More Printing Fun

by | Oct 27, 2006 | The Joys of Publishing, Writers

Related Categories: The Joys of Publishing | Writers
Posts by: Brian

Yes, the printer has still not resumed work on the book.  They sent me an email today to let me know that their machine was still down, and they now hope to get going again on Monday.

Throughout all of these printing woes, I have continually reminded myself of what poor James Joyce had to bear.

He was living in Paris while completing Ulysses, which was being published by Sylvia Beach, owner of an English-language bookshop called Shakespeare & Company.  Joyce’s book would have given fits to any English-speaking typesetter due to the number of made-up words and so on that it contains, so it’s hard to know if having a French printer made things worse or better.

I’ve already told you the story about the inkblot.  Another one that took some time to sort out was a bit of interior monologue in which a character, confronted with a yes-or-no question, experiences a highly-developed bout of cognitive dissonance.  He answers:

Nes.  Yo.

Joyce also drove the printers (and Sylvia Beach, who was footing the bill) crazy by continually requesting changes to chapters after they had already been set.  Eventually Beach put her foot down, but after submitting a certain chapter, Joyce couldn’t stop tinkering with it.  I can empathize.  But he grit his teeth, and didn’t request a change.  Fortunately, in this instance, the printer was French, and no matter how he tried to set it up, he was left with just two or three orphaned lines on the last page.  Sacre bleu!  It looked terrible.  He had no choice.  His honor was at stake, and so he made his way to Monsieur Joyce’s apartment, and, hat in hand, explained the contretemps.  Joyce gratefully handed him another ten lines.

Ulysses has a very checkered publishing history.  Many of the copies from the 1922 and 1923 Egoist Press editions were confiscated by customs officials.  After the courts decided it wasn’t, primarily, a dirty book after all, Random House came out with a nice edition in ’34, and reset it in ’61, which is the edition that I cut my teeth on.  Many of the original errors had never been fixed however, but in or about 1977 an ‘international team of scholars’ sharpened their pencils and, over the course of seven years, made something like 5000 corrections.  That’s about seven per page, and some of them are huge.

I’m reasonably certain that there will be fewer than seven errors per page of The Great American Desert, and the other good thing is that the ones that do crop up will be easier to fix, in this digital age, than they were in Joyce’s time.  I would be really nice, though, to finally have a copy in my hands, so I can start looking for them.