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'A French Homer in America: James Joyce, Henri Matisse and George Macy’s Limited Editions Club "Ulysses"'

2020-04-30, Crispi, Luca

On 6 December 1933, Judge John M. Woolsey of the Southern District Court of New York determined that Ulysses was not obscene and thus could be lawfully imported into the United States. By the end of the following month, Bennett Cerf, co-founder of Random House, had published the first authorized edition of James Joyce’s book in America. Then, on 22 October 1935, George Macy, the visionary director of the Limited Editions Club (LEC) in New York, a subscription-based fine arts book press, published his Ulysses with illustrations by Henri Matisse. Given its limited availability and cost—then and now—most people have never seen this monumental deluxe edition of Ulysses, and so very few people have actually tried to read it, but that is probably beside the point. The LEC Ulysses is one of the most iconic modernist books ever produced and it presented an avant-garde reimagining of Homer’s Odyssey in text and images for an American readership that may not have been quite prepared for it.