​Ulysses in New York

The sensationalism surrounding Ulysses in the media and the absence of international copyright law in the 1920s encouraged “bookleggers” such as Samuel Roth (1893–1974), who serialized the novel in his magazine Two Worlds Monthly without Joyce’s consent. At that time, foreign authors had to publish their work in America in order to secure a US copyright; this was impossible for Joyce, however, since Ulysses was banned. Roth skirted the ban by censoring the text himself, mangling it in the process. With little recourse, Sylvia Beach and Joyce started a petition that called on American readers and media outlets to boycott all of Roth’s ventures. Virginia Woolf, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, and André Gide were among the scores of eminent signatories. The statement appeared in newspapers and was issued as a broadside.

In 1928, Joyce and Beach obtained an injunction barring the American from advertising Joyce's name, nothing more. Unrepentant, Roth pirated Joyce's entire novel the following year, issuing the first American edition of Ulysses under the false imprint of “Shakespeare and Company, Paris.” The production was shoddy: a line of type was printed upside-down and the text was corrupt. Hundreds, if not thousands, of copies were distributed through the book trade (Random House inadvertently consulted a copy in 1933 when proofing their text of the first authorized American edition). Roth, who endured several stints in jail for dealing in so-called pornographic books, would later become a significant figure in landmark cases relating to obscenity.

"International Protest" [Statement regarding the piracy of James Joyce’s Ulysses by Samuel Roth]
[Paris: s.n., 1927]
The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased on the Gordon N. Ray Fund for the Sean and Mary Kelly Collection, 2017; PML 197710

Detail of page from James Joyce (1882–1941), Ulysses (Paris [i.e., New York]: Shakespeare and Company [i.e., Samuel Roth and Max Roth], 1927 [i.e., 1929])
The Morgan Library & Museum, gift of Sean and Mary Kelly, 2018; PML 197795