Wanderings in the Irish market

A copy of WB Yeats’ The Wanderings of Oisin… offered in a recent Irish sale was an example of Fisher Unwin’s 1892 second issue. That is rare enough, but this copy bore an inscription that made it very special indeed.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Ian McKay

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It was inscribed by Yeats to “…My Friend Maud Gonne” and in a December 4 sale held in Dublin by Fonsie Mealy (20% buyer’s premium) it sold at a record €48,000 (£42,720).

One of fewer than 100 such copies bound from remaining sheets of the original Kegan Paul issue of 1889, its pages were uncut and partially unopened and the green paper boards with a parchment spine were a little soiled.

But this copy was a memento of a loving friendship that dominated Yeats’ early life and inspired much of his best poetry.

The couple first met just a few weeks after publication of the first issue, and though by 1892 Maud had already declined Yeats’ first proposal of marriage, they enjoyed a friendship that, as the saleroom noted, “…unsettled Yeats’ life for more than 20 years, but gave him a magnificent harvest in his poetry”.

They also observed that anything inscribed by Yeats to Maud Gonne is today of the greatest rarity, her Dublin home having been several times searched and its contents trashed by Free State forces during those troubled times. The auctioneer could trace only three other copies of this second issue: those in the British Library, in Cambridge and the National Library of Ireland.

Joyce in sight

Sold for €17,000 (£15,130) in the Dublin sale was a pair of spectacles owned by James Joyce – see caption story above – but this was only one of the lots that came from the collections of his friend, Thomas Pugh.

Bid to €13,000 (£11,570) was his uncut and unopened copy of The Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies of 1934, one of 29 copies on Japon of that well-known fragment of “a work in progress”, Ulysses.

It was signed by both Joyce and his troubled daughter, Lucia.

Also dating from that year was a three-page letter that Joyce sent to Pugh from the Grand Hotel Britannique in the Belgian town of Spa, where he was on holiday.

Asking Pugh to visit him when he is next in Paris and making a number of requests related to his writing work, it sold at €14,000 (£12,460).

Plan for Ulysses

Two other notable Joyce lots were part of an online sale held by Sotheby’s (25/20/12.9% buyer’s premium) that ended on December 10.

Bid to £38,000 was a carbon copy typescript schema, or plan for Ulysses that across four pages, glued together to form one oblong sheet, lists the 18 episodes of the novel under various headings, from Title, Scene and Hour to… Symbol, Technic and Correspondences.

It is one of three recorded pre-publication versions of perhaps seven or eight in all that were created for circulation among close associates in his literary circle in the years 1920-25 – the book itself being published in 1922.

Sold at £7500 in the London auction was ‘The Key to Ithaca’, or 7 Eccles Street, the Dublin home of Leopold and Molly Bloom.

Once part of a respectable Georgian terrace that Joyce knew as the home of his friend JF Byrne, the house was in later years more of a slum and in 1967, when literary scholar Dr Louis Munzer visited as part of a Joyce pilgrimage, he found it about to be demolished. Munzer’s protests got him nowhere, but the site foreman did give him the key to No 7.

The front door itself was also salvaged at the time and is now resident at Dublin’s James Joyce Centre.