Ulysses first edition estimated at $70k in New York

James Joyce's iconic work Ulysses is by common consensus one of the greatest and most influential works of the 20th century. But as is sometimes the case, it was not published in great numbers for its first edition.

Indeed, the groundbreaking style of the work caused publishers to view it with caution and Joyce's original plan to have it published in The Egoist fell through.

It was instead given a run with the publishers Shakespeare and Company in 1922 to the tune of 750 copies, which are now very rare and valuable as Joyce's one is so highly regarded.

Bloomsbury's in New York are now offering one of these copies - the 635th, to be precise - alongside some other Joycean texts as part of an Irish-themed sale.

Ulysses first edition by James Joyce
Ulysses first edition by James Joyce

The work is clad in its originally turquoise blue with white lettering. Joyce specifically requested this, the precise colours causing the printers a headache, because he felt that these 'Greek colours' (as used in the country's flag) brought him luck.

Of course, the Greek reference also feeds back into the story's title and theme: Ulysses is the Latin form of Greek hero Odysseus from Homer's Odyssey, and the character's of one story mirror the other.

The first edition has been given a guide price of $50,000-70,000 whilst one of 1,500 copies of an edition from 1935 illustrated by Henri Matisse, and signed by both Joyce and Matisse has a guide price of $14000-$18000.

Bloomsbury's sale takes place on March 23 in association with Whyte's.


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