“Personally I will be very gratified if your enterprise is successful as it will permit American readers who have always proved very kind to me to obtain the authenticated text of my book without running the risk of helping some unscrupulous person in his purpose of making profit for himself alone out of the work of another to which he can advance no claim of moral ownership.”
– James Joyce, in a letter to Bennett Cerf, founder of Random House
FIRST AMERICAN EDITIONS (UNAUTHORISED PRINTINGS) OF JOYCE’S GREATEST WORKS.
“By anyone’s estimate,” writes Kevin Birmingham, “Samuel Roth was the biggest literary pirate of the 1920s” (p. 274). Birmingham’s study, The Most Dangerous Book, lays bare the mammoth effort to get Ulysses published in the United States during an era of heavy censorship laws and wide-reaching prohibition. Naturally, Samuel Roth, the “biggest literary pirate of the 1920s” with a penchant for salacious works, features significantly in the work, impacting the early history of Ulysses reception in the English-speaking world. Present here are the complete volumes of Roth’s pirated editions of Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake (then known as “A New Unnamed Work” and elsewhere “Work in Progress”), serialised in his publications Two Worlds Monthly and Two Worlds Quarterly respectively.
Both magazines served as vehicles for Roth’s double-sided love for the giants of literary modernism. On one side was his craving for association with the names of Joyce, Pound and Lawrence, among others. But it is this craving that led him to steal, expurgate and bowdlerise the works he admired most—a craving that ultimately landed him on the wrong side of the law, impecunious and behind bars. His dreams of building “the most powerful magazine group in America” (as he pitched to investors) evaporated almost as soon as they began, but not before producing some of the earliest US publications of Joyce’s works before the first authorised American editions of Ulysses (1934) and Finnegan’s Wake (1939).
Ulysses began its public life in the New York magazine The Little Review, with about half of the novel appearing in a series of instalments from 1918 to 1920. And indeed the Review came under fire for the obscenities contained therein, embroiling its editors and financier in some of the first legal battles over Joyce’s works, resulting in Ulysses being banned in the US in 1920 for over a decade. The complete Ulysses would not be published until 1922, the result Sylvia Beach’s now-famed Shakespeare and Co. edition published and printed in Paris. As Birmingham notes, the “disputes over the astonishing content of Joyce’s writing began years before Ulysses was published” (Birmingham, p. 7). But in the US, they continued for years after.
Before any publisher in America would dare to acquire such a risky and risqué work as Ulysses, there was Samuel Roth. A man who “admired Joyce’s novel so much he decided to steal it”, Roth made his career excising modernist writings from European magazines where they had been authorised to be printed, but particularly by circulating material deemed at the time to be vulgar, indecent and prohibited from trade within the US (Birmingham, p. 275). His biggest successes, then, came from his illicit reproductions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Ulysses.
Roth’s piracy was not strictly illegal—if a work written in English was not printed in the US on plates made in the US, it held no protection under American copyright laws. Thus, under the guise of Two Worlds Quarterly and Two Worlds Monthly, Roth printed passages of Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake in instalments between 1925 and 1927. Roth’s legal transgression rather lied in the obscenity of the works he circulated, or at least the obscenity as shrewdly perceived by contemporary morality laws which he attempted to circumvent by blue-pencilling some of Joyce’s diction. Lobbied for by Anthony Comstock—founder New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, the same organisation that instigated Ulysses’ initial prohibition in the US following its appearance in The Little Review—the 1873 Comstock Act (or, the Act for the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use) criminalised any use of the US Postal Service to transmit any “instrument or article for self-pollution” including any “book, pamphlet, circular paper, drawing, print, picture, advertisement” that references such insalubrious behaviour (Ruppenthal, p. 53). It is under these premises that Roth would face prosecution, but not before he began his limited American run of Ulysses in April 1926.
Contemporary authors were sensitive to this legal grey zone that allowed their works to be sold without their permission and without compensation. Realising the futility of legal action against Roth, Ezra Pound—whose material Roth was also printing without permission—suggested to Joyce that he either publicly denounce Roth or “organize a gang of gunmen to scare Roth out of his pants. I don’t imagine anything but physical terror works in a case of this sort (with a strong pull of avarice, bidding him to be BOLD)” (Pound, p. 255). It was Sylvia Beach who, seeing the need for creativity, devised a plan to ostracise Roth from the literary world. She drafted a protest against Roth and asked for a wide array of authors to sign it in support of anti-piracy. One-hundred and sixty authors assented to Beach’s proposal, including Woolf, Forster, Hemingway, Yeats, Shaw and even Albert Einstein. Nine-hundred publishers in the US alone were sent the protest by Beach from February 1927, and Roth was soon outcast as a literary pariah.
While the above commentary on Roth’s involvement in Ulysses' reception in the US is documented widely not least by Birmingham, Roth did in fact issue a response to the protest as preserved in the present rare copies of his serialised Ulysses. The volume for June 1927 includes the following “Offer to James Joyce”: “If Mr. Joyce is really in need of money, it is here in New York waiting for him, provided he is willing to make one public appearance to answer my charges against him for his conduct in the matter of my publication of his ULYSSES in Two WORLDS MONTHLY.” Roth continues, “If Mr. Joyce was not really responsible, as has been suggested possible, for the actions of Sylvia Beach and his other friends, particularly in the publication of the spurious much-signed protest, he owes me and the world this explanation”, before concluding, “it would be a pity if his managers let him go hungry.” Roth’s appeal was unsuccessful, and the combined shame and prosecution landed him far from his vision of a global publishing empire.
Ulysses would not be seen on the shelves of American booksellers until 1934, being published by Random House after the two-year-long legal dispute United States v. One Book Called Ulysses—incited when the publishing company had one copy imported from France deliberately to be seized by the government upon arrival. Publishers, having seen how many great minds of the day were defending the novel (while taking into account its popularity in Two Worlds Monthly), had solicited Joyce for publication of Ulysses in America. After a prolonged battle with Sylvia Beach, who at the time had held the rights to publication, Joyce had made a deal with Random House. Its appearance in America then sparked the famous court case, resulting in Judge John M. Woolsey decision that “whilst in many places the effect of Ulysses on the reader undoubtedly is somewhat emetic, nowhere does it tend to be an aphrodisiac. Ulysses may, therefore, be admitted into the United States” (Essential Documents of American History, p. 183). The legal dispute over its publication combined with Roth's wilful disregard of the law makes Roth’s Ulysses—illicit, bowdlerised and pirated as it was—the first US edition of Joyce’s masterpiece.
Offered here in addition to the first American edition of Ulysses is Roth’s edition of Finnegan’s Wake. Joyce’s final work, Finnegan’s Wake took him nearly two decades to write, and was published in fragments along the way in the Parisian journals The Transatlantic Review and transition from 1924 onwards. It appeared under various titles, namely “Work in Progress”, “Fragment of an Unpublished Work” and, as in Roth’s edition, “A New Unnamed Work”. These first two volumes of Two World Quarterly constitute the first appearance of any such fragments of Finnegan’s Wake published for sale in the US.
Furthermore, included are two pieces of commercial ephemera contemporary with the release of Ulysses’ first edition in 1922 and its first authorised US edition in 1934, respectively: a selection of reviews and criticism issued by Sylvia Beach for Shakespeare and Co.; and a guide entitled “How to Enjoy James Joyce’s Ulysses” issued by Random House, anticipating and responding to the perplexity of reading Ulysses that continues to the present day.
JOYCE, JAMES. Ulysses. IN: Two Worlds Monthly, ed. by Samuel Roth. New York: Two Worlds Publishing Company, 1926–27. First American edition, pirated. Octavo, 11 volumes (July 1926–September 1927). In original wrappers; general wear to edges and corners, some toning, the spines of vol. 1.2 (August 1926) and vol. 3.1 (April 1927) are chipped and missing the bottom few inches, vol. 3.1 with clear tape securing spine; all volumes complete and housed uniformly in custom archival files and boxes.
JOYCE, JAMES. A New Unnamed Work [Finnegan’s Wake]. IN: Two Worlds Quarterly, ed. by Samuel Roth. New York: Two Worlds Publishing Company, 1925–27. First published American edition, pirated. Two volumes in four parts each: vol. 1: octavo, in four parts (September 1925—June 1926); vol. 2: folio, in four parts (September 1926—June 1927). General wear to edges and corners, some toning. All volumes complete and housed uniformly in custom archival files and boxes.
All volumes complete and in original wrappers; housed in custom archival files and boxes.
Two pieces of commercial ephemera. A: "Extracts from the Press Notices of Ulysses by James Joyce". London: [Shakespeare and Co.], . Quarto, four pages. Pamphlet reprinting citations from reviews, including by Ezra Pound and Ford Maddox Hueffer [Ford Maddox Ford]. B: “How to Enjoy James Joyce’s Ulysses”. [New York], Random House, . Folio (22 x 16 in), folded into eights; long closed tear along centre fold from wear. “Presented with complements of Random House and your bookseller”. Advertisement from Ulysses’ first American publisher, included in the 10 February 1934 Saturday Review of Literature. “For those who are already engrossed in Ulysses as well as for those who hesitate to begin it because they fear that it is obscure, the publishers offer this simple clue to what the critical fuss is all about.” Both housed in custom archival files.
Birmingham, Kevin, The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses (New York: Penguin Press, 2014)
Ellman, Richard, James Joyce, rev. ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983)
Essential Documents of American History, ed. by Bob Blaisdell, 2 vols. (Mineola: Dover, 2016), II: From Reconstruction to the Twenty-First Century
Pound, Ezra, and James Joyce, Pound/Joyce: The Letters of Ezra Pound to James Joyce, ed. by Forrest Read (London: Faber, 1968)
Ruppenthal, J.C., “Criminal Statutes on Birth Control”, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 10.1 (1919), pp. 48–61
Slocum, John J. and Herber Cahoon, A Bibliography of James Joyce, 1882–1941 (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1971)
Digression on Each Volume:
Including analogues to the volumes’ passages as they appear in the authorised editions
From Slocum and Cahoon, A Bibliography of James Joyce (1971)
Two Worlds Monthly, New York, reprinted 14 episodes of Ulysses in a bowdlerized form in 12 installments. These reprints were unauthorized by Joyce. The entire run of Two Worlds Monthly, Vols. I–III (July 1926–Oct 1927), with four numbers in each volume, was later issued in two bound volumes with an extra preface by the editor Samuel Roth. Vol. III.4 was not issued separately, i.e., apart from the bound volume. This unuthorized serialization of Ulysses resulted in considerable public indignation and provoked the “International Protest” signed by 167 artists and writers and printed in transition, Paris, I (April 1927), 156–8, and reprinted in Gorman, 1939, pp. 309–12. Joyce’s American legal representatives obtained an injunction against Samuel Roth and Two Worlds Publication Company on December 27, 1928, over a year after Two Worlds Monthly had ceased publication. The 12 installments are as follows:
I.1 [Jul 1926] 93–128 (Random House 4–51).
I.2 [Aug 1926] 205–52 (RH 54–114).
I.3 [Sept 1926] 353–76 (RH 115–48).
I.4 [Oct 1926] 473–98 (RH 149–81).
II.1 (Dec 1926) 93–118 (RH 182–215).
II.2 (Jan 1927) 213–39 (RH 216–51).
II.3 (Feb 1927) 311–57 (RH 252–312).
II.4 (Mar 1927) 425–76 (RH 312–76).
III.1 (Apr 1927) 101–16 (RH 377–95).
III.2 (May–June 1927) 169–78 (RH 395–405).
III.3 (Sept 1927) 195–204 (RH 405–17).
III.4 [Oct 1927] 233–6 (RH 417–21).
“Work in Progress” (Finnegan’s Wake)
Between September 1925 and September 1926 Two Worlds, New York, edited by Samuel Roth, published five instalments of “Work in Progress”, reprinted from European publications. The reprints in Two Worlds were unauthorized by Joyce; they ceased because no further fragments of “Work in Progress” were available for Roth to reprint. The five instalments are as follows:
I.1 (Sept 1925) 45–54 (Finnegan’s Wake 104–25). Reprinted from Criterion, July 1925.
I.2 (Dec 1925) 111–14 (FW 30–3). Reprinted from Contact Collection of Contemporary Writers, Paris, Contact Editions, 1925 (B 7).
I.3 (Mar 1926) 347–60 (FW 196–216). Reprinted from Navire d’Argent, Paris, October 1925.
I.4 (June 1926) 545–60 (FW 169–95). Reprinted from This Quarter, Milan, Autumn-Winter 1925–26.
I.5 (Sept 1926) 35–40 (FW 383–99). Retrained from transatlantic review, Paris, April 1924.
Price: $4,500 .