On this day…1 December

On 1 December 1932 the Odyssey Press edition of Ulysses was published.

The Odyssey Press edition was the first to appear after Sylvia Beach gave up her exclusive right to publish Ulysses. It contained many corrections and by its fourth edition in April 1939 it was considered the most correct text of Ulysses even though it still contained errors.

Odyssey Press was an imprint of Albatross Press and was set up in 1932 specially to publish Joyce’s Ulysses. Albatross had been established in 1931 by John Holroyd-Reece, a publisher of art books at Pegasus Press, and Max Christian Wenger, who had worked for the renowned Tauchnitz publishers. The first book published in the Albatross Modern Continental Library in 1932 was Joyce’s Dubliners, and Holroyd-Reece and Wenger began to bombard Joyce with requests to bring out an edition of Ulysses.

At this time, Sylvia Beach retained exclusive rights for Ulysses, but it was clear that Joyce wanted a new edition to come out and, after long and difficult negotiations with Beach, Albatross agreed to pay her royalties for five years. Joyce’s royalties would only be half those he received from Sylvia Beach, but copies of the Odyssey Press edition would sell for a quarter the price of Shakespeare & Company editions, so sales were expected to be more numerous. Though they were anxious to publish Ulysses, Wenger and Holroyd-Reece wanted to distinguish it from other Albatross publications, and so they established Odyssey Press solely to publish Ulysses.

One reason for this was that, for copyright reasons, Albatross books were only available outside Britain and Commonwealth countries, whereas they hoped that their Ulysses would be sold in Britain too. One of the backers of Albatross Press was Sir Edmund Davis, a South African mining magnate, and it was hoped that his political connections in England would ensure the unchallenged publication of Ulysses there. In the end, however, Albatross didn’t bring out an English edition.

The first edition of the Odyssey Press Ulysses was published on 1 December 1932. On the back of the title page appeared the claim that ‘The present edition may be regarded as the definitive standard edition, as it has been specially revised, at the author’s request, by Stuart Gilbert.’ Whilst Gilbert had worked on it using his own marked-up copy of Ulysses and a copy of the most recent Shakespeare & Company edition, he only had a limited time to prepare the first edition, and it contained numerous errors.

The most famous mistake is in one of the headings in the ‘Aeolus’ episode that should have read ‘LINKS WITH BYGONE DAYS OF YORE’ but which was misprinted as ‘LINKS TH BYGONE DAYS OF YOREWI.’ However, more corrections were made to subsequent editions, so that the fourth and final Odyssey Press edition, published in April 1939, was for a long time considered to be the most correct text of Ulysses and later formed the basis for other publishers’ editions of Ulysses.

The first Odyssey Press edition of Ulysses has since been reprinted by Wordsworth Classics, while the fourth Odyssey Press edition has been reprinted by Alma Classics with annotations by Sam Slote.


Sources & Further Reading:

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – new and revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Fahy, Catherine: The James Joyce-Paul Léon Papers in the National Library of Ireland – A Catalogue, Dublin: National Library of Ireland, 1992.

Herbert, Stacey: ‘A Draft for “Ulysses in Print: the Family Tree,” an Installation for the Exhibition James Joyce and Ulysses at the National Library Ireland,’ Genetic Joyce Studies, no. 4, Spring 2004.  (Online here)

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. III edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.

– -: Ulysses, with an Introduction by Cedric Watts, Ware: Wordsworth Editions, 2010. (This is a facsimile reprint of the first Odyssey Press edition of 1932.)

– -: Ulysses, with annotations by Sam Slote, Richmond: Alma Classics, 2012. (This is based on the fourth Odyssey Press edition of 1939.)

Slote, Sam: Ulysses in the Plural – The Variable Editions of Joyce’s Novel, Joyce Studies 2004, Dublin: National Library of Ireland, 2004.