1924 aged just 54.

The manuscript of Ulysses remained in Rosenbach’s private collection until his death in 1952 when it became part of the Rosenbach Museum and Library that opened in Philadelphia in 1954. The Museum is housed in the home of Rosenbach and his brother Philip, who died in 1953, and the collection consists of Rosenbach’s manuscripts and books collection and his brother’s fine art and furniture collection.

Incidentally, the Rosenbach manuscript is not entirely in Joyce’s hand. As Joyce acknowledges in a note on page 244, seventeen pages of the ‘Wandering Rocks’ episode were written out for him by Frank Budgen at Joyce’s dictation in January-February 1919 when Joyce was suffering eye problems.

Rosenbach Museum & Library Website




Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – New and Revised Edition, London: Faber & Faber, 1982.

Fargnoli, A Nicholas, and Michael Patrick Gillespie: Critical Companion to James Joyce – A Literary Reference to his Life and Work, New York: Checkmark Books, 2006.

James Joyce Ulysses – A Facsimile of the Manuscript, with a critical introduction by Harry Levin and a bibliographical preface by Clive Driver, London: Faber & Faber in association with the Philip H and ASW Rosenbach Foundation, Philadelphia, 1975.