The January 1934 publication of Ulysses by Random House introduced Joyce’s novel into its largest marketplace and established the Random House 1934 edition as the predominant edition for readers and literary critics alike until 1960. The deficiencies in the edition have been long recognized and there has been general acceptance that these deficiencies originated in the use of a pirated edition of the novel as copytext in circumstances of great haste after the Woolsey judgment of December 1933. The sequence of events set out by R. F. Roberts, in a 1936 article, of the 1929 piracy being used to set the novel and the proofs then being corrected and read against a copy of the Odyssey Press 1932 edition has been repeated and cited in most accounts of the genesis of the Random House 1934 edition.1 However, this paper uses evidence of a marked-up copy of the Odyssey Press 1932 edition held in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, to argue that the exigencies of a rushed publication led to an even worse sequence (in terms of the authority of the text).2 The novel was set from the corrupt 1929 piracy; simultaneously, a copy of the Odyssey Press 1932 edition was marked up by a conscientious copyeditor without any particular knowledge of the text; the few comparative readings that were made involved another copy of the Roth 1929; the changes marked up on the two volumes of the H.R.H.R.C. Odyssey Press copy were then made to the erratically corrected proofs; the novel was printed. The legal and commercial circumstances of publication resulted, we set out to show, in unnecessary correction being piled upon corruption. [End Page 37]
The first hearing of the United States of America against One Book entitled Ulysses by James Joyce took place on November 25, 1933.3 It occurred not in the austere and adversarial surroundings of a courtroom but in the meeting room, furnished with Hepplewhite and other antique furniture, of the New York Bar Association. Although the judge, John Woolsey, gave some formality to the proceedings by wearing his robes, he smoked his pipe throughout and he constantly interrupted the arguments presented by the government lawyer and Morris Ernst, the lawyer for Random House, to create the measured to-and-fro of a Senior Common Room discussion. Only the presence of a relatively large audience of journalists, publishers, and the curious detracted from the atmosphere of a University Staff or Gentlemen’s Club. Indeed, the languor of the hearing disguised both the commercial stakes at risk and the urgency with which a judgment was awaited. Random House had clearly identified itself, and its fortunes, with Joyce’s novel; it had invested its reputation heavily in the promotion of the novel from late 1932.4 A successful verdict followed by immediate publication was necessary to secure the firm’s financial future and prestige.
The book on trial was an imported copy of the “Eleventh Printing” of the Shakespeare and Company Paris edition rather than of the planned U.S. edition that Bennett Cerf of Random House had been licensed to publish in the contract he had signed with Joyce in 1932. Morris Ernst had circumvented the usual risks of prosecution after publication—the possible subsequent loss of a whole edition and the investment it would represent, in addition to the danger of imprisonment from a criminal prosecution—by inviting an action under Section 305 of the Tariff Act of 1930 against this single copy imported from France. The only penalty resulting from an adverse judgment would be seizure of that copy, and no one would go to prison as the case was a civil action. Paul Léon, Joyce’s de facto business manager at the time, dispatched a parcel containing a single copy of Ulysses to Random House and it arrived on the SS Brennan in New York on May 8, 1932. The Customs Officers wished to wave the parcel through but the Random House...