James Joyce's British wartime passport makes $98,000 at Sotheby's


It wasn't just Jane Austen's The Watsons that had collectors out in force at Sotheby's English Literature, History, Children's Books and Illustrations sale on Thursday.

A World War One-era British passport belonging to Irish writer James Joyce also had bidders excited.

It sold for £61,250, comfortably within its £50,000-70,000 estimate.

The double-sided sheet was issued to Joyce and his family by the British consulate in Zurich on August 10, 1915.

James Joyce's wartime passport sold for £61,250

The document records the author's movements during the period of his greatest creativity, which saw him produce his great masterpiece Ulysses.

Joyce was forced to flee his home in Trieste, then part of Austria-Hungary, in May 1915, when Italy entered the war against Austria.

Joyce and his young family arrived in Zurich, Switzerland on 30 June and he swiftly applied to the British Consulate for an official passport.

It allowed Joyce and his family residence in Zurich and movement between Switzerland, Italy and Paris.

A striking feature of the passport is the status of Nora Barnacle as Joyce's wife.

The two had eloped from Ireland in 1904 but were not married until 1931.  

Joyce left Ireland in 1904, returning only for a brief visit in 1912.

In 2009, an unsigned Ulysses 1922 first edition sold for £275,000, while one of only two signed Ulysses first editions made $460,000 (£285,000) at Christie's in 2002.

Not every collector can get their hands on a signed Ulysses, but those scouring the private markets can often find delights, such as this Harry Potter, signed by author JK Rowling.


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