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The Morgan Receives Gift of Major Collection of Works by James Joyce

The Morgan Library & Museum announced today that is has received the gift of one of the foremost private collections of works by the iconic Irish author James Joyce (1882-1941). The collection was assembled by noted New York gallery owner Sean Kelly and his wife, Mary Kelly. Totaling almost 350 items, it includes many signed and inscribed first editions of Joyce’s publications, as well as important manuscripts and correspondence, photographs, posters, publishers’ promotional material, translations, and a comprehensive reference collection.

Among the many highlights are Joyce’s first stand-alone publication, the broadside The Holy Office (1904); four copies of the first edition of Ulysses (1922) on three different papers, one of which is inscribed; a fragment of the Ulysses manuscript; Joyce’s typed schematic outline of the novel; and photographs of Joyce by Man Ray and Berenice Abbott. Also of note are a selection of publishers’ prospectuses from England, America, and France, including one annotated by Sylvia Beach; one of the twenty-five published copies of Joyce’s poetry collection, Pomes Penyeach (1927), with decorations by his daughter, Lucia; an advance copy of Finnegans Wake (1939); and extremely rare first pressings of 78 RPM recordings of the author reading from Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.

James Joyce is considered by many to be the most influential writer of the twentieth century. The collection donated by Sean and Mary Kelly is comprehensive in all of Joyce’s works, but particularly strong in its emphasis on Ulysses, the author’s most acclaimed work and the quintessential text of literary modernism. Ulysses’s bold experimentalism has inspired generations of writers and artists in virtually every medium. Set in Dublin on a single day, June 16, 1904, the novel largely follows the meanderings of the principal character, Leopold Bloom. Ulysses’s fame is such that it has given rise to annual celebrations and readings on June 16, now known around the world as “Bloomsday.” Other major works by Joyce include Dubliners (1914), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), and Finnegans Wake.

British-born, Sean Kelly has been a central figure on the New York art scene since the 1990s. The list of artists he represents includes Marina Abramović, Los Carpinteros, James Casebere, Jose Dávila, Antony Gormley, Rebecca Horn, Callum Innes, Idris Kahn, Joseph Kosuth, Mariko Mori, and Kehinde Wiley. His eponymous gallery is located in the Hudson Yards neighborhood of Manhattan.

Mr. Kelly, whose birthday falls on “Bloomsday,” was drawn to Joyce’s works in his early teens when he first read Ulysses. This fostered a lifelong interest in Joyce, and the Kellys purchased their initial copy of the first edition of the novel in the mid-1990s. In the beginning, they acquired only Ulysses-related items, but soon moved onto Finnegans Wake, then Dubliners, in time realizing the collection had become one of the most extensive in private hands.

“It is difficult to summarize in a few words the importance of this extraordinary gift to the Morgan Library & Museum,” said museum director Colin B. Bailey. “It adds enormously to our small but distinguished Joyce collection, and instantly establishes the Morgan as a major center for scholarly research related to the author’s life and work. Moreover, it gives us the exciting opportunity to produce a catalogue devoted to the collection and to mount a public exhibition in 2022, the centennial of the publication of Ulysses. We are deeply honored and grateful that Sean and Mary Kelly have chosen to donate the collection to the Morgan.”

In making their gift to the Morgan the Kellys said, “Assembling this collection over the years has been one of our great passions in life. We wanted to ensure that it remains intact and accessible to a wide range of individuals, from Joyce scholars to those just discovering his work. We were delighted by the enthusiastic response from Colin Bailey and his curatorial colleagues to our initial inquiry about the collection coming to the Morgan. We are thrilled that the collection has found its natural home at the Morgan, one of the great museums of the world, and will reside there in perpetuity for future generations to enjoy.”

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