Campus News

Irish ambassador fulfills dream of visiting UB’s Joyce collection

Daniel Mulhall, Ambassador of Ireland to the United States, photographs a portrait of James Joyce that is part of the UB James Joyce Collection.

Daniel Mulhall, Ireland’s ambassador to the U.S., takes a photo of a portrait of James Joyce that is part of UB’s James Joyce Collection. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

By MARCENE ROBINSON

Published July 12, 2019

“A big part of the Irish story is told through our literature. I think it’s one of the greatest treasures of Ireland that we happen to have this extraordinary literary heritage. And I’m so delighted to see that heritage being treasured here in Buffalo.”
Daniel Mulhall, Ireland's ambassador to the U.S.

Daniel Mulhall dreamed of visiting Buffalo for nearly 20 years.

Ireland’s ambassador to the U.S. and a longtime diplomat, Mulhall’s work has taken him to the United Kingdom, Germany and across the Indian Ocean to Malaysia.

But Western New York has captured his attention for decades due to UB’s James Joyce Collection, a literary treasure housed in the University Libraries.

Mulhall’s dream became reality on July 11 when he visited UB Special Collections to tour the largest collection of materials on the famed Irish author in the world.

“Today is the culmination of that aspiration I’ve had. I saw things in there that I’ve never seen before anywhere, and I’ve seen a lot of Joyce material around the world over the years,” said Mulhall, who was named the 18th Ambassador of Ireland to the United States in 2017.

“A big part of the Irish story is told through our literature. I think it’s one of the greatest treasures of Ireland that we happen to have this extraordinary literary heritage. And I’m so delighted to see that heritage being treasured here in Buffalo.”

UB is home to more than 10,000 pages of Joyce’s working papers, notebooks and manuscripts, as well as photographs, portraits, memorabilia and private library, providing unmatched glimpses into the author’s writing process and literary relationships.

“Given Ambassador Mulhall’s renowned love of Joyce, it was a great pleasure to welcome him and Mrs. Mulhall here for a private tour of the UB James Joyce Collection,” said James Maynard, curator of the UB Poetry Collection.

“As the ambassador himself commented, the story of Joyce is in many ways the story of modern Ireland, and so it was a true honor to show these manuscripts and other materials to someone who has spent decades promoting the story of Ireland around the world and who is also such an enthusiastic reader of Ulysses.”

Daniel Mulhall, Ambassador of Ireland to the United States, examines a book that is part of the UB James Joyce Collection.

Daniel Mulhall, Ireland’s ambassador to the U.S., examines a book that is part of UB’s James Joyce Collection. With Mulhall are, from left, state Sen. Tim Kennedy; Greta Mulhall, Daniel Mulhall’s wife; and Alison Fraser, assistant curator of UB’s Poetry Collection. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

Born in Dublin, Joyce is regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, and is among the most highly researched literary figures of all time. He is best known for his landmark works “Ulysses” — which is widely considered one of the most important works of modernist literature — as well as “Finnegans Wake,” “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and “Dubliners.”

The materials were donated and purchased in installments from 1950-68 by book collectors, publishers and arts patrons. Mulhall learned of the collection during a chance meeting with a UB scholar in Dublin nearly 20 years ago.

James Maynard, curator of UB Poetry Collection, discusses one of the pieces of the UB James Joyce Collection with Irish Ambassador, Daniel Mulhall.

James Maynard, curator of UB’s Poetry Collection, discusses one of the pieces of UB’s James Joyce Collection with Irish Ambassador Daniel Mulhall. At right is Mulhall’s wife, Greta Mulhall; at far left is state Sen. Tim Kennedy. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki.

Among the materials are Joyce’s canes, passports, glasses and family portraits; copies of books from his personal library signed by literary peers such as T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway and W.B. Yeats; a copy of the essay “A Portrait of the Artist,” which would later be expanded into Joyce’s similarly titled first novel; and all 66 known notebooks behind the complex work “Finnegans Wake.”

Due to copyright issues, much of the collection cannot be digitized and shared online. Traveling to Buffalo and visiting UB is the only way students, scholars and Joyce enthusiasts can interact with the materials.

The exclusivity of the materials to Buffalo has made the UB James Joyce Collection — part of the University Libraries Poetry Collection, the library of record for 20th- and 21st-century Anglophone poetry — a destination for scholars around the world.

READER COMMENT

Thank you for all of your hard work on this marvelous collection. I found this story inspiring and touching. What a wonderful way to demonstrate the precious bond that writing can bring.

Carrie Gardner