On the anniversary of James Joyce's death, Ulysses lives on for collectors

Among the best things about investing in rare books is that the 'greatest assets' on the market usual have much to recommend them. Invest in one of the most important works of Modernist literature, for instance, and you can feel confident that you have a strong alternative asset on your hands.

One book which certainly fits this description is Irish author James Joyce's masterpiece, Ulysses. Since its first appearance in 1922 and the author's death today in history, January 13, 1941, the much regarded work has proven itself time and time again on the auction block.

Ulysses' ongoing value among collectors is in-line with Joyce's own ambitions. The author often expressed a desire for his works to achieve "immortality", and this has certainly been the case on the markets.

In 2009, a Ulysses 1922 first edition sold for £275,000. At the time, it was the highest sale price recorded for a 20th century first edition. Or, rather, a 20th century first edition that didn't bear the author's signature...

The first edition of Joyce's Ulysses, published in 1922

Never underestimate the impact of an author's autograph on the value of his book - especially when the writer only ever signed two copies, as is the case with Joyce and Ulysses.

One of these set a World Record at Christie's New York in 2002 when it brought $460,000, trouncing its $200,000-300,000 estimate. Within its pages is an inscription by Joyce "To Henry Kaeser James Joyce Dijon 12 October 1922," the publisher who provided the second printing of the work.

As for the other signed Ulysses, it became part of John Quinn's collection before being passed to a museum.

As yet another anniversary of Joyce's death passes and his literary legacy remains as strong as ever, the interest among collectors and museums in Ulysses - as with the values of the book's first editions - should only continue to grow.


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