Publication Day

On 7 August 1921, Joyce wrote to Harriet Shaw Weaver to announce that he had composed the first sentence of Ulysses’ final episode, adding,“but as this contains about 2500 words the deed is more than it seems to be.” (In fact, the first sentence would be even longer, and the “Ithaca” episode was also far from complete.) Months later, he was still revising the text and checking facts, writing to his aunt, for instance, to make sure “an ordinary person” could climb over the railings at the Blooms’ Eccles Street address. Joyce continued to work on proofs through the end of January 1922.

Superstitious about his birthday, Joyce was determined that Ulysses be ready on 2 February. Few copies were bound on 1 February, but the printers granted Joyce’s wish, dispatching three copies by express mail and, at the author’s insistence, two more on the Dijon–Paris train, which were in his hands by early morning. In her memoir, Sylvia Beach recalled the momentous day: “Here at last was Ulysses. . . . Here were the seven hundred and thirty-two pages ‘complete as written,’ and an average of one to half a dozen typographical errors per page.”

James Joyce (1882–1941)
Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922
The Morgan Library & Museugift of Sean and Mary Kelly, 2018, PML 197791