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Out of Sorts

To certain folks of a literate nature, today, June 16, marks Bloomsday — the day in 1904 which James Joyce chose to set his novel Ulysses and the date of his first date with Nora Barnacle, who would become his wife. It is also rumored, based on a letter from 1909, this was the date of their first assignation. In true Joyceian fashion, folks across the world will celebrate by drinking, screwing, and carousing — especially in Dublin, where the book is set.

This day carries a personal significance because it also marks the birthday of Sean Kelly, one of my favorite clients.

Sean is a gallerist in Chelsea who follows both a Duchamp and a Joyce obsession. (The Men’s and Women’s rooms at the gallery are marked “James” and “Joyce” respectively.) For last year’s birthday, his wife Mary secretly gave gallery artists a copy of the Modern Library Edition and asked each to make an “intervention,” which would then be presented at a Bloomsday bacchanalia.


Joseph Kosuth cut a rectangular section out of the interior of the book, inside of which is a schema for Ulysses, which accordion-folds out of the book. (Photograph of Kosuth work by Steven P. Harris)

As both a gesture of thanks and as a document of the collection, the decision was made a couple months ago (at the last possible moment) to produce a slim volume on the project. The title Ulysses: Wrectified referred to Duchamp’s notion of the “rectified readymade” and was a pun on “wrecked” — a not-so-sly nod to everyone’s state after the previous year’s party.


Left: Ulysses; 1922; Paris; Shakespeare and Company

Right: Ulysses: Wrectified; June 16, 2006; New York; Sally Knee, Publisher
(“Sally Knee” is an anagram of “Sean Kelly”)


Left: Ulysses; title page
Right: Ulysses: Wrectified; title page
Joyce designed the title page and front matter for the first edition. At the time he was both experiencing eye trouble and a non-typographer. Hence, the triangle of type at the bottom, uneven line spacing and kerning problems.

Ulysses, first printed by Maurice Darantière in Dijon, was an achievement, considering that one of the most complex works in English was set by French-speaking typographers. Printing of the book came to a temporary stop in July 1921 when Darantière ran out of the letters that are more common to English than French (like “e,” “h,” “w” and “y”). In the typographer’s argot, this is known as running “out of sorts” — an appropriate description of the book’s history of typographical errors.

For Ulysses: Wrectified, rather than open the selection of typeface to whimsy, a decision was made to approximate Darantière’s Elsevir setting with a suitable digitized face. The final choice was Berling, developed from 1951–58 by the noted Swedish designer Karl-Erik Forsberg, and based on fifteenth-century Venetian faces by Aldus Manutius. Even though Berling premiered twenty-nine years after Ulysses was published, it has an appropriate fidelity to Darantière’s first edition — with one exception. Sadly, a version with oldstyle figures, small caps and other typographic details is not currently available. In this case, Berling, too, is “out of sorts.”

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Note: this is an expanded version of the colophon to Ulysses: Wrectified. Many thanks to Chester at Village for his help in our initial type research, and for passing our inquiries on to Christian Schwartz and Tobias Frere-Jones. Regrettably, the book was printed in a one-time edition of 500 and is not available to the general public.

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PUBLISHED ON Jun.16.2006 BY m. kingsley
Tselentis’s comment is:

Kingsley, thanks for so much insight into Joyce's literary explorations. The New Yorker's June 19 2006 article The Injustice Collector, about Joyce's grandson "blocking" research and academic examination into his oeuvre, I was soured somewhat. Does the Ulysses: Wrectified one-time limited edition printing (not available to the general public) have anything to do with grandson Stephen Joyce and his agressive control of the estate?

On Jun.16.2006 at 08:01 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:

beautiful post, mark, thank you. 14 years ago today i had the remarkable opportunity to go on a walking tour of dublin with joyce's grandson, and then went on to sandymount strand. it was one of the greatest days of my life.

there is nothing like bloomsday in ireland, and there was no one like joyce. a most happy bloomsday to all...and don't forget millie bloom, leopold and molly's daughter, whose birthday is tomorrow.

"the longest way round is the shortest way home"


On Jun.16.2006 at 08:42 AM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

> Does the Ulysses: Wrectified one-time limited edition printing ... have anything to do with grandson Stephen Joyce and his agressive control of the estate?

Jason, the two are unrelated except for the date. Articles about Joyce's grandson's control over the estate appear each year at this time. This time, it was The New Yorker's turn.

Because the book is not for sale, and because each artist's work was both a gift and a singular work; we felt it remained comfortably within fair use. Pure economics made the edition so small and generally unavailable. But, in the future, if it would happen to appear in an antiquarian bookstore with a high price -- I admit that I would be pleased.

On Jun.16.2006 at 11:43 AM
Matilda’s comment is:

When I made my lit pilgrimage to Ireland in '96, I wanted to retrace some of Leopold Bloom's steps in Dublin. I asked various people, most of whom didn't know what the heck I was talking about and discouraged me from walking around in the "bad" north part of the city. The one person who I asked, worked in a bookstore and claimed it would take me weeks to do it. I ended up not doing other things instead...pity.

On Jun.16.2006 at 01:01 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

But, in the future, if it would happen to appear in an antiquarian bookstore with a high price -- I admit that I would be pleased

That makes 2 of us. And to the notion that each year we can read about grandson Stephen Joyce's agressive management of the James Joyce estate, we should solicit some names for that day (or week).

On Jun.16.2006 at 02:17 PM
Alastair’s comment is:


Bloomsday fans are a bit better catered for these days. There's a series of brass pavement plaques tracing key point of the journey, and you could pop into the James Joyce Centre http://www.jamesjoyce.ie for pointers about where to go/what to see.

There's also a degree of hype about the dangers of venturing into the wild north inner city.

Alastair (resident of the north inner city)

On Jun.16.2006 at 02:43 PM
Beth Tondreau (Dada's girl)’s comment is:

And then I scanned this with my eyes to enjoy again yes and admired the interventions yes and so loved the Joseph Kossuth piece yes and the schema that helps and boggles yes and Berling is out of sorts but well-used yes and Mark Kingsley has made arcania sexy yes yes. I would love to own a copy of Ulysses Wrectified yes.

On Jun.19.2006 at 01:40 PM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

From Episode 16 -- Eumaeus: After which effusion the redoubtable specimen duly arrived on the scene and, regaining his seat, he sank rather than sat heavily on the form provided.

Beth, check your email.

On Jun.19.2006 at 04:01 PM