On this day…12 February

On 12 February 1922 Joyce inscribed the first copy of Ulysses to Harriet Weaver.

The two copies of Ulysses that arrived in Paris on the morning of 2 February 1922 to announce the publication of the book were numbers 901 and 901. Even a week after the official publication date less than fifty copies had been printed. When it finally arrived, Joyce inscribed copy number 1: “To Harriet Weaver in token of gratitude – James Joyce – Paris 12 February 1922.”

For her work as publisher and patron, Joyce had good reason to be grateful. The Egoist magazine had already published several instalments of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by the time Weaver took over as principal editor in June 1914. Later she struggled to publish episodes of Ulysses in the Egoist despite objections from printers. From February 1917 she became his patron and sponsor, and gave him substantial amount of money during his life. Even after his death, she continued providing money to the family and looked after all the Joyce Estate’s affairs as Joyce’s literary executor.

After she received copy number 1, Weaver wrote to Sylvia Beach: “What an immense volume the book has made! …I possess no other book on such beautiful paper…Mr Joyce told me how your shop had been besieged by clamorous buyers…when two copies, and no more, had arrived. It must have been a most distracting state of affairs…”

Two copies of the cheap edition that Weaver had also ordered, for herself and Dora Marsden, arrived a week later. It turned out the copy she got was missing sixteen pages and sixteen pages in it had been duplicated. As Wyndham Lewis borrowed her copy, this couldn’t be rectified until he returned the book to her in October.

After Joyce’s death, Weaver corresponded with the Director of the National Library of Ireland, Richard Hayes, about donating the Joyce papers in her possession to the Library. Nora Joyce was against the idea, and after her death in 1951, Weaver felt she should comply with Nora’s wishes, and so most of the material went instead to the British Museum’s Department of Printed Books. However, she offered the National Library the manuscript copy of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, as well as some of Lucia’s initial capitals. Then, thirty years after Joyce gave it to her, on St Patrick’s Day 1952, she donated copy number 1 of Ulysses to the National Library.


Sources & Further Information:

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – New and Revised Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Lidderdale, Jane & Mary Nicholson: Dear Miss Weaver – Harriet Shaw Weaver 1876-1961, London: Faber & Faber, 1970.