Ulysses (First Edition) by James Joyce



2015-06-26 10:30:17

Ulysses is a novel by Irish author James Joyce (1882-1941). This work was first serialised in parts, in the American journal The Little Review between 1918 to 1920, and first published in book form in 1922 by Sylvia Beach, Paris. Background

James Joyce encountered the hero Ulysses – the Latinisation of Homor’s Odysseus – in a Charles Lamb collection of stories, The Adventures of Ulysses. The hero stuck in the young Joyce's mind as the only all-round character in literature. He developed it from an idea, to a story in his collection Dubliners (1906), to a short book, to a Modernist magnum opus, written between 1914 and 1921. Joyce deliberately structured the work chaotically, wanting to puzzle and test readers and academics as to his meaning for years and years, in order to achieve immortality for his novel.

In this he succeeded. Ulysses is considered one of the definitive works of Modernist literature, employing the characteristic Modern techniques of stream-of-consciousness prose, strict structuring, and experimental language.

Its initial publication was controversial. It was banned for obscenity and sexual references in the UK and America until the 1930s. The censorship case which overturned the ban, the 1933 United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, is legendary.

Plot, Characters, Themes

The novel describes the events and journey of the Ulysses figure, Leopold Bloom, through Dublin during an ordinary day. It also involves the character Stephen Dedalus, the protagonist of the later Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Ulysses is divided into eighteen episodes, based generally on the story of Homer’s Odyssey. Contrasting literary styles for each of the episodes, such as one tale of a drunken evening episode written in the form of a strict catechism, another a stream-of-consciousness soliloquy, another a play script, etc, creates an overall impression of chaos and experimentation.


Early 20th century Irish novelist and poet James Joyce was one of the most significant Modernist and avant-garde writers.

See main article: James Joyce rare books and memorabilia

Notable auction sales and collecting tips

Due to its controversial history, the publication history of Ulysses is disputed and unclear. Each edition has had subtle variations that make it impossible to determine the ‘correct’ text. The first edition (1922, Sylvia Bech at Shakespeare and Company, Paris) was comprised of a mere 1,000 copies, and is therefore extremely rare and valuable. Occasionally however, later editions can fetch more due to signatures or other notable features. First editions are worth infinitely more if they retain their original bindings, in this case “Greek flag” blue printed wrappers. Therefore it is not recommended to restore or rebind these copies.

Copies of the first edition have been sold for $20,000 in June 2008 by Bloomsbury Auctions, $24,000 in October 2007 by Bonhams, £112,000 in July 2004 and $288,000 in April 2004 by Sothebys.

An inscribed first edition achieved $460,500 in October 2002 at Christies, making this the most expensive modern first edition ever sold.

Share on social media
Write a response...

The bookmarklet lets you save things you find to your collections.

Note: Make sure your bookmarks are visible.


Click and drag the Collect It button to your browser's Bookmark Bar.

collect it