Giacomo Joyce

by James Joyce
Illustrated by Susan Weil
Published by incent Fitz Gerald and Co, New York, USA, 1989
Book dimensions: H 350 x W 250 x D 40mm
Box dimensions: H 370 x W 270 x D 55 mm
Sample board #65
Bound in 2022

About the book:

Giacomo Joyce was written by the Irish writer James Joyce in Trieste between 1911 and 1914. The original manuscript contains fifty fragments transcribed onto eight large sheets of sketching paper held within a blue school notebook. It was written in Joyce’s “best calligraphic hand”. Giacomo Joyce contains several passages that appear in his subsequent works including A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Exiles. Some passages were borrowed verbatim while others were reworked.

It was posthumously-published by Faber and Faber and is a free-form love poem that tracks the waxing and waning of James Joyce’s infatuation with one of his students in Trieste. “Giacomo” is the Italian form of the author’s forename, James. The text is “a mixture of several genres — part biography, part personal journal, part lyrical poetry… part prose narrative”.

This publication of Giacomo Joyce is one of fifty copies published in 1989, and is an interpretation by the artist Susan Weil. Throughout the text are scattered collages, papers and etchings that work together to create an interactive, multimedia experience for the reader. In this way, the reader physically engages with the work in a manner reflective of reading Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness literature. This is one of several limited edition artist books that she has produced with Vincent Fitz Gerald & Co. since 1985.

  • Further publication details about the binding:
    – Etchings and collage by Susan Weil-Edition: 50 copies signed by the artist
    – Letterpress Printing: WIld Carrot Letterpress
    – Type: Dante
    – Etchings: Marjorie Van Dyke and Vincent FitzGerald, The Printmaking Workshop
    – Calligraphy: Jelly Kelly
    – Collage: Zahra Partovi
    – Handmade Paper: Dieu Donné Papermill
    – Paper: Hannemuhle Copper
    – Special Paper: Paul Wong
    – Original Binding: Zahra Partovi assisted by Kristin Winkler, Vincent FitzGerald & Priscilla Spitler

About the binding:

  • A full leather case binding, bound on stubs sewn onto five tapes.
  • The pages of the book are all very thick folded sections, so were sewn to coloured paper stubs for binding.
  • The boards of the book are bound in grey goatskin that has been decorated with linear embroidery in a variety of colours.
  • Sections of the cover are pierced out and silver leather inlays stuck in place.
  • Other sections of the cover are cut out right through the board and the edges lined with thinly-pared coloured leathers.
  • There is a false-round spine on the book, made from wooden dowel with laminations of watercolour paper.
  • The spine is covered in cerise-coloured goatskin, that was sanded over a rough surface to give it texture, and the title of the book is embroidered onto the leather in grey thread.
  • The original deckled edges of the paper were retained.
  • The double-core endbands were made from grey and cerise coloured leather with added thread detail in the centres.
  • The endpapers and doublures were created by roller-ing acrylic paints in a variety of colours onto Zerkall paper to match the colours found within the text block.
  • Onto the endpapers and doublures is embroidered part of the text from within the book in the handwriting of the author, James Joyce.
  • The binding is housed in a cloth-covered clamshell box, lined with mottled pink felt.

Design Description:

The cover design of this binding was based on one of the mixed media illustrations within the text block, a silvery webbed design with sections pierced out, overlaying a pink sheet of paper behind. I was drawn to this image and it inspired the cover design with holes cut right through the boards, mimicking the multimedia experience of flicking through the text block.

As well as the cut-outs through the book boards, additionally I added silver leather inlays in some of the sections to mirror the silvery egg printed opposite the etching of James Joyce’s portrait at the end of the binding. The colours of the sewing threads, stubs, endpapers and covering leather were chosen to match the colours seen throughout the various illustrations in the text block.

I bought a 1989 version of Giacomo Joyce published by Faber and Faber, with an introduction by James Joyce’s biographer, Richard Ellman, including explanatory notes but also a facsimile of some of the original handwritten transcript. I decided to embroider some excerpts of this onto both the endpapers and the doublures, some bits of which are visible through the pierced holes in the book boards.

The front doublure shows the following:

Who? A pale face surrounded by heavy odorous furs. Her movements are shy and nervous. She uses quizzing-glasses.
Yes: a brief syllable. A brief laugh. A brief beat of the eyelids.”

The front endpaper:

Cobweb handwriting, traced long and fine with quiet disdain and resignation: a young person of quality.

I launch forth on an easy wave of tepid speech: Sweden-borg, the pseudo-Areopagite, Miguel de Molinos, Joachim Abbas. The wave is spent. Her classmate, re- twisting her twisted body, purrs in boneless Viennese Italian: Che coltura! The long eyelids beat and lift: a burning needleprick stings and quivers in the velvet iris.

High heels clack hollow on the resonant stone stairs. Wintry air in the castle, gibbeted coats of mail, rude iron sconces over the windings of the winding turret stairs. Tapping clacking heels, a high and hollow noise. There is one below would speak with your ladyship.”

The back endpaper:

Jan Pieters Sweelink. The quaint name of the old Dutch musician makes all beauty seem quaint and far. I hear his variations for the clavichord on an old air: Youth has an end. In the vague mist of old sounds a faint point of light appears: the speech of the soul is about to be heard. Youth has an end: the end is here. It will never be. You know that well. What then? Write it, damn you, write it! What else are you good for?

“Because otherwise I could not see you.”
Sliding-space-ages-foliage of stars-and waning heaven-stillness-and stillness deeper-stillness of annihilation-and her voice.

Non hunc sed Barabbam!

Unreadiness. A bare apartment. Torbid daylight. A long black piano: coffin of music. Poised on its edge a woman’s hat, red-flowered, and umbrella, furled. Her arms: a casque, gules, and blunt spear on a field, sable.”

And the back doublure:

Envoy: Love me, love my umbrella.”

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