11 May 2012
Letter to the Editor, 23 March ’12 [Published in Times Literary Supplement, 11 May 2012]
Sir, – The hypocrisy behind the attempt by a small collegial clique of Joycean scholars, and in particular your correspondent Hans Walter Gabler (‘The Cats of Copenhagen’, Letters, 9 March 2012), to damage, if not destroy, a small fledgling publishing enterprise is simply staggering. For well over a decade, these same people have been blackguarding—in public and more so in private—the Joyce Estate for its restrictive practices. Yet they now wish to institute another level of restriction and to grant to librarians a veto over the exploitation of materials under their care.
Apart from being morally, artistically and scholarly indefensible, Prof. Gabler’s proposal would be illegal. It is the function of librarians to facilitate, not to hinder, the use of their materials. This is why they get paid. Furthermore, in respect of works in the public domain, it is EU policy to encourage the publication of such works. To this end, and to enable commercial viability, EU copyright law grants to the publisher (not to the document owner) an ‘economic right’ for 25 years. Yet Gabler proposes that librarians of private and public domain documents should conspire with current and former copyright holders, on the one hand, and with scholars, on the other, to safeguard the elite’s hegemony over cultural heritage.
It is clear from the last sentence in Gabler’s letter that, were his proposals to be accepted, small publishers like Ithys Press would be refused permission to publish. The Zurich James Joyce Foundation has said as much to me: had I asked, they would have refused. Yet in recent interviews Fritz Senn has admitted that they themselves were considering its publication.
Gabler should look to his own history before throwing stones. His controversial edition of Ulysses (Garland, 1984), on which his career is largely based, would have been impossible were it not for an earlier publication, The James Joyce Archive (Garland, 1977-78). Harvard University, which owns the Ulysses placards, refused permission to Garland to access and photograph the proofs. Yet, by use of a stratagem, Garland procured a microfilm of the documents and published them. I do not hear Gabler, or Senn, or the rest of the clique berating the ‘irresponsibility’ of that ‘piracy’.
Finally, as a bibliographer, Gabler should know the difference between the genres of ordinary and of fine-press publication. By the exacting standards of the latter, and taking into account its hand-made specification, the transformative nature of the expression, and the costs of production, the Ithys Press first edition of The Cats of Copenhagen (a copy of which not one of its detractors has yet examined) is not over-priced. And it is normal for a cheaper, more popular edition to follow. As to the quality of Joyce’s text itself, The Cats of Copenhagen speaks to the self-interested disregard of an entrenched and comfortable bureaucracy (neatly exemplified in the present case by these same rallying academics).
ANASTASIA HERBERT, Ithys Press
6 February 2012
Ithys Press made the following statement to the Irish Times regarding the publication of The Cats of Copenhagen by James Joyce:
The unpublished works of James Joyce are now (since 1 January 2012) in the public domain. They have left the hand of a copyright owner claimed by some Joyceans to have used this copyright to prevent artistic and scholarly work that could not in any manner damage any genuine concerns of the James Joyce Estate, but rather enhance the reputation of the author and, indirectly perhaps, prove beneficial to the fiscal interests and responsibilities of the Estate, a trust bound by certain rules of activity.
The import of the above is that a publication such as that of The Cats of Copenhagen is legal and valid and any attempt to interfere with its free dissemination is both unlawful and morally reprehensible, particularly in view of the much lauded ‘free Joyce’ campaign as articulated in a recent special supplement put out by the Irish Times.
The attempt by Mr Fritz Senn of the Zurich Joyce Centre proprietarily to assert some right on this now public-domain document is preposterous. The said Centre has no rights in law in the copyright of the papers donated (given free) by Dr Jahnke. It is indeed the case that the Centre over recent years has employed people to prepare work for publication on other materials also donated by Dr Jahnke. How can this be viewed differently, or as a special case?
As there was no requirement for ‘permission’ for the publication of Cats from the Zurich Centre, on legal advice none was sought: to seek permission can be construed as prima facie evidence that permission is required.* As to informing the Centre, this would hardly have made sense, and could well have prevented the publication, not through any legal manoeuvre but by pre-empting it in some tawdry manner – a mere hasty transcription would have sufficed to frustrate the production of what is a masterpiece of the book-making arts, enabled solely because it can recover by public sale the large expenses put into its preparation, and the engagement by Ithys Press of craftsman perilously endangered from scarcity of work (in an artistic field on which Joyce himself placed great value).
The book was conceived not as a commercial venture but as a carefully crafted tribute to a rather different Joyce, the family man and grandfather who was a fine storyteller, much like his own father John Stanislaus. Such historical details are presented in the Preface. I should like to add that, although the donation of a copy was offered to the Zurich Centre it was not accepted, thus Mr Senn has not seen a copy of the volume to judge properly, neither, if I may respectful add, have you. Elements of the production may be viewed here: http://ithyspress.com/
Mr Senn’s statement that ‘it is only now that the abuse has come to light’ is defamatory in that no ‘abuse’ (some act that is not licit) has taken place. If Mr Senn’s feathers are ruffled, this is insufficient ground for his trumpeting of the term ‘abuse’, and only reveals precisely how uninterested he and others of like opinion are in forwarding freedom of publication and artistic interpretation now that the authority of the Estate has come to a close.
Anastasia Herbert, Ithys Press
* 8 Feb ’12: This very argument – that seeking permission implied a requirement for permission – was one of the arguments cited by Mr Justice T.C. Smyth in October 2000 granting an interlocutory injunction preventing Cork University Press from going ahead with publishing David Peirce’s Irish Writing in the Twentieth Century: A Reader. The cost implications of the injunction caused serious problems for the Press; primed to expand, it was instead forced to scale back and abandon several worthy projects. At the time, this outraged the Joyce community-at-large (excepting those among them who testified for the Estate).