The State Library of Victoria owns one of only a hundred copies of the rarest, signed editions of James Joyce’s Ulysses.
James Joyce’s modernist masterpiece Ulysses is probably one of the most famous books in the world. However, due to its controversial and “obscene” content, the Irish book was heavily censored at the time of its publication.
While the book was originally published in Paris, the frequent bans that were put on the reprints of the novel have made first-editions more valuable than ever. As part of its newest exhibition, World of the book: 2022: The Rare, The Sacred and the Iconic, The State Library of Victoria has displayed its (literal) one-in-a-hundred copy of Joyce’s novel.
Printed on Dutch handmade paper and signed by the writer himself, the library’s copy of Ulysses was donated by the estate of Fred J Brient, who “purchased the novel for 10 pounds and 10 shillings in 1922,” as reported by the ABC.
James Joyce was published in East Germany by Verlag Volk und Welt. This edition of Ulysses came from a communist bookshop in the former East Berlin where it was shelved alongside works on Lenin and Stalin and pamphlets advocating world revolution. pic.twitter.com/0CNVhH59yk
— Glenn Johnston (@johnstonglenn) February 17, 2022
“The value of [this edition of ‘Ulysses’] would buy several houses,” said the library’s manager of History of the Book and Arts, Des Cowley. “This is the rarest possible edition you can have of the first edition of Joyce’s great novel, 100 years old, literally today.”
One day in the life of Leopold Bloom. A double jacketed, 1966 film tie-in edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, widely regarded as either one of best books in the English language; or one of the hardest to read 🤓
From the shop shelves (not online) pic.twitter.com/Sc8vRLFV1T
— Keel Row Books (@keelrowbookshop) February 17, 2022
While Ulysses initially scandalized the global public, it’s grown to become a novel that’s often touted as one of the greatest English language novels of all time. It’s even inspired the name for Ireland’s national holiday, Bloomsday — named after the namesake protagonist in Ulysses, Leopold Bloom — which celebrates the life and work of James Joyce.