When first asked what the title of my preface was going to be, I immediately thought “In the Company of Strangers” – speaking a bit tongue-in-cheek, playing off the title of the exhibit, but there was a serious side to that title as well.  When I started working with the University of Tulsa in 1987, many of the individuals discussed in this catalog were strangers to me.  I had heard their names and knew of their work, but they had not become a part of my daily life as they have now.  They were, to all intents and purposes, strangers.  And I was completely unaware of how quickly and dramatically that all would change. 

It was the day before the University was scheduled to close down for the Christmas holiday in December 1987, and I had been working at the University for just over two months.  Sid Huttner, the former curator, had already left and I decided to send the rest of the staff home as well to get an early start on their holiday.  thus I was alone when the call came in from the U. S. customs Agency wanting to know if the Department of Special collections had recently accepted a large shipment from England. Yes, we had!  Just days before the first installment of the Richard Ellmann papers had arrived in twenty-two large shipping cartons.  I was then informed the shipment had not cleared Customs and by accepting the shipment I was in violation of Federal law.  I could be arrested – and jailed.  While I didn’t want to spend my holiday in jail, I suspected Ellmann’s papers might be worth that sacrifice.  I’m thankful I didn’t have to spend my Christmas in jail that year, and I wasn’t wrong about the papers.  Having Richard Ellmann’s research notes, his correspondence, and his library here at the University of Tulsa and available for students and scholars alike has been well worth the initial terror of that phone call so long ago.

By the time of the above incident, The University of Tulsa’s commitment to James Joyce studies was well into its 25th year.  One result of that commitment has been the development of one of the world’s premier James Joyce collections, housed within McFarlin Library’s Department of Special Collections.  To be accurate, the Joyce collection should be described as a collection of collections; an assemblage of the libraries, papers and single items from individuals, known and unknown, who influenced Joyce, his writing and its reception in the world, and who in turn were influenced by him.  Included within this assemblage are key figures such as Harriet Shaw Weaver, whose Joyce collection was acquired in 1977, the same year the University acquired the unnumbered press copy of the 1922 Shakespeare and Company Ulysses, inscribed to Joyce’s Aunt Josephine and warmly signed “Jim”.  Another key figure is Edmund Wilson, whose library of approximately 10,000 volumes was acquired in 1976, the same year that the 8,000-volume library and personal papers of Cyril Connolly were acquired.  In 1984 the University was very fortunate to be able to acquire the Paul and Lucie Leon Collection, which includes the annotated final page proofs of Finnegans Wake among its other treasures.   In 1985 the University acquired at auction the Beach-Gilvarry manuscript of Joyce’s Chamber Music poems.  This autograph manuscript of thirty-three of the thirty-six poems published in 1907 is the earliest known set of manuscripts for the suite.  In 1986 the papers of Rebecca West, along with several hundred books from her library, were acquired.  And then in 1987, the papers and library of Richard Ellmann were acquired. 

Acquisitions continued apace, single items, small groups of books or materials, and then in June 2002, it was a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment that I coordinated the acquisition of the broadside, Gas From a Burner.  While the broadside is not the most important work in the Joyce canon, or our most spectacular acquisition, it was an item that had eluded our grasp over the years, for a variety of reasons.  To finally add a copy to the collection came with great satisfaction.  And I was pleased that it had happened on my watch.

But it would be wrong to look at the acquisition of this broad side as the culmination point of forty years’ worth of collecting effort.  Rather it should be viewed as an indication that the University of Tulsa’ commitment and dedication to James Joyce studies is still strong and vibrant.  Through the generosity of our donors, the vision of our faculty present and former, and the support of our administration, The University of Tulsa has met the challenge of building a first class James Joyce research collection, and we will continue to meet that challenge with steadfast determination and commitment.  We’ve come a long way since Tom Staley, then a young Assistant Professor of English, taught the first class on Joyce and founded the James Joyce Quarterly in 1963.  But now is not the time to rest on our laurels.  Our goal is to assemble a complete collection of James Joyce publications, wherever they appeared.  To this end I have begun work to identify our holdings of Joyce’s periodical appearances, and to acquire missing items where needed.  I was thrilled to discover within the Richard Ellmann papers a near-complete set of Dana (lacking only one issue); we have already located a complete set of the Transatlantic Review (Paris edition), a complete set of Two Worlds Monthly, and issues of The Egoist.  It is my sincere hope that this catalog will provide a glimpse into our accomplishments to date, and a sense of where we are now directing our efforts.

It is a profound experience to be the curator of such an amazing collection, but that experience pales beside that of sharing it with others.  The moments when I can witness and share in the excitement of a student seeing for the first time a pristine signed copy of the 1922 Shakespeare and company Ulysses, or a scholar discovering that we have the Finnegans Wake page proofs thought to be lost, make the job worth the, at times, less-satisfying administrative responsibilities that come with such a position.  The moments when a scholar finds that elusive piece of information and exclaims unabashedly in the Reading Room, startling others but eager to share their find, remind me why I do what I do.  It is what I call the ‘Ah ha!’ of scholarship, and it’s worth the price of administration every time!

I first met Stacey Herbert and Luca Crispi in October 2001.  I was impressed with their knowledge, their enthusiasm and their excitement each time they discovered the unexpected in Tulsa’s collections.  It has been a pleasure getting to know them and working with them to produce what you now are reading.  Through their unflagging efforts and on our behalf, I am able to share with the world at large a collection in which I take tremendous pride.

I have had nearly sixteen years of sharing in the triumphs of our users, sixteen years of seeing the collections grow, of holding in my hands amazing books and letters and so much more.  It would be easy to become jaded to the wonders of such and outstanding research collection, but the scholars keep it real.  They remind me, in case I’ve forgotten, what we have and remind me that it is all part of the puzzle, each piece tells a story.  When you work with a collection you develop an intimacy with the individuals whose lives are in some way illuminated within the pages of their books, in the boxes and folders of aging papers.  They become your friends.  You learn of their hopes and dreams, triumphs and tribulations.  They are no longer strangers, just a name in a by-line.  The collections, the individuals whose lives and works are illuminated within, our students, faculty and the scholars who come to Tulsa are all part of a whole.  And now I can truly say I’m “In Good Company”.

Lori N. Curtis
Head of Special Collections and Archives