Samuel Roth and the Pirated Ulysses
The Modernist Versions Project is pleased to announce the availability of the first installment of Samuel Roth’s Two Worlds Monthly magazine in which was published James Joyce’s Ulysses. To our knowledge, this is the first time this important scholarly resource has been made freely accessible to the academic community.
Following the success of our “Year of Ulysses” initiative, during which we published the entire 1922 Shakespeare and Company edition of Ulysses, we will continue year two of our project by making available Roth’s edition of Ulysses as well as the two-volume 1932 Odyssey Press edition of Ulysses.
The success of our project is founded on the collaboration between the MVP and its partners. The 1922 edition of Ulysses was graciously provided by our partners at the University of Tulsa, and Two Worlds Monthly was generously furnished by Special Collections at the University of Victoria. The fact that these issues of Two Worlds Monthly were found in Special Collections by Dr. J. Matthew Huculak may be credited to the library’s willingness to support scholars who seek to “surface” the treasures of the material in Special Collections. Dr. Huculak would like to thank Lara Wilson and Jonathan Bengtson in the library for their support of his work.
We hope by providing access to this material that we will ignite knowledge mobilization around this fascinating moment in modern print production. Roth’s pirating of Ulysses is significant in that he did not break any copyright law by publishing Joyce’s work. This is a complicated moment in U. S. copyright-law history, and as Robert Spoo notes,
Samuel Roth was a pirate who abided by the copyright law. Rarely accused of infringing anyone’s copyright, he built his career on the resources of the American public domain. US copyright law in 1925 was isolationist and protectionist; its technicalities were a constant worry to foreign-domiciled authors like James Joyce who could not always satisfy the rigid statutory conditions for copyright protection […] Yet we call him a ‘pirate’ and probably always will. We sense that he violated some unwritten law of good faith and fair dealing, though we are hard pressed to name the law. The nineteenth century had a name for it, however: the courtesy of the trade, or trade courtesy. (Spoo 99)
Roth’s refusal to participate in trade courtesy sparked the first international protest by authors in support of Joyce’s “right” to determine when and where his work could be published. But in many ways, Roth’s contributions to modernism have been erased by the historical record: “Though frequently remembered as a pornographer, Roth importantly shaped the Modernist movement by compelling many of its key players to think more seriously about issues of censorship, artistic freedom, and literatureâ€™s relationship to the law. Roth dedicated the first issue of Two Worlds Monthly to Joyce, ‘who will probably plead the cause of our time at the bar of posterity'” (Sigler).
We hope that by providing these issues of Roth to the modernist community that we will spur continued scholarship in modernity and periodical culture in the twentieth-century. Moreover, we hope to continue a discussion around copyright in the digital realm as media develops in the digital economy. Let the versioning of Ulysses continue!
Sigler, Amanda. “Scandalous Reputations: Serializing Ulysses in Two Worlds Monthly.” Berfrois Amanda Sigler Scandalous Ulysses Comments. Berfrois, 16 June 2011. Web. 10 Oct. 2013. <http://www.berfrois.com/2011/06/happy-bloomsday/>.
Spoo, Robert.”Samuel Roth: Discourteous Reprinter.” 5 Dublin James Joyce Journal 99-111 (2012).
- Gertzman, Jay A. Bookleggers and Smuthounds: The Trade in Erotica, 1920-1940. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1999. Print.
- Gertzman, Jay A. Samuel Roth: Infamous Modernist. Gainesville: University of Florida, 2013. Print.
- Spoo, Robert. Copyright and Joyce: Litigating the Word : James Joyce in the Courts. Dublin: James Joyce Centre, 2008. Print.
- – – – . Without Copyrights: Piracy, Publishing, and the Public Domain. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013. Print.
Postdoctoral Fellow, Digital Scholarship, University of Victoria Libraries; Co-Founder, Modernist Versions Project