On this day…24 July

On 24 July 1928 five copies of ‘Continuation of Work in Progress by James Joyce’ were published in New York.

Joyce, who was still pursuing a case against Samuel Roth in America for breach of copyright, wanted to ensure that the same thing would not happen with Work in Progress (Finnegans Wake), and organised for the publication of parts of Work in Progress in America solely for copyright reasons.

The idea had been suggested by Elliot Paul, an associate editor of transition in which Work in Progress was appearing in serial form. In a letter to Ezra Pound in November 1927 Joyce outlined the plan whereby the text would be set up in three copies only. Two of these would be sent to the United States Copyright Office in Washington, and the other to Joyce himself.

The first publication, of Book I of Work in Progress (Finnegans Wake pp. 3-216), went awry when the New York publisher Donald Friede claimed copyright in his own name instead of Joyce’s. Joyce was immediately suspicious and wasn’t happy until he received Friede’s assignment of copyright to him in February.

After that Joyce hoped that each issue of the literary magazine transition containing parts of Work in Progress could be copyrighted at the Copyright Office before being published, but it seems unlikely this would have been legally sound. Instead, Joyce had his New York lawyers, Chadbourne, Stanchfield & Levy, deal with the copyright publications. They were already dealing with Joyce’s case against Samuel Roth and so seemed an obvious choice for dealing with the copyright in Work in Progress.

The first part of Work in Progress that Chadbourne, Stanchfield & Levy dealt with was published on 24 July 1928 in five copies, consisting of Finnegans Wake pp. 282-304, and 403-428. After this, they published three more parts of Work in Progress, in August 1928, February 1929, and January 1930. But bizarrely, in all of these ‘publications,’ the date, the name of the copyright holder, and the printer’s name did not appear. Effectively this rendered them useless for establishing Joyce’s copyright over the work in America.

Joyce later refused to pay part of the legal fees for this work, on the basis that his wishes had not been carried out.


Sources & Further Reading:

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

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. III, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.

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