Joyce's First Edition Ulysses: one of the best rare collectible book buys

Today is a bit of an 'anniversary double whammy' if you're a collector of rare First Edition books by James Joyce. On February 2, 1882, Joyce was born in Dublin, Ireland.

Then, 40 years later, Joyce's modernist literature masterpiece, Ulysses, was published for the first time in Paris on the novelist's 40th birthday.

Autographed First Edition copies of Ulysses are among the rare book market's most 'bankable' buys. Which isn't surprising given that the book is regarded as being among the most important Modernist Literature works ever written.


The 1922 first edition of Ulysses

Rare, valued and even 'immortal':
James Joyce's classic Ulysses

First Edition Ulysses copies are especially valued for their rarity. Only 1,000 copies were initially printed on Joyce's 40th birthday, his own self-imposed deadline.

Joyce always wanted Ulysses to be an "immortal" work. Although it got off to a shaky start: the very first 1822 edition contained no less than 2,000 errors. Around 18 new versions of the book have since been published.

So, what kind of values do rare Ulysses copies achieve at auction?

A Paris first edition of Joyce's masterpiece brought £30,000 at Sotheby's in 2006. This may sound impressive, but actually fell short of the book's minimum £36,000 presale estimate.

So, what was missing? Well, if you're on the lookout for a blue chip copy of Ulysses then you could be better-off hunting for a signed copy.

An autographed Ulysses signed by Joyce himself was auctioned by Christie's four years prior to the sale of Sotheby's £36,000 unsigned copy. In the end, the book brought a whopping £460,000 - a World Record price.

Which isn't to say that unsigned copies of Ulysses are a 'lost cause'... A rare First Edition's value can be largely down to the condition of the book.

In 2009, for instance, an unsigned Ulysses achieved Joyce's desire for "immortality" - at least in terms of an auction sale. The copy brought £275,000, then the highest sale price recorded for a 20th century First Edition.

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