The New Edition of Finnegans Wake

The Editorial Methodology

A Very Brief Overview

To form a clearer idea of the rationale and methodology that underpins the new edition, we will consider two examples from the first page: (1) to illustrate the basic rules followed by the editors we discuss in detail the genesis of the novel’s famous opening paragraph/sentence; and (2) to illustrate the operation of what is called editorial judgement (otherwise, common sense) we explain the editorial emendation made in the phrase “since devlins first loved livvy” that occurs in that exact form for the first time in the new edition.

All other sentences and phrases in the book (although the details are sometimes far more complex) have been treated in much the same way, and the complete genetic record – only microscopically illustrated here – forms what we term the isotext: an electronic hypertext databank specifying, differentiating and layering all authorial/non-authorial (scribal), documented/undocumented, valid, suspect or corrupting textual operations. This scholarly material forms as it were the root system from which sprang the fully leafed tree that is the final text. It will be made generally available by us as soon as circumstances permit.

(1)   The opening sentence – the incipit – appears as a part of a stretch of text that we have coded as Book I, Chapter 1, Section 1, Subsection A, or more simply I.1§1A. Begun in 1926, this segment went through ten major draft stages and was only completed in late November 1938. The history of its genesis follows:

Draft *0:   The earliest extant proto-document (I.1§1A.*0) is conserved as British Library MS 47482a, folios 83-94, James Joyce Archive (hereinafter JJA) 44:003-21. It shows us that the opening paragraph began not with the now famous “riverrun”, but with an acronym of the male element (H.C.E.) concealed within a localisation, a (capitalized) place-name: “Howth, Castle & Environs”. This element appears earlier in Joyce’s notebook N.25 (VI.B.15), page 33, where it appears in that precise form and not as “Howth Castle and Environs”. Joyce, it seems, wanted to avoid the distancing effect of the word “and” in this context. Indeed, he writes it again in this ampersand (“&”) form, but without the comma after “Howth”, in drafts 1* and 2*, and does not thereafter seek to alter it. The ampersand thus appears in four exemplars. Its transformation to “and” occurs only in the matrix (that is, in typed or typeset form, denoted mx in the footnotes) of level 6, where the printer in setting the galleys changed “&” to “and” for no apparent reason.

From the same fascinating proto-document *0 we learn that the now two opening paragraphs were drafted as a single paragraph; that the first line was initially limited to the place-name; that it began flush left, and was not as yet indented in any way. In revising this inter-textually (that is, on the same manuscript page) Joyce added the new opening, strongly indented, of “brings us to”. The opening sentence thus reads, in this new version:

^brings us to^

Howth, Castle & Environs!

The ellipsis (“…”) indicates the run-on text (in this case “Sir Tristram …”).

Draft *1:  In the first copying-out of the proto-version (level 1A.*0+ relates solely to a later fragment) this version of the text (with the comma after “Howth” dropped) is copied by Joyce to read:

Howth Castle & Environs!

Joyce, in copying out the earlier version, neglected to include the short introduced segment “brings us to”. He does however remember it and introduces it afresh, in the margin, as new auxesis or overlay (MS 47471a-2, JJA 44:045). In doing this, he transforms it to read “brings us back to”. The paragraph is also indented in this version.

These operations code into the evolving isotext as:

^brings us |1back1| to^

Howth Castle & Environs!

Draft *2:   At this point the proto-textual (early version) history of the first sentence is complete, and we begin again, afresh, with the reading of the fair copy (MS 47472-4ff; JJA 44:105ff.), a clean ink copy dated by Joyce 29 November 1926. The first inscription of the fair copy reads (again deeply indented):

brings us back to

Howth Castle & Environs.

We see here that the exclamation mark has been dropped by Joyce (see note 4) and that the ampersand in Joyce’s handwriting is again in place. On this page the author makes one inter-textual addition to the opening sentence, which he then revises: he adds the noun “river” and then changes it to read “riverrun”. We code this as:

|2^[river] riverrun^2| brings us back to

Howth Castle & Environs.

Note that the proto-text and isotext are not interfaced. The reason for this is that far too many small changes and relocations, hits and misses, appear in the very early versions before the text has yet settled into a stable fair copy. In our fair copy, the element beginning “Howth” is written flush left. Joyce clearly wants to maintain the irregular deep indentation of the incipit.

Draft 3:  The next stage in the text’s genesis is its form (level 3) as it appears in the first typescript (see JJA 44:145ff) signed by Joyce and dated 16 December 1926 (the date of the final revision of the fair-copy manuscript). This typed text reads and is spaced exactly as Joyce intended, with one error: the word “riverrun” is mistyped as “river run”. This error is corrected on the typescript.

Level 3+ (MS 47472, folios 45r and following; JJA 40:174ff.) is a duplicate (carbon) of the draft 3 typescript with the corrections taken over from it and copied in by an amanuensis and also with further authorial overlay. The opening sentence in this document reveals a (mistaken) scribal ‘correction’ of the initial letter (“r”) to uppercase – “Riverrun” – and (as indicated in 3) a correction of the typed “river run” to “riverrun”.

Draft 4:   Level 4 (MS 47472-74, folios 74ff; JJA 44:204ff.) is the revised set of galley proofs for transition magazine, dated by the printer 25 February 1927. Here the initial lower-case “r” reappears and, so far, the ampersand remains in situ. The sentence is deeply indented. There are no revisions.

Draft 5:   Level 5 (MS 47475, folios 1-13; JJA 44:231ff.) comprises pages of transition 1 (published April 1927) that were revised for the printer of Finnegans Wake in the early 1930s. The opening sentence is again unchanged.

Level 5+ (MS 47475-92ff.; JJA 44:253ff.), a duplicate of the above with fresh additions (sent to the printer of Finnegans Wake in 1936), evidences two major additions to the text: the insertion of  “past Eve and Adam’s” to follow “riverrun”  and the insertion of “by commodious recirculation” to follow “us”. The latter is further intertextually rewritten as “by a commodious vicus of recirculation”, thereby indicating the intended spelling of “commodious” twice. This event is embedded in the (amplifying) isotext as:

|2^[river] riverrun^2| |5«+past Eve and Adam’s+»5|

brings us 5«+by «^a^» commodious «^vicus of^» recirculation+»5 back to

Howth Castle & Environs.

The brackets “«    »” indicate that the additions are in a scribal (non-authorial) hand.

Draft 6:   Level 6 is the first set of galley proofs (MS 47476a/b, folios 1ff; JJA 49:005ff.), dated by the printer 12 March 1937 (the revised version of these proofs were received by Harriet Shaw Weaver on 25 February 1938: see Letters, I, 14 July and 6 August 1937, and Letters, III, 18 December 1937). This level introduces our very first errors. The first of these affects the spacing prior to the appearance of the very first word. Here at level 6 the sentence is indented exactly as if it was a regular paragraph. The setting also introduces three further errors, two subsequently uncorrected: the misspelling of “commodious” as “commodius”; the unwarranted ‘correction’ by the printer of the ampersand “&” to the word “and”; and (subsequently corrected) the appearance of a comma rather than a full stop to follow “Environs”. The original run-on form of the first two sentences remains.

Draft 7:  Level 7, the second (duplicate) set of galley proofs (MS 47476a, folios 133ff., JJA 49:290ff.), dated as the first set but received by Miss Weaver on 16 May 1938), reveals no alteration to the state of the initial sentence.

Draft 8:   Level 8 comprises the third (duplicate) set of galleys (MS 47476b, folios 277ff; JJA 50:005ff). It was sent to Faber & Faber on c. 18 May 1938. These also show no change and no correction to the sentence.

Draft 9:   Level 9, dated 7 July 1938, comprises the first set of page proofs (not reproduced in the Archive but presently located at the University of Tulsa). There were several additions made at this stage: a comma was introduced after “riverrun”; a comma and the phrase “by swerve of shore to bend of bay,” were added after “Adam’s”; and the comma after “Environs” was corrected to a full stop. Also, the newly introduced word “by” is revised intertextually to “from”.

One further revision was made at Level 9+ (the second set of page proofs, dated 20 November 1938): the splitting of the first paragraph after the word “Environs.” into two paragraphs, which we code “/9+/”.

Draft 10: Level 10 represents the “Buffalo corrections”, so called because they were made on an unbound copy of the first edition now housed at the University of Buffalo. These were carried out by Joyce and his friend Paul Léon in the summer of 1940. No changes were made to the opening sentence at this stage.

Our final isotextual form for this sentence, in which, in coded form, is contained all of the relevant information (extended by windowed hyperlink) is as follows:

|2^[river] riverrun°|9,9|^2| |5«+past Eve and Adam’s|9,9|+»5

|9|^[by] from^ swerve of shore to bend of bay,9| brings us 5«+by «^a^»

commodious° «^vicus of^» recirculation+»5 back to

Howth Castle &° Environs.° /9+/

Some of the textual transformations are coded by us by way of windowed footnote (flagged in the text by a superscripted circle). The flagged words are hyperlinked and open to read:

•   riverrun ] 2, 3, mx 4; river run mx 3; Riverrun s 3+

•*  commodious ] s 5+; commodius mx 6

•*  & ] 2; and mx 6

•   Environs. ] 2, 9; ~, mx 6

The asterisk indicates a change to the final reading text.

In order electronically to generate from this master text the final clear-reading text form, all that is required is the automatic deletion of all editorial superscripts and other codes, along with all superseded readings and brackets. This gives us the sentence in the critically established clear-reading form:

riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore

to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious vicus of  recirculation back to

Howth Castle & Environs.


(2)  The genesis of the phrase “since devlins first loved livvy” is as follows:

Draft *0: The first occurrence appears in this draft as:

… since the Devlin first loved <liffey> livy.

The pointed brackets indicate that “liffey” was crossed out in the act of inscription and replaced by “livy”. An intertextual revision of “the Devlin” to “Devlins” was then made, yielding:

… since ^[the Devlin] Devlins^ first loved <liffey> livy.

Draft *1 and Draft *2: The fair copy reads simply:

… since Devlins first loved livy.

The phrase remained unaltered until the galley proofs.

Draft 6: The compositor introduced an error by joining up the words “Devlins” and “first” to read “… since Devlinsfirst loved livy.”

Draft 9: On the page proofs Joyce changed the capital “D” of “Devlinsfirst” into lower case “d” and he also revised the word “livy” to read “livvy”.

The final isotextual form reads:

… since |9[Devlins] devlins9| first° loved |9[livy] livvy9|.

The superscript “o” links to a footnote:

•** devlins first ] e; Devlins first 2; Dev-⁄linsfirst mx 6; dev-⁄linsfirst 9

The double asterisk and the level reference “e” indicates that the emendation yields a reading that is editorial. The precise form “… since devlins first loved livvy” occurs nowhere in the manuscript record, although all its parts do: the lower case “d” and the separation of the two words are Joyce’s; only the unauthorised joining-up of the words by the compositor is rejected.

Thus the new edition reads:

… since devlins first loved livvy.

Some scholars would insist on retaining the 1939 edition’s

… since devlinsfirst loved livvy.

on the grounds that Joyce might be considered to have “passively” accepted the joined-up words when he neglected to correct the error at the time he changed the case of the “D”. We do not take that view. On the proof in question, for example, the word is spread over two lines – “Dev-” at the end of one, and “linsfirst” at the beginning of the next –  making it less likely that Joyce (who was revising, not correcting, the proof) would have noticed the absence of a space.

The reader will appreciate from the above samples that the text presented in the new edition, here and elsewhere, is one that is shaped and logically determined by the facts of the manuscript record; no available fact has been neglected by us and inference is directed and constrained by the surrounding genetic context.

The full hypertext – with its copious detail, cross-connectivity and complexity – will be made available as soon as feasible. The exegetic power of this databank is evident. This power is raised when one adds in – as we have done – the many thousands of notebook references with, inter alia and where known, quotation of the immediate context of the original source texts from which Joyce, the self-admitted arch plagiarist, copied out, in a slow assimilative, highly creative process of digestion with all its distorting and deepening effects, the words and phrases that comprise Finnegans Wake.