In Nestor, Stephen remembers sitting in the Ste. Geneviève libary beside a "delicate Siamese" who "conned a handbook of strategy." The first meaning of "con," according to the OED, is "To know." The third meaning is "To get to know; to study or learn, esp. by repetition (mental or vocal); hence, in wider sense, to pore over, peruse, commit to memory; to inspect, scan, examine." This Asian visitor to the French library seems to be poring over a treatise on resisting imperial encroachment and subjection.

JH 2021

Encroachments on Siamese national territory in late 1800s and early 1900s. Source: Wikimedia Commons.