USYLESSLY

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Usylessly, a work by John Morgan, is the result of a close observation of the blue cover and form of the first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses. The book duplicates the size, bulk and appearance of the 1922 Shakespeare and Co. edition. Everything but the text.

At the heart of the mostly blank 736 page book is a printed sixty-four page section containing two essays written twenty-seven years apart by Edward L. Bishop and Ted Bishop. The first essay, Re-Covering Ulysses, was initially published in Joyce Studies Annual in 1994 and explores the ‘non-literary’ aspects of the book, charting, as Bishop explains, ‘the movement of Ulysses the book – the physical object with its various jackets, blurbs, ads and price tags – from modernist work to social document, to status object, to cultural artefact to, finally, what seems to be a kind of futures commodity in the freewheeling post-copyright market.’

The second essay, Ulysses Blue, published here for the first time, starts its journey in the archive of the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas with over forty copies of the 1922 edition and follows Morgan and Bishop on the quest for the blue cover, which for Joyce had to be blue – ‘The colours of the binding (chosen by me) will be white letters on a blue field – the Greek flag though really of Bavarian origin and imported with the dynasty. Yet in a special way they symbolise the myth well – the white islands scattered over the sea.’


John Morgan is the founder of John Morgan studio and Professor of design, typography and book art at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.


Ted Bishop is the author of Riding with Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles and Books (Penguin 2005), and The Social Life of Ink: Culture, Wonder, and Our Relationship with the Written Word (Penguin 2017).

‘a chain of white islands, petals shaken on a Greek sea’

William Gass, On Being Blue
1922 Shakespeare & Co. Edition no. 17.
Beach, Saillet, and the Nazis


It was 1941 and the Germans had occupied Paris. A Nazi officer, who spoke perfect English, came into the shop and wanted to buy the Finnegans Wake he had seen in the window. Beach refused because it was her last copy. The officer, enraged, stomped out, promising to return. Beach hid the copy, and when he returned a few days later she said it had been put away. The officer shouted ‘We’re coming to confiscate all your books!’ She called the concierge, got permission to use the fourth-floor apartment, and with Adrienne Monnier and the young Saillet moved 5,000 books upstairs. She then called a carpenter to take down the shelves in the shop and a painter to cover the name on the building. In a single day in December 1941 Shakespeare and Company disappeared. The officer never returned, and though other Nazis eventually arrested Beach they never found the hidden books. On 26 August 1944, the day after the Germans surrendered Paris, Hemingway came by, checked the roof for snipers and ‘liberated’ the bookstore. It was around this time that Sylvia Beach gave number 17 to her shop assistant Maurice Saillet, as a thank-you, for helping to hide her books from the Nazis.

(Extract from Usylessly)
1922 Shakespeare & Co. Edition no. 600.
Dismorr, Vorticism, and Scotch tape


The opposite of the immaculate Saillet copy was number 600: the edges of the cover were ragged, the blue and the white both darkening toward brown, and the spine repaired with cellophane tape. Where the one had been preserved with reverence, this one had been used for its function, a reading copy, not a sacred object. It had belonged to the Vorticist painter Jessica Dismorr, whose reputation had left her on the periphery of Modernism, but recent scholarship has demonstrated that she was at the heart of the movement. She joined Wyndham Lewis’s Rebel Art Centre, contributed poetry and illustrations to BLAST (1914), and signed the Vorticist manifesto. Four years later Margaret Anderson published her poetry in The Little Review. Dismorr appears in the March 1918 issue with Modernist luminaries Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, Ford Madox Hueffer, Arthur Symons. And James Joyce: this is the issue in which Joyce’s Ulysses makes its first appearance, with the ‘Telemachus’ episode.

(Extract from Usylessly)
1960s California Pirate Edition. Collection of Thomas F. Staley.
1960s California Pirate Edition


If you flip open the back cover and the first thing that hits your eye is a big ad for ‘All Male Nudes!’ the opening words of Ulysses are likely to be read in a different register. Further, if you have just glanced at a modest list of titles that ranges from de Beauvoir to Katherine Mansfield in the Penguin, as opposed to having been confronted by the sprawling Modern Library catalogue, your frame of mind will be different again. The ads in the Modern Library edition establish the reader as hopelessly ill-read, the ads in the California edition as male and hopelessly ill-experienced. The latter caters to sexual anxiety, the former to cultural anxiety; there is a parallel between the promise of sexual prowess and that of cultural prowess. Both suggest instant gratification and long-term improvement: there is a self-help aspect to the marketing (which Bloom would not find inappropriate), a suggestion of usefulness aside from the aesthetic, which prefigures the Book-of-the-Month Club edition.

(Extract from Usylessly)

KIND OF BLUE

Paul Cadmus, Jerry, 1931. Perhaps the first painting of Joyce’s Ulysses in Paul Cadmus’ painting of his lover Jerry French. ‘The love that dare not speak its name’ symbolised by a banned, forbidden book.
Myron Nutting, Portrait of a lady in blue, oil on board. ‘Joyce looked to his painter friend for help in achieving the right blue, Nutting had mixed the exact shade of blue for him, since the binders could not get it right and needed something to copy’. On the day Joyce received his first copy, ‘Helen Nutting, the painter’s wife, sent him bluets and white carnations that morning as a Ulysses mazzo dei fiori.’ (Ellmann, James Joyce)
‘… the most beautiful book to have come out of Ireland if by beauty we mean intricate energy.’ (Hugh Kenner, ‘The Most Beautiful Book’, English Literary History journal)
The Greco-Bavarian telephone directory. (James Joyce, letter to Harriet Weaver, 26 February 1923)
‘The trams that pass on the other side of the tree trunks are painted bright cobalt blue and white, colours of the town of Zürich, colours of the Greek flag, colours of the covers of Ulysses.’ (Frank Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses)
‘The colours of the binding (chosen by me) will be white letters on a blue field – the Greek flag though really of Bavarian origin and imported with the dynasty. Yet in a special way they symbolise the myth well – the white islands scattered over the sea.’ (James Joyce, in a letter to Alessandro Francini Bruni, 7 June 1921)
‘The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea. Epi oinopa ponton.’ (Stephan Dedalus in James Joyce’s Ulysses.) Epi oinopa ponton. Greek: Over the wine-dark sea, a phrase from Homer’s Odyssey. Photo: Benjamin Swanson
Penelope waiting for Ulysses. Roman copy of a lost Greek original, c. 460BC. Vatican Museums. On one of the walls of Joyce’s flat in Universitätsstrasse, Zürich, was pinned a photograph of a Greek statue of Penelope. ‘My own idea,’ said Joyce, ‘is that she is trying to recollect what Ulysses looks like.’ (Budgen)
A library trolley holding over forty copies of the first edition of Ulysses in The Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin. Photo: John Morgan
Peter O’Toole as T. E. Lawrence in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia – his ‘impossibly blue’ Irish eyes appearing like hydrating oases in the Arabian desert.
T. E. Lawrence in the barracks at Miranshah Fort on the Afghan border, c. 1928. ‘This is now my kingdom: my bed. A constitutional kingdom: for I may not change it nor arrange it except after a seated pattern. The book is Ulysses… Joyce’s one. I heard the laughing little man preparing to snap me and changed from the left elbow to the right. The portrait is unrecognizable, I think but rather fun.’ (Message written on the back of the photograph by T. E. Lawrence in a letter to Charlotte Shaw)
T. E. Lawrence’s copy of Ulysses, Harry Ransom Center, Austin, Texas. ‘This was a reading copy, and it was heavily read: more than one hundred and fifty pages have marginal notes, and it was read casually: many of the pages have greasy smudges on them.’ (Ted Bishop, Garbled History). Photo: John Morgan
T. E. Lawrence’s copy of Ulysses, Harry Ransom Center, Austin, Texas. ‘There is a shard of biscuit in “Ithaca,” just as Stephen takes leave of Bloom, opposite the line “What echoes of that sound were by both and each heard?” and “Had he ever been a spectator of those phenomena?”, as if the reader were participating in the communion.’ (Ted Bishop, Garbled History). Photo: John Morgan
Maurice Darantiere, printer of Ulysses, c. 1950. ‘Darantiere’s search took him to Germany, where it ended with the discovery of the right blue – but this time it was the wrong paper. He solved this problem by getting the colour lithographed on white cardboard, which explains why the insides of the covers were white.’ (Sylvia Beach). Photo by Gaston Paris/Roger Viollet via Getty Images.
On Sunday morning, he received you at home, arrayed in a handsome dressing gown, seated among his collection of rare pottery and books, darning his socks, while the young man who was his assistant in the printing house occupied himself with the menus for lunch… Presently the darning would be laid aside, and we would all go out in the charming streets of Dijon to visit the pastry shop where Darantiere, great connoisseur of cakes, made a careful choice of what he could absolutely recommend as authentic. (Sylvia Beach, memoir draft. Princeton, box 121, folder 4.) Photo by Gaston Paris/Roger Viollet via Getty Images.
The capitals used for the cover were designed by Louis Perrin in 1846 as caractères augustaux. Photo: Benjamin Swanson
The book lab, The Harry Ransom Center, Austin. Photo: John Morgan
‘Any object, intensely regarded, may be a gate of access to the incorruptible eon of the gods.’ (Buck Milligan in Ulysses)
Sergio Brunelli on press with Usylessly, Verona Libri, Verona, Italy, 2021. Photo: John Morgan
On press with Usylessly, Verona Libri, Verona, Italy, 2021. Photo: John Morgan
Usylessly at the binders, Verona, Italy, 2021. Photo: Sergio Brunelli
Usylessly at the binders with Daniele and Vanni, Verona, Italy, 2021. Photo: Sergio Brunelli

‘his usylessly unreadable Blue Book of Eccles’

James Joyce, Finnegans Wake

A selected typographic bibliography for Ulysses


Melissa Banta, Oscar A. Silverman, James Joyce’s Letters to Sylvia Beach 1921–1940, Plantin Publishers, 1987

Bernard Benstock, ‘Bedevilling the Typographer’s Ass: Ulysses and Finnegans Wake,’ Journal of Modern Literature 12, no. 1, March 1985, pp. 3–33

Edward L. Bishop, ‘Re-covering Ulysses,’ Joyce Studies Annual 5, 1994, pp. 22–55

Edward L. Bishop, ‘The “Garbled History” of the First-edition Ulysses,’ Joyce Studies Annual 9, 1998, pp. 3–36

Ted Bishop, ‘Ulysses Blue,’ Usylessly, John Morgan studio, 2021

Frank Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses and Other Writings, Oxford University Press, 1989

Eric Bulson, Ulysses by Numbers, Columbia University Press, 2020

Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, New and Revised edition, Oxford University Press, 1983

Tekla Mecsnóber, ‘The Ineluctable Modernity of the Visible: The Typographic Odyssey of Ulysses in Interwar Print Culture,’ European Joyce Studies 26, 2018, pp. 192–224

Jean-Michel Rabaté, ‘“Thank Maurice”: A Note About Maurice Darantiere,’ Joyce Studies Annual 2, 1991, pp. 245–51

John Ryder, ‘Editing Ulysses Typographically,’ Scholarly Publishing 18, no. 2, 1987, pp. 108–24

Glenn Storhaug, ‘“Seems to See with his Fingers”: The Printing of Joyce’s Ulysses,’ Matrix 6, 1986

Peter de Voogd, ‘Joycean Typeface,’ Aspects of Modernism: Studies in Honour of Max Nänny, eds. Andreas Fischer, Martin Heusser, Thomas Hermann, Gunter Narr Verlag, 1997, pp. 203–18

Jolanata Wawrzycka, ‘Newspapers, Print, Language; Steganography in Joyce,’ European Joyce Studies 26, 2018, pp. 57–76

A note on the binding.
Please be aware that the binding is delicate and the blue imperfect with some banding in the spirit of the 1922 edition. The paper will crease and dent at the spine and elsewhere and show signs of use and deteriorate over time as a large paperback book will.

Usylessly by John Morgan
Texts by Ted Bishop
Paperback, 240 × 195mm, 736 pages. (64 pp. printed, 672 pp. blank)
Published in December 2021
Edition limited to 500 copies, each copy numbered
ISBN 978-1-9168786-0-0
£55.00


The books are wrapped in brown paper and shipped in cardboard protective packaging. As the note on binding explained, some minor damage may still occur in shipping and handling, this is to be expected.
Please note that the book is mostly blank, and does not contain the text of James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Please read the shipping policy and select destination. Please note these are approximate timescales. Expect delays on shipping to Europe and overseas.

Shipping Policy

Refund Policy

Ship to Europe
£15
Ship to the UK
£3
Ship worldwide
£32

Contact
info@usylessly.com


Usylessly is published by John Morgan studio
Copyright © John Morgan studio 2021
All rights reserved for content and images


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Art Data


Website credits
Design by John Morgan studio
Set in Mercure from Abyme
Build by Zack Wellin
Usylessly photographs by Ed Park


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