Ulysses first edition smuggled out of Paris to see $33,500

A first edition copy of Ulysses with a fascinating literary past could see top bids in Bonhams' Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Photographs sale in London on June 18.

James Joyce Ulysses Nabokov
Will the Nabokov connection outweigh the book's poor condition?

The first edition of James Joyce's magnum opus is set to sell for £15,000-20,000 ($25,157-$33,542), but may well exceed this given its literary past.

The book was first published in Paris by Shakespeare and Co in 1922, and was subsequently banned in the US and the UK for its "obscene" contents.

As such, Cambridge University student Pete Mrosovsky had to smuggle his copy into the country. Mrosovsky was a fellow Russian student alongside Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov, who recalled some years later:

"My first brief contact with Ulysses was around 1920 at Cambridge University, when a friend, Peter Mrozovski (sic), who had bought a copy from Paris, chanced to read to me, as he stomped up and down my digs, one or two spicy passages from Molly's monologue...

"Only fifteen years later, when I was already well formed as a writer and reluctant to learn or unlearn anything, I read Ulysses and liked it enormously."

Of course, Lolita - the great novel about a stepfather's obsession with his 12-year-old stepdaughter - was itself banned for a brief period in 1955, with Sunday Express editor calling it "the filthiest book I have ever read" and "sheer unrestrained pornography."

1,000 first editions were printed of Ulysses, though just 150 large paper copies such as the example at auction were ever made.

The book's modest estimate reflects the extensive handling and wear marks, though this may only add to the appeal for those enamoured with its connection to Nabokov and literary history.

Learn more about collecting first editions of Ulysses.

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