Today, we celebrate the 105th anniversary of Leopold Bloom's stroll through Dublin as envisioned by James Joyce in his classic and controversial novel, Ulysses. Fittingly, this month, an ultra-rare signed first edition of the book sold for £275,000 - roughly $450,000.



While some of Ulysses was serialized in 1918, the true first edition wasn't published until 1922 by Sylvia Beach at her infamous Left Bank bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. The first printing comprised 1000 copies. 150 copies were printed on a large format, cheapish paper, 750 were numbered and used hearty linen, but the real rarity was the 100 copy Primary Edition signed by Joyce. This copy, number 45 of the 100, is one of among four copies -- of that prestigious batch -- that had yet to be accounted for, leaving three copies still lost. So, check your bookshelves!


Based on its earlier serialization, Ulysses was banned for obscenity here in the United States prior to the first edition being published in France. A pirated printing, now known as the Roth Edition (currently fetches $15,000), didn't appear in the U.S. until 1929, and it wasn't until 1934, after Random House won the historic United States vs. One Book Called Ulysses, that the "proper" American First Edition was published.


Ulysses #45 was actually bought illegally in New York City at the Sunwise Turn Bookstore, which closed its doors some six years before the ban on the book was lifted. The original owner passed the book down through their family where it remained virtually unopened and unread for the past 80 plus years. I use the word ‘virtually' because one section does show signs of being read. Appropriately, that section -- the last one in Joyce's masterpiece -- is considered the most obscene.

by bibliophil on ‎06-16-2009 01:58 PM

Thanks for the reminder of the anniversary & for posting this info. 


 I'll never forget reading Ulysses in Dublin in 1975, a challenge, but well worth it.  (Thank goodness we had the aid of the companion text that explicated it!) & I didn't realize there was a court case involving its publication.  (Btw, "for what it's worth", I tried but failed at reading F__'s Wake. :-)


Again, thanks; twas well worth reading!

by on ‎06-16-2009 02:34 PM
Indeed. Joyce surely isn't a beach read. Neither is his onetime assistant, Samuel Beckett. I had a very progressive 10th grade English teacher who foisted Waiting for Godot on us. I don't know about you, but at that age, my search for meaning didn't extend all that far...
by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎06-16-2009 03:15 PM
Appropriately, that section -- the last one in Joyce's masterpiece -- is considered the most obscene.  Thank you, Paul, for giving hope that, perhaps,romance readers aren't the only ones who sometimes go straight for the 'good parts?'   My Joyce intro didn't come til my mid-20s, and I was mesmerized. Maybe it was the idea that stream of consciousness wasn't necessarily a bad thing...  Sympathies on your Godot experience; many of us still are waiting on that one.
by Phil_K on ‎06-16-2009 03:27 PM

It appears that Nora Joyce never read Ulysses either, even though she was reputedly the model for Molly Bloom (or perhaps because of that fact). I think Richard Ellmann mentions in his celebrated bio that when a friend of Joyce's heard that the writer was engaged to a woman named Nora Barnacle, he remarked, "Well, she'll never leave him, that's for sure."

by on ‎06-16-2009 06:52 PM
Speaking of the "good parts", some schools insist that June 16th, 1904 represented James and Nora's first date, while other schools say the date symbolized an, er, more serious commitment...
by Blogger Albert_Rolls on ‎06-18-2009 10:55 PM
Joyce's father said, upon hearing Nora Barnacle's name, "she'll stick to him," barnacles having the habit of sticking. June 16, 1904 was the first date; some believe the relationship was also consummated on that day.
About Unabashedly Bookish: The BN Community Blog
Unabashedly Bookish features new articles every day from the Book Clubs staff, guest authors, and friends on hot topics in the world of books, language, writing, and publishing. From trends in the publishing business to updates on genre fiction fan communities, from fun lessons on grammar to reflections on literature in our personal lives, this blog is the best source for your daily dose of all things bookish.


Since 1997, you’ve been coming to to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.