Ulysses, Joyce and the book typography of Ernst Reichl
My first (and up to yesterday) only copy of Ulysses has been the Bodley Head edition of 1960 (as revised 1969, tenth impression). Bought in 1976 (demonstrating the long shelf life of books in those days) it is a solid publication (measuring 4.5 inches by 7.5 inches – 19.2cm x 11.5cm), with its moss green cover: there is even a commendation from The Times. “That the format of a book can affect its readability has long been known. Rarely can it have been so strikingly exemplified as by the Bodley Head’s new edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses. The work has been reset and a handy volume produced. It is a great improvement…”
Until yesterday I had not heard of Ernst Reichl, maybe never would had I not got to the Hip Pocket bookshop in Murwillumbah. It’s only opened recently, run by a young fella called Elliot who specialises in Beat Generation books. The room is large, friendly, a few old sofas and chairs dotted around, a record player playing 60s albums, a sewing machine, pots of poster paint and unfinished posters/designs, with the afternoon I visited the powerful (overwhelming) smell of incense sticks. Murwillumbah is not the sort of place you’d expect to find such a bookshop, which makes it even more attractive.
Because Elliot can’t source enough Beat books – at least enough that are affordable – he sells other stuff: volumes of poetry you see everywhere (Penguin editions of Donne etc); novels; children’s books too. Also psychology (at the same time I picked up a couple of volumes of Freud, one a paperback edition of General Introduction to Psychoanalysis) and plenty of those “What your Dreams say about You’-type books.
Anyhow, among this mix I came across the Random House edition of Ulysses (1946, but no different in design I believe from the first of 1934, and measuring 6 inches by 9 inches). I was immediately struck by the cover (designed by F McKnight Kauffer, himself a genius of graphic arts) but when I turned to the title page my mouth, as they say, dropped. It was/is staggeringly beautiful.
By the looks of it, hand-drawn lettering commanding the pages. What a thrill compared with the stolid, respectable Bodley.
I flicked further and found the chapter heads – the first simply a delight. “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan…” Stately and plump – how appropriate.
There is more. De-nudding the volume of its paper cover reveals – much like an archaeologist scrapping away the sand to uncover a gold torque – this –
How much pleasure can one take from one book? It will be a pleasure to re-read.
For an excellent overview of Reichl go here, including a summary of the events leading to the publication of the 1934 edition following the attempt by the US Government to prevent publication on grounds of indecency.
The Reichl archive is kept at Columbia University. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/archival/collections/ldpd_4079259/ Anyone live near Columbia and fancy rummaging around in the archive? Must contain treasures.