Ulysses by James Joyce, First Authorized American Edition in Original Dust Jacket, 1934

Joyce, James. Ulysses. New York: Random House, 1934. First Authorized American Edition. Octavo. In publisher’s original red and black stamped cream cloth boards, original first issue printed dust jacket, and a custom folding slipcase. 

Presented is a first authorized American edition of Ulysses, a modernist novel by James Joyce. The book was published in New York by Random House, in 1934. It is presented in its original red and black stamped cream cloth boards, original first issue printed dust jacket, and a custom folding slipcase. 

James Joyce originally conceived of Ulysses as a short story to be included in Dubliners, but decided to publish it as a long novel instead. Ulysses takes place on a single day, June 16, 1904, in Dublin, and follows three main characters: Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom and his wife Molly Bloom. Divided into 18 episodes, Joyce drastically shifts narrative style with each new episode, completely abandoning the previously accepted notions of plot, setting, and characters. It is considered by many to be the paramount in Modernist literature. 

Ulysses has a very interesting publishing history, with at least 18 editions and numerous variations of each edition. It was first serialized in the American journal The Little Review, with episodes published from March 1918 to December 1920. In 1920, after the publication of the “Nausicaa” episode, the secretary of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice filed a complaint of obscenity. The Post Office halted the mailing of The Little Review, pending a court decision, and even went so far as to burn several issues of The Little Review. In February of 1921, the New York Court of Special Session ruled that Joyce’s work was obscene and fined the editors of The Little Review for publishing the work.

As a result of this court decision, Joyce struggled to secure an American publisher for the book. So he turned to French publisher Sylvia Beach and her publishing house Shakespeare and Company. Ulysses was first published in book form by Shakespeare and Company in Paris on February 2, 1922. This first edition was a limited edition of only 1,000 copies. 

Later that year, Harriet Weaver of the London magazine Egoist Press bankrolled a second edition of the novel that was published by her Egoist Press in Paris.  Only 2,100 copies were printed in this edition, but 500 copies of this edition were immediately seized by British customs and burned. Despite the American and British bans on the book, some paperbound copies were smuggled into their countries and sold at fantastic prices, sometimes as much as fifty dollars. Ulysses provoked amazement and acclaim from professional critics on both sides of the Atlantic and around the world.

Ten years after its first appearance as a novel, the American publisher Random House went out of its way to challenge the ban on Ulysses by openly importing a copy of it from France and awaiting its seizure from the Custom Office. As planned, the book was seized under the Tariff Act as an obscene book, and Random House and attorney Morris Ernst challenged the seizure. The ground-breaking case of the United States of America v. One Book Entitled Ulysses by James Joyce came to trial the following year and on December 6, 1933 Judge John M. Woolsey declared that the novel was not obscene. His decision was upheld by the New York Circuit Court of Appeals in 1934. 

The ban on Ulysses in the United States was lifted and Random House published the present edition a month later. In this publication, Random House included a forward by attorney Morris Ernst, as well as the full text of Judge Woolsey’s decision. Woolsey rejected the claims of obscenity and that “a book must be judged not from reading select passages but as a result of the whole book… a decision that admitted the novel into the United States” (100 Banned Books, p. 327–330). 


Very good condition. Octavo. First Authorized American Edition, First Issue Dust Jacket, with “Reichl” credit on front panel. In the publisher's original red and black stamped cream cloth over beveled boards, with red top edge. The spine is gently sunned, with only a few minor spots of discoloration on lower cover, and a front joint cracked at title–page. The book is also presented in its original red and black printed first issue dust jacket . Dust jacket is in good condition, with the spine panel lightly sunned and few very tiny chips at extreme ends. The book is housed in a custom folding case. Book Dimensions: 8 1/2" H x 6" W x 2 1/4" D. Clamshell Dimensions: 9 3/8" H x 6 5/8" W x 3" D. 

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