About a month ago I posted about James Joyce's death date (Jan. 13, 1941) and its effect on copyright. Today we can celebrate his birth date: February 2, 1882. I think he's doing quite well for a man of 130! At his birth, Joyce's name was famously misrecorded as James Augusta Joyce, rather than James Augustine Joyce, an amusing slip that he incorporated into Ulysses, which makes mention of "the birth certificate of Leopold Paula Bloom." Tom Stoppard also took advantage of the naming goof in his play Travesties, in which the Joyce character parallels Aunt Augusta from Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. (Quick note to local Stoppard and/or Joyce fans-- Plays and Players will be producing Travesties in June)
Joyce's birthday is, not coincidentally, also a significant day for two of his best known works. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man began to be serialized in The Egoist on February 2, 1914, and Ulysses was first published in its entirety on Joyce's 40th birthday, which also had the advantage of being a catchy date: 2-2-22. For more about Joyce's feelings about his name and his birthday (and about an awesome cake which his daughter-in-law got for him) check out this page from the James Joyce Centre.
In honor of Joyce's and Ulysses's birthdays, I thought I'd highlight a new acquisition, which relates to our right to enjoy that book here in the United States. Last year we acquired a signed copy of the Woolsey decision in the 1933 case, United States vs. One Book Called Ulysses, which which overturned the 1921 obscenity ban on publishing or importing Ulysses.
John Woolsey. United States of America. Libellant v One Book Called "Ulysses" Random House Inc, Claimant. 1933
Here are the first and last pages, which conclude with Judge Woolsey's famous statement that "[W]hilst in many places the effect of 'Ulysses' on the reader undoubtedly is somewhat emetic, nowhere does it tend to be an aphrodisiac" and his decision "'Ulysses' may, therefore, be admitted into the United States."
Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog