James Joyce

04/07/2017     Books & Autographs


While Irish novelist James Joyce is recognized the world over as one of if not the most important modernist author of the 20th century, in his early years he struggled to find publishers willing to print his controversial works and faced much rejection and scandal. On April 26, Doyle is honored to offer a collection of rare Joyce works deaccessioned from the College of New Rochelle, which includes several of these scarce early titles.

Joyce’s first published book was Chamber Music, a short collection of poetry, present here in a fine copy of the slim and ephemeral volume (lot 361). While published in 1907, the story of its publication starts in December 1902, when the influential British poet and editor Arthur Symons was introduced to Joyce by W.B. Yeats and graciously submitted Chamber Music on his behalf to the London publisher Grant Richards, who quickly rejected it. He then offered it to the Constable publishing house – who also rejected it! Finally, in 1907, Symons convinced the publisher Elkin Mathews to publish it, and approximately 509 copies were printed, with Joyce not receiving a royalty until 300 copies had sold. Despite leaving Dublin permanently in 1912, Joyce managed to sell the remainder of the edition himself from his adopted home at Trieste, where he continued to write.

The next years were dominated in finding a publisher for his first book-length work, a collection of gritty and unabashed stories called Dubliners, which was offered 18 times to 15 different publishers and had two cancelled printings by both Grant Richards in 1906 and the Dublin firm Maunsel in 1910 (which printed 1000 copies of the work and then burned them, leaving Joyce with only a proof copy). The Richards contract on Dubliners had fallen apart after he refused to print the controversial story, The Two Gallants, which contained thievery and sexual overtones, and also other issues with the text of which Joyce wrote him in a letter, “it is not my fault that the ashpits and old weeds and offal hangs around my stories.” Even Elkin Mathews, the publisher of Chamber Music, refused it. But nearly a decade later in 1914, Grant Richards agreed to publish it on the condition that the Maunsel sheets could be used as a typesetting guide and that no royalties be paid to Joyce until the first 500 copies had sold. Further, Joyce was required to purchase 120 copies himself. Of the 1,250 sets of sheets published by Richards, only 746 were bound and sold as the first edition (the rest were sent to America and used for a second edition). Thus, copies of Dubliners are scarce in any condition, with the New Rochelle copy being pleasingly unrestored and only lightly worn (lot 362).

Joyce’s next major work was the autobiographical novel The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which despite being serialized in The Egoist in London at the prodding of Ezra Pound, also ran into difficulty with many English publishers who refused it on moral grounds. Portrait found a publisher in B.W. Huebsch in America, and the first edition was published in New York in 1916. Offered here is a bright copy of that true first edition (lot 363), as well as the 1917 first English edition, published by The Egoist Press using remaindered American sheets (lot 364), and a rare copy in dust jacket of the first printing of the work after it had been sold and reset in London by the publisher Jonathan Cape (lot 366).

During all the tumult of his early years as an author, Joyce was writing his magnum opus, his most complicated and controversial work to date, the most important modernist novel of the 20th century, Ulysses. This wonderfully rambling and dense work of prose chronicles the movements of a Dubliner named Leopold Bloom as he traverses that city over the course of just one day, June 16, 1904. It is no mistake that the story corresponds to the heroic poem, The Odyssey of Homer. Joyce had begun the novel in 1914 and by 1920 it was still unfinished. He went with his family to Paris for one week and ending up staying there twenty years, completing the massive work in 1921. Meanwhile though, portions of Ulysses had been serially printed in The Little Review starting in 1918, but over it the publishers of this periodical were convicted of publishing obscenity. No one in England or America would touch the book, however one visionary, Sylvia Beach, the owner of the legendary Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris, took it on. Joyce demanded the painstaking process of dyeing the book’s wrappers a oceanic blue lettered in white evocative of the Greek flag, and in February 1922 one thousand copies of the book were published, the first 150 copies signed by Joyce and the balance numbered. On offer here is copy number 310 of that rare first issue of Ulysses (lot 367) which retains those fragile blue wrappers in good condition within a leather binding contemporary to the period.

Ulysses, the scandal that followed it around the world and its reputation as a challenging modernist work finally had turned Joyce into a literary sensation, and the book has never gone out of print. Offered also is the second Paris printing of the book prepared for the London publisher John Rodker of the Egoist Press, of which many copies were infamously seized and burned (including 500 copies destroyed by the Port Authority of New York) and a fine copy of the first edition of the text translated with much difficulty into French (lot 372). Several other printings of Ulysses are offered in the sale including the 1935 first illustrated edition signed by the artist Henri Matisse and the imposing 1988 Arion Press edition finely illustrated with etchings by Robert Motherwell.

After Ulysses, Joyce worked for years on his next and final major work, Finnegans Wake, published nearly two decades after Ulysses in 1939 (lot 376). In the years in which Finnegans Wake was a work in progress, Joyce published various fragments of the book, including the 1930 Haveth Childers Everywhere, published in New York and Paris by The Fountain Press and by Jack Kahane (of the Olympia Press). The fine copy offered here is one of only 100 copies signed by Joyce (lot 374).

While the complicated publishing history of the works of James Joyce was troublesome for the author, it has created a gratifying opportunity for both novice and seasoned book collectors to seek out these various printings and editions and revel in the history of one of the 20th century’s most important literary figures.