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James Joyce’s Ulysses: Text and Art

The manuscript, 1917-1921

James Joyce began writing Ulysses in Trieste in 1914.  A number of early drafts exist, but there is only one complete version of the novel in the author’s hand, held by the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia.  This manuscript dates from 1917-1921 and extends to about 800 pages. A facsimile was published in 1975; it is opened to the first page below.

The Little Review serialization, 1918-1920

Founded by Margaret Anderson in 1914, The Little Review was an American literary magazine that featured the work of a number of modernist writers.  Joyce’s Ulysses first appeared in print in its pages.  Because the text was thought to contain obscene material, the U.S. Post Office seized copies of the magazine.  An obscenity trial followed, which the magazine lost.

Shakespeare & Co. printing, 1927

When Joyce encountered difficulties publishing Ulysses in book form, Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare & Co. (an independent bookstore in Paris) offered to do it.  The work came out in 1922 in a limited edition, and was reprinted a number of times.  The 9th printing is shown below, in its original paper wrappers which highlight the colors of the Greek flag.

La Maison des Amis des Livres edition, 1930

Though Ulysses was first printed and published in book form in France, it was not until 1930 that a French translation appeared.  Auguste Morel served as translator, assisted by Stuart Gilbert; Joyce and Valery Larbaud reviewed the text.  The cover is similar to Shakespeare & Co. printings, with blue letters and white wrappers, reminiscent of the Greek flag.

Random House edition, 1934

In 1932 Bernard Cerf of Random House secured the American rights to Ulysses.  He published this edition following the trial that lifted the book’s ban because of obscenity charges.  It includes a foreword by American lawyer Morris L. Ernst; the decision by John M. Woolsey lifting the ban; and a letter from Joyce to Cerf.  The striking Art Deco design was by Ernst Reichl.

Limited Editions Club edition, 1935

The Limited Editions Club edition of Ulysses was designed by its founder, George Macy, and limited to 1,500 copies. It includes six etchings by Henri Matisse, as well as twenty preliminary drawings on blue and yellow paper.  Interestingly, it seems unlikely that Matisse actually read Joyce’s work, since his artwork depicts six scenes from Homer’s Odyssey. 

Bodley Head edition, 1936

The Egoist Press arranged for copies of Ulysses to be printed in France 1922 and 1923, primarily for the English market, but many copies were detained or seized by authorities.  In 1936 London’s Bodley Head published 1,000 numbered copies, featuring an impressive cover design by Eric Gill.  An unlimited edition followed in 1937, and was reissued several times before being revised in 1960.

Random House reprint, 1961

Random House’s 1934 printing of Ulysses was based on a pirated copy of 1929, and included a number of textual errors.  In 1961 a corrected and reset edition was issued. It included the paratexts printed with previous editions.  The cover layout was changed, and featured the embossed initials of the author on the front cover, though the Ernest Reichl interior design was retained.

Arion Press edition, 1988

The mammoth Arion press edition of 1988 was produced by an arrangement with Random House, in an edition of only 175 illustrated copies (25 being hors commerce).  Of special note are the 40 etchings by Robert Motherwell.  The paper is a special making of French mould-made Johannot, and an even heavier weight was used for the Motherwell prints.

Gabler’s reading edition, 1993

In 1984 German scholar Hans Walter Gabler published a 3-volume “synoptic and critical edition” of Joyce’s Ulysses.  Hi aim was to produce an “ideal text,” one that would replace the various printed versions that had appeared since 1922.  To do this, Gabler carefully studied Joyce’s manuscripts and proofs and made thousands of changes.  The “reading version” of Gabler’s edition, printed in 1993, is presented below.