On this day…5 September

On 5 September 1912 Joyce made plans to publish Dubliners himself.

In the on-going saga with Maunsel and Company over the publication of Dubliners, Joyce decided to set up his own publishing company and bring out the book himself using the sheets that had already been printed.

At the time, the law was such that if a work was found to be libellous or obscene, both the publisher and the printer would be liable for prosecution. By the summer of 1912, George Roberts of Maunsel and Company was refusing to publish the book because he feared just such prosecution, and so Joyce hatched a plan to establish his own publishing company instead.

Roberts agreed to sell Joyce the sheets that had been printed in July 1910 by John Falconer. Joyce would pay £15 for the first 104 copies and another £15 for the other 896 copies within 30 days. Roberts also wanted Joyce to sign a document absolving Maunsel and Company of all responsibility so that Maunsel would avoid any possibility of prosecution.

Joyce found two rooms for rent at 2 Jervis Street for 5 shillings a week and he planned to use the rooms as the offices of his publishing company. The company was to be called the Jervis Press, but Roberts objected to that name as Maunsel and Company had a place on Jervis Lane and people might confuse the Jervis Press with them. So Joyce settled instead on the name Liffey Press. He had already engaged a binder to cut and bind the sheets, and he’d selected the typeface and cover he wanted.

Since Maunsel couldn’t be seen to have any connection with Liffey Press, there would have to be a certain amount of subterfuge involved. The printed sheets were to be taken from Maunsel to the Liffey Press’ offices on Jervis Street by a mysterious unknown courier, and another mysterious unknown courier would then bring them to the binder. In this way, they hoped, the origin of the printed sheets would be obscured and Joyce would be able to claim he was both publisher and printer. As Joyce’s brother Charles wrote at the time: “There must be some terrible danger attached to the publication of Dubliners” to justify all this cloak-and-dagger activity.

In the end, Joyce’s plan to establish his own publishing company came to nothing. The printer refused to allow the sheets out of his hands under any circumstances, and the sheets were destroyed later in the month.


Sources & Further Reading:

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

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