Yeates and Son
Having passed the entrance to Trinity College in Lestrygonians,
Bloom continues south along the railings and crosses the
street that runs along the southern edge of the campus: "He
crossed at Nassau street corner and stood before the window
of Yeates and Son." This optical shop sat on the busy
corner of Nassau Street and Grafton Street––a prime location.
Bloom stands looking through the windows, and the devices
inside get him thinking about long-distance vision. He turns
in the opposite direction, back toward Westmoreland Street, to
perform a visual experiment, and then turns again toward the
sun to perform another. These experiments lead him to consider
an important astronomical principle.
The 1904 Thom's directory notes that Yeates and Son,
at 2 Grafton Street, were "opticians and mathematical
instrument makers to the university and to the Dublin Port
and Docks Board" (2044). Quoting from an advertisement
in the 19 December 1911 issue of the Irish Times,
Slote observes that the firm went as "far back as 1728" and
sold "telescopes, marine glasses, race and opera glasses,
lorgnettes, and the famous prismatic fieldglasses" (9). Field
glasses were binoculars that enabled the viewing of distant
outdoor objects. They normally lacked prisms, so the "famous
prismatic" ones sold at Yeates and Son may have been of a new,
advanced design sold by the German firm Goerz.
Bloom stands "pricing the fieldglasses" because his
own pair have stopped working correctly: "Must get those old
glasses of mine set right." He then faces back the way he has
come and gazes toward the Bank of Ireland building on
College Green and Westmoreland Street, a long city block to
the north. In a gently comical moment, he strains to see
something that cannot be seen even with binoculars:
There's a little watch up there on the roof of the bank to test those glasses by.
His lids came down on the lower rims of his irides. Can't see it. If you imagine it's there you can almost see it. Can't see it.
Slote notes "a long-standing Dublin rumour that there was a
small watch on the roof" of the bank, started "because some
customers at Yeates and Son would test out spyglasses and
binoculars by looking in the general direction of the Bank,
which is 200 metres away, and a portion of which is in a
direct line of sight (with thanks to Gerry O'Flaherty)." As
the final photograph here shows, one corner of the bank
building––its columned eastern portico––can indeed be seen
from where Bloom is standing.
He follows his hopeless little sight experiment with a second one that seems just as silly, but this one succeeds and it leads him into some very productive thoughts. Turning around a second time, and "standing between the awnings," Bloom holds out "his right hand at arm's length" and finds that, just as he had hoped, "The tip of his little finger blotted out the sun's disk." This experiment returns him to the thoughts about parallax he began earlier in Lestrygonians, though he is not consciously aware of the principles by which it does so (rays crossing at a focus, and paired eyes seeing objects in slightly different places). Joyce takes his readers to the important concept of parallax by a series of incremental steps: first the Yeates shop window, then the binoculars sold inside, then a fairly distant object on the roof of the bank that binoculars might enable one to see, and finally the vast distances over which astronomers train their telescopes.