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Ulsysses first edition sells for €85,000

The book was bought by a private Irish buyer and will go on display to the public

James Joyce’s signature inside No 30 of the first print run of Ulysses.

A first-edition signed copy of Ulysses fetched €85,000 under the hammer at a Fonsie Mealy sale of rare, antiquarian and modern books on June 18th. The estimate had been €70,000-€90,000.

The book was No 30 from the first print run of the book by publisher Sylvia Beach, through her Paris-based Shakespeare and Co, in 1922.

“The book was purchased by a private Irish buyer, and will go on public display in the near future,” according to a George Fonsie of the auction house.

The impact of Joyce’s Ulysses was revolutionary in its own time, and the book continues to stand as the single most significant English language novel of the last century.

The first printing consisted of 1,000 copies, divided into three various limitations. The first 100 copies were printed on fine handmade paper, numbered and signed by Joyce.

Copies 101-250 were also printed on handmade paper, though of a lesser grade than the first 100, and were not signed. The final 750 copies were numbered 251-1,000, and printed on the least expensive stock of paper, and like the previous limitation, were not signed by Joyce.

Although the book was scheduled to be printed on his 40th birthday, due to technical problems with printing the cover, only two copies made that particular date. The first was given to Joyce by his publisher while she retained the second.

Remarkable sales

Over the past decade, there have been some remarkable sales of this, one of the most controversial books of the 20th century, which even resulted in a court case: The United States V One Book Entitled Ulysses in 1933.

In 2009, history was made in the UK when a copy of the book – No 45 – from the first print run of 100 sold through Sotheby’s for £275,000, becoming the highest recorded price for a 20th-century first edition book.

In 2002, Christie’s in New York sold a copy from the first 100 print run, which was reported to be one of only two inscribed, rather than signed copies, for $460,000, well over its estimate of $200,000-$300,000, Joyce had inscribed the book “To Henry Kaeser”.

Interestingly, two further copies of the book are now for sale online, having been sold through Christie’s in New York over the past two decades.

No 282, which was a presentation copy inscribed to Lewis Galantière, sold though the auction house in 2002 for $119,000 against a reserve of $70,000-$90,000. This book is now for sale through the online book portal AbeBooks seeking $150,000.

The second, No 41 of the first print run, which was purchased in 2012 for $170,000 and had an estimate of $100,000-$150,000, is also listed on the site asking $250,000.

More than 400 copies of the book were burned by the American Post Office, as the book has been banned after public outrage over its iconoclasm and its explicit references to the human body.

While the sale of a first edition of Ulysses would make a fine deposit on a house today, and while there exists a lucrative second-hand market for this piece of literature, the Irish public can look forward to seeing such an early copy, signed by the master himself, on public display in the near future.