Rare Henri Matisse-Illustrated Edition Of Ulysses Under The Hammer

Henri Matisse

In 1935 the French artist, Henri Matisse, was commissioned to illustrate an edition of Ulysses for subscribers to the Limited Edition Club in America. Each of the 1,000 copies was signed by Matisse and 250 were also signed by James Joyce. A copy of the book signed by both men is estimated at £6,000 to £8,000.

Now this special book collaboration between one of the 20th century’s greatest artists and one of its greatest writers will hit the auction block at Bonhams on 24 June as part of the auction houses’ Fine Book and Manuscripts sale, the Henri Matisse-illustrated edition of Ulysses is signed by both the artist and the author. It has a limited run of 250 – 1,500 were printed in total, but not all were signed. The total collection has a high estimate of $458,500, or £294,960 according to Art Daily.

In the early 1930s, Matisse was paid $5,000 or £3,220 for his Odyssey-inspired etchings, which were commissioned by George Macy, the founder of the Limited Editions Club. Matisse’s mythical Nausicaa design is embossed in gold on the front cover of the edition, displaying four shapely nudes enclosed in a sphere with Roman numerals forming a celestial clock. The spine of the book is gilt. Complete with black and white illustrations by Matisse, the book seems reasonably priced as another first edition is selling for $30,000 or £19,325 online.

Another notable lot in the auction includes a signed first edition of Ulysses, which was given to Lewis Galantiere, an American translator of French literature, who was living in Paris when he met the Irish author. The February 11, 1922 copy, which is estimated to sell between $92,000 to $120,000, or £59,265 to £77,291 is the earliest known presentation copy apart the one that Joyce gifted to his wife Nora, on February 2, 1922, which was the date of its actual first publication.

Bonhams head of Books, Matthew Haley said, “Joyce is a towering figure in world literature with an impact far beyond Ireland and the UK. This is one of the best and most comprehensive collections of his work to have come to the market in recent years.”

The books come from a library assembled by an Irish-born private collector who settled in North America and became a prominent philanthropist.


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