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the 1/100 Ulysses


Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922

Original blue wrappers. Light wear, a few short tears, minimal repairs. A fine copy.

FIRST EDITION, one of 100 numbered copies signed by Joyce, the most sought-after book of 20th-century literature.

Early in 1918, Ezra Pound secured Ulysses, then in progress, for the avant-garde American literary magazine The Little Review. Joyce was delighted to know that his book was being read and talked about, if only in modernist circles, and the serial publication spurred the author on as he tried to keep pace with the magazine’s schedule. Several numbers were seized as obscene and burned by the United States Post Office, and the obscenity trial began on February 14, 1921, resulting in the editors’ conviction. The serial publication of Ulysses ceased, and the American publishers who had considered publishing the book abandoned the project.

Within weeks Joyce agreed to Sylvia Beach’s offer that the first edition appear in Paris under her Shakespeare and Company imprint in 1922. The first edition appeared in three forms, each numbered: 100 signed copies on Dutch handmade paper, 150 copies on large paper, and 750 ordinary copies.

Just prior to publication, Joyce warned, “The pity is the public will demand and find a moral in my book, or worse they may take it in some serious way, and on the honor of a gentleman, there is not one single serious line in it.”  He added, “In Ulysses I have recorded, simultaneously, what a man says, see, thinks, and that such seeing, thinking, saying does, to what you Freudians call the sub-conscious–but as for psychoanalysis, it’s neither more nor less than blackmail” (Ellmann, pp. 523-24).

T.S. Eliot told Virginia Woolf after reading Ulysses, “How could anyone write again after achieving the immense prodigy of the last chapter?” Gertrude Stein commented, “Joyce is good. He is a good writer. People like him because he is incomprehensible and anybody can understand him.”

The 1/100 signed Ulysses is a totemic object of Western civilization and one of the most desirable books in all of book collecting.

Slocum and Cahoon A17.

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