“THE FIRST PUBLISHED CRITICAL WORK ON FINNEGANS WAKE”: SYLVIA BEACH’S SHAKESPEARE AND COMPANY LITERARY ROUND-TABLE ON JOYCE’S WORK IN PROGRESS, WITH BECKETT’S FIRST WORK IN BOOK FORM
(JOYCE, James). Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress. By Samuel Beckett, Marcel Brion, Frank Budgen, Stuart Gilbert, Eugene Jolas, Victor Llona, Robert McAlmon, Thomas McGreevy, Elliot Paul, John Rodker, Robert Sage, William Carlos Williams. With Letters of Protest by G.V.L. Slingsby and Vladimir Dixon. Paris: Sylvia Beach, Shakespeare and Company, 1929. Octavo, original printed cream paper wrappers, uncut and unopened. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $2000.
First trade edition of Sylvia Beach’s third and last Joyce publication, a collection of essays on his yet-unpublished Finnegan’s Wake, with an essay by Samuel Beckett, his first publication in book form. An exceptional, fully intact copy of a notoriously fragile work.
This scarce collection of essays on Finnegans Wake (1939)— Joyce’s last novel— was issued by Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company in May 1929. As “the first published critical work on Finnegans Wake … Our Exagmination provided an immediate answer to friends and critics who believed that Joyce was wasting his time and talent in writing Finnegans Wake” (Fargnoli & Gillespie, 74, 168). As Beach recalled in her memoirs, “The title, of course, was Joyce’s; perhaps, too, the ‘Litter’at the end. The book was composed of 12 studies of Joyce’s new Work in Progress by 12 writers… who had been watching Work in Progress from the beginning, each seeing it from his own angle, but interested in Joyce’s experiment.” In addition to this volume’s “hostile and humorously illiterate” Letters of Protest are “quotations from Work in Progress as it had been appearing in transition… [and] a passage concerning Swift and blindness (109), which was not later incorporated in Finnegans Wake” (Slocum and Cahoon). Of these major essays by writers such as Stuart Gilbert and William Carlos Williams—“the best was by Samuel Beckett” (Ellman, 613). “Dante… Bruno. Vico.. Joyce” is the first appearance of Beckett’s work in book form. “Several of the 12 essays in the collection had been previously published in transition” (Fargnoli & Gillespie, 86). Also issued in an edition of 96 numbered copies printed on vergé d’Arches paper. Slocum & Cahoon B10. Federman & Fletcher 1. With “MADE IN GREAT BRITAIN” stamped on the lower margin of the title page.
Interior fresh and entirely uncut. With toning to spine and splitting to spine ends of notoriously fragile paper wrappers. An exceptional copy in fine condition.