James Joyce's wartime passport could find its way to $112,400 at Sotheby's



2015-06-26 12:27:50

James Joyce's wartime passport could find its way to $112,400 at Sotheby's

The document roughly spans the period he was working on his masterpiece Ulysses

Regular readers will be aware that the headline piece in Sotheby's upcoming English Literature, History, Children's Books and Illustrations auction will be the only major remaining Jane Austen handwritten manuscript in private hands.

This is a version of her novel The Watsons. The work, unpublished during her lifetime and incomplete, provides a fascinating insight into both her writing practices and her development into one of Britain's greatest authors.

It offers the reader an unparalleled glimpse into the very act of creation, with all the hesitations and explorations of the author's mind laid bare. It is expected to sell for 200,000-300,000 (up to $485,000).

However, the sale includes some other fascinating highlights. One of the standout pieces is surely James Joyce's wartime passport.

This consists of one double-sided sheet on white and pink paper folded to form 10 panels, printed and manuscript, originally valid for two years, but subsequently renewed for three (out of a maximum four) periods, on 20 September 1917 (Zurich), 20 October 1919 (Trieste) and 23 February 1922 (Paris).

A highly evocative and personal Joyce document, recording the author's movements during the period of his greatest creative intensity, this almost perfectly spans the complete writing of his great masterpiece Ulysses.

That work dates from its first mention on 6 December 1916 to its final completion on 29 October 1921.

James Joyce wartime record James Joyce wartime record

Joyce had had to flee Trieste after May 1915 when Italy entered the war against Austria, leading to the strong possibility that he might be interned. The family arrived in Zurich on 30 June.

Joyce swiftly applied to the British Consulate in Zurich for an official passport to safeguard the whole family. Thus it was that, on 10 August 1915, the Consulate issued Joyce with this wartime passport.

An immediately striking feature is Nora's status as Joyce's wife: this was a fiction, since the couple had eloped from Ireland in 1904 and was not actually legally married until 4 July 1931 (for "testamentary reasons", at Kensington registry office in London).

The passport may well be the earliest legal document in which Nora Barnacle is declared as Joyce's wife, and would therefore have been relied upon by Joyce to allow him and his family residence in Zurich and elsewhere and movement between Switzerland, Italy and Paris.

The fascinating item is expected to sell for 50,000-70,000 (up to $112,400) in Sotheby's sale which takes place in London on July 14.

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