£6,000 James Joyce novel could be perfect for new collectors

Bloomsbury Auctions is holding a sale of English & Continental Literature, History & other Antiquarian Books, and Modern First Editions in London on May 13.

Among the auction's numerous gems is an experimental novel regarded as one of the 'most difficult' works of fiction in the English language.

A 1939 first edition of Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, one of 425 signed by the author, will feature in the sale with a pre-auction estimate of £5,000-6,000.

The copy is presented in original brown buckram. Despite slight mottling to its spine and slight soiling to its publisher's yellow slip case, this is an otherwise excellent copy.

During his lifetime, Joyce often expressed a desire for his works to achieve "immortality" - and this has certainly been the case on the auction block in recent years.

An otherwise excellent copy of Joyce's Finnegans Wake, in a yellow
publisher's sleeve

In 2006, a Paris first edition of Joyce's other masterpiece, Ulysses fell below expectations, bringing a disappointing £30,000 under an estimate of £36,000-£50,000 at Sotheby's.

Nevertheless, despite their rarity, Ulysses first editions have appeared fairly frequently at auction over the years.

Another sold the previous December, also at Sotheby's, for £95,000.

It wasn't until 2009, though, that a Ulysses first edition price tag lived-up to Joyce's ambitions of immortality. That year, a copy sold for £275,000: then the highest sale price recorded for a 20th century first edition.

Yet even this was paltry compared to a signed version of the book, auctioned four years previously to the Sotheby's £30,000 edition.

Never underestimate the power of an author's signature: a Ulysses first edition signed by Joyce set a World Record when it sold for £460,000 at Christie's New York, in 2002.

Bloomsbury's sale tomorrow will be held in London, with online bidding available to collectors and investors who can't make the auction in person.


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