“HIS SOUL SWOONED SLOWLY AS HE HEARD THE SNOW FALLING FAINTLY THROUGH THE UNIVERSE AND FAINTLY FALLING, LIKE THE DESCENT OF THEIR LAST END, UPON ALL THE LIVING AND THE DEAD”: EXCEPTIONAL AND SCARCE FIRST EDITION OF JOYCE’S DUBLINERS
JOYCE, James. Dubliners. London: Grant Richards, (1914). Octavo, original dark red cloth, custom slipcase and then inside a custom half morocco clamshell box. $28,000.
Rare first edition of Joyce's first prose work, his great collection of short stories. One of only 1250 copies printed (499 of which were sunk en route to America). A most exceptional copy.
This collection includes some of the finest stories written in the English language, including "Araby," "Counterparts," and the classic "The Dead." One of no more than 764 copies printed (and perhaps as few as 246). Of his beleaguered book Joyce wrote, "I believe that in composing my chapter of moral history in exactly the way I have composed it I have taken the first step towards the spiritual liberation in my country" (Ellmann, 221). "Joyce left Dublin in 1904, frustrated with the oppressive twin forces of religion and politics that paralyzed the soul of the city. He called Dubliners 'a chapter in the moral history of my country.' Despite his confession in a letter that 'the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal hangs round my stories,' these are not the bitter tales of an exiled writer seeking revenge against the city that threatened to stifle his creative talents. Instead, the irony, the anger and the heartbreak found in these stories express as much affection as critique…Joyce casts a wide net, arranging the stories so they move from childhood to adulthood and from public to private. In his thoroughness, Joyce is as tender as he is fierce. The first Dubliners we meet are curious children hungry for adventure and love. There are young boys with romantic visions of chivalry and young women longing to escape. While youthful dreams quickly fade for the adults in later stories, Joyce shows us that their defeat is not unavoidable…Joyce invigorates Dublin with the poetry of his prose, 'falling faintly…and faintly falling,' like the snow at the end of 'The Dead,' upon all the city's inhabitants, elevating their condition by virtue of his art." Few texts have traveled such a rocky road publication. Dubliners was first accepted by the publisher Grant Richards in February 1906, but the printer objected to certain passages and refused to do the job, as under English law "the printer of objectionable material is as guilty of breaking the law as the publisher, and equally subject to criminal prosecution." Joyce replied that "in no other civilized country in Europe is a printer allowed to open his mouth" (Ellmann, 220). In 1910 Maunsel and Co. agreed to publish the book; again certain passages were found objectionable and Joyce made alterations. This time the firm of John Falconer printed 1000 copies but then, with the exception of the page proofs, promptly burned the entire edition. In 1913 Joyce again offered the book to Elkin Mathews who again turned it down. Finally Grant Richards re-accepted the book, with a contract stipulating no royalties on the first 500 copies and a guarantee by Joyce to buy 120 copies himself. Only 1250 sets of sheets were printed for the first edition and 504 of those sets were sold to the New York publisher B.W. Huebsch in 1916 for the first American edition. "It has also been reported that in 1915 Grant Richards sold without Joyce's knowledge 500 sets of [the original 1250] Dubliners sheets to Albert and Charles Boni of New York… A new title page was prepared for the New York imprint, and 499 copies were shipped to New York on the S.S. Arabic which was torpedoed in August 1915. All copies were lost except one which Albert Boni kept in his personal possession" (Slocum & Cahoon A8). Thus, of the original 1250 sets of sheets, 504 are known to have been sold for the American edition and 499 are thought to be at the bottom of the sea. Joyce was living in Trieste when he signed his contract with Richards, and the 120 copies he agreed to purchase were to be sold there. Without exceedingly rare original dust jacket.
Only a few scattered spots of foxing, cloth exceptional with only slightest soiling and toning to spine, cover gilt bright. A beautiful copy.