On this day…13 December

On 13 December 1913 Joyce bought a book of Ibsen plays from FH Schimpff.

The book contained William Archer’s translations of A Doll’s House and Ghosts, and was volume vii of the Collected Works of Henrik Ibsen, published by Heinemann in 1912. Joyce bought this and numerous other books from the bookseller FH Schimpff in the Piazza della Borsa, Trieste.

Joyce had obviously been going to Schimpff’s bookshop for some time. In 1911, while still trying to organise the publication of Dubliners with Maunsel & Co. in Dublin, Joyce had asked George Roberts to send 50 copies of the book to Schimpff once published. And when Dubliners was finally published by Grant Richards, Joyce paid £10 on 22 June 1914 for 80 copies of the book which were to be sent to Schimpff.

We know about Joyce’s purchases from FH Schimpff thanks to the survival of a bill dated 23 May 1914 listing some 20 books that Joyce bought between 1 October 1913 and 9 May 1914. The total bill was 222.90 crowns, though Joyce had already paid for some of the books before the bill was issued.

The list of books on the bill gives some idea of the eclectic range of Joyce’s reading. Perhaps not surprisingly, there was a copy of the Egoist of 16 February 1914, which contained the second instalment of the serialisation of Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. In addition to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Ghosts, he also bought Peer Gynt, and two plays by GB Shaw: The Devil’s Disciple and Major Barbara.

Novels that appeared on Schimpff’s bill included Alfredo Oriani’s Gelosia, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, Ivan Turgenev’s Smoke, Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, and works by Gustav Flaubert, including La Tentation de saint Antoine. Books of musical interest included Daniel Chennevière’s Claude Debussy et son oeuvre, and Prosper Mérimée’s novel Carmen, on which the libretto of Bizet’s opera was based.

Joyce also bought a copy of Irish historian WEH Lecky’s History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne, and Joseph John Rickeby SJ’s Of God and His Creatures, a translation of the Summa Contra Gentiles of Saint Thomas Aquinas. There was also a copy of Henri Bergson’s L’Évolution créatrice, and German law professor Paul Eltzbacher’s Anarchism, translated by Steven Byington.

Joyce also bought some language books from Schimpff. One of these was the Berlitz Method for Teaching Modern Languages – English – First Book, but he also bought what seems to be a German-language English Grammar, listed on the bill as Schlüssel, Englische Grammatik, but perhaps Wilhelm Dunker and M. Bell’s Schlüssel zur englischen Gesprächs- und Wiederholungs-Grammatik. Another, listed as Sauer, Englische Grammatik, was perhaps Carl Marquard Sauer’s Italienische Konversations-Grammatik.


Sources & Further Reading:

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – new and revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

McCourt, John: The Years of Bloom – James Joyce in Trieste, 1904-1920, Dublin: Lilliput, 2000.

Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.