Home book seller James Joyce at the 2022 New York Antiquarian Book Fair

James Joyce at the 2022 New York Antiquarian Book Fair


Jeffrey H. Marks Rare Books (stand B21) holds the original contract between Joyce and Viking Press for the 1939 American edition of Finnegans Wake – still called in this contract, “Work in Progress”, signed and initialed several times by Joyce. ($65,000)

The Old New York Bookstore (located in Atlanta, Georgia and here at booth A22) has a neat copy of the Viking edition, in the dust jacket – a copy purchased by Joyce in Zurich in the summer of 1939, shortly after its publication in May, then sent from Brittany to a friend in Zurich. Joyce’s handwritten return address on one end of the original shipping container is affixed to the back of this copy, as follows: “Envoie de J. Joyce / Hotel Saint Christophe / La Baule”. ($12,500)

It wouldn’t be a fair for me without a stop at Maggs Bros Ltd. (booth E2). There I was greeted with a letter that Joyce wrote in French to the publisher of a French translation of his Dubliners “Arabic” story, discussing among other things the translation of the word “desire”, as it appears in this sentence: “All my senses seemed to want to be veiled and, feeling that I was going to escape from it, I pressed the palms of my hands against each other until they tremble while whispering: “O love! O love!’ several times.” Joyce mistakenly dated the letter as January 17, 1921, despite having written it in 1922 – a slip-up to which all are subject, as one year turns into another. In this case, Joyce’s gaffe inadvertently obscures that he was writing just weeks before the publication of Ulysses. (£10,000)

Maggs also has a fine copy of the first edition of Ulysses published in England – by The Bodley Head – copy no. 38 of 100 copies on handmade paper, in the vellum binding designed by Eric Gill with a gold Homeric knot on the cover and in the original cardboard slipcase. (£35,000)

Joyce’s last entry

The first visitors to Peter Harrington’s stand were able to see something truly remarkable: Joyce’s final presentation. This was a second printing of a 1932 copy of Dubliners, from the Albatross Modern Continental Library Volume I, which he inscribed in green ink “To Gustave Zumsteg, James Joyce Zurich 4.1.1941”. Son of Hulda Zumsteg, owner of Joyce’s favorite Zurich restaurant, “Kronenhalle”, Gustave lived in Paris from 1936 as a designer for a silk trading company and was instrumental in bringing Joyce back to Zurich. from Paris in December 1940. Harrington pointed to Joyce’s Ellmann biography in support as Joyce’s last entry: When Joyce and his family arrived in Zurich, Joyce had “arrived broken and ill, prematurely aged”. He dined on January 8, “as often, at the Kronenhalle, where the Zumstegs had often been nice to him, and then he casually remarked to Frau Zumsteg over a bottle of Mont Benet, ‘Maybe I won’t be here much longer’… Two days later, on Friday January 10, he returned to the restaurant, fell ill that evening, had surgery the next morning, and died on January 13.

The first edition of Ulysses

The first edition of Ulysses was published in 1922 in an edition of 1000 copies, divided into three levels:
100 copies printed on Dutch handmade paper, press numbered 1-100, and signed by Joyce (350 francs)
· 150 copies printed on larger sheets of Arches laid paper, earning them the name “Giant Joyces”, also numbered in the press (numbers 101-250) but not signed (250 francs)
· the last 750 copies (numbers 251-750) were numbered on handmade paper (150 francs)

The covers were in the blue of the Greek flag, with white lettering. They are fragile and tend to brown over time and whiten at the edges with wear. There are always multiple copies at the New York Book Fair, in a range of states and at a range of prices. I’ve focused on the standout copies below and hope you enjoy the hunt for more!

As mentioned, the James Cummins copy is gaining in condition: such brilliant copies are available less and less frequently.

Harrington has a slightly less attractive copy, but with a great story: this is copy #823, which he tracked through the 1996 census published by Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, to the collection of copies allocated to Joyce’s great patron, Harriet Shaw Weaver, for sale. ($74,000)

Lucius Books (booth C22) has copy #723. It would not be uncommon for contemporary buyers to see their book rebound in their own library binding; in this case, it was Lucius Books who commissioned a binding from the famous British bookbinder Stephen Conway. Conway interpreted the text in its covers with images of a clock to suggest Joyce’s organization of Bloomsday – June 16, 1904 – into episodes mapped to different times of the day. This copy is of rare beauty because the original covers, still quite bright and lovely, have been preserved and bound front and back, as well as the four “Extracts from Press Notices” pages prepared by Sylvia Beach. (£18,500)

Temple Rare Books / Temple Book Binders of Oxford (stand A33) has a 9th printing from 1927 of the first edition, bound in a 1981 abstract binding designed by Sally Lou Smith, inspired by the Dublin skyline at night. This copy is dedicated by Joyce to HG Wells: “To HG Wells respectfully James Joyce 5 November 1928 Paris”. The addition of “respectfully” puts this among the most verbose Joyce inscriptions I’ve seen. Joyce had with Wells – as he had with many writers, critics and friends – an uneasy relationship. It started with Wells’ praise in the print media for Portrait of the artist as a young manbut ended with his graceful but emphatic perplexity with Joyce’s “literary experience” as seen in Ulysses and, ultimately, Finnegans Wake. (£45,000)

Keep the best for last