James Joyce's Ulysses Conservation Project- Part 1

James Joyce's Ulysses is often cited as the 20th centrury's greatest novel and one of the best works of literature ever written (with no argument from me). Naturally, a first edition would be the piece de resistance in many book collector's collection. This is especially true when you factor in this particular first edition's storied publication and historical importance. Too make a long story short (for the long version I recommend...


when Joyce finished his magnum opus there was no publisher willing to print it due to obscenity reasons except for a small publishing house in France by the name of Shakespeare &Co. The first print was done in 1923 and it wasn't until 1934, after numerous burned books and court cases, that the book was officially published in the US by Random House.

Now, these Shakespeare & Co editions are printed in what's known as European style (sometimes also referred to as wraps). This means the text block is wrapped with a simple sheet of paper instead of bound in covers. The idea was for the purchaser to take the book to their family binder (!) and have it bound to match the rest of their library. Approaching almost a century later, the remaining Shakespeare & Co editions that were left in the original state have not aged well, to say the least.

I had been looking for a first edition for some time with the idea of binding it as originally intended. I finally acquired a 1928 printing that met my price range.




As you can see, the "spine" part of the original wrap is completely missing and all the original threading that tied the signatures together has been undone. Unfortunately, I was to discover that some of the pages had come apart and were seperated from their folded counterpart...


This, as opposed to...



The major problem though was the paper. Like many book publishers throughout the 20th century, out of ingorance and to cut cost, an acid based bonding agent was used in the making of the paper. 9 decades later and barely touching the brittle paper would cause it to fall apart. Any thought of sewing, gluing, and pressing quickly went out the window. I had finally bought what I told myself I would never do: a museum piece that couldn't be held and read.

Not to be discouraged, I decided I'd make a proper case to preserve and protect the book.

First, I created a mylar envelope for the book...


Next, I created a clamshell case utilizing cloth and marbled papers...


Which the new mylar encased book fits into like a glove...


For the finishing touch I designed a simple and classy label...


My finished product blocked all light, dust, and oxygen from further destroying the book and it looked nice on the bookshelf; however, it didn't take long for me to think up a project that would take up all my time and alienate myself from the outside world for a whole month!

To Be Continued...


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