Usylessly, a work by John Morgan, is the result of a close observation of the blue cover and form of the first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses. The book duplicates the size, bulk and appearance of the 1922 Shakespeare and Co. edition. Everything but the text.
At the heart of the mostly blank 736 page book is a printed sixty-four page section containing two essays written twenty-seven years apart by Edward L. Bishop and Ted Bishop. The first essay, Re-Covering Ulysses, was initially published in Joyce Studies Annual in 1994 and explores the ‘non-literary’ aspects of the book, charting, as Bishop explains, ‘the movement of Ulysses the book – the physical object with its various jackets, blurbs, ads and price tags – from modernist work to social document, to status object, to cultural artefact to, finally, what seems to be a kind of futures commodity in the freewheeling post-copyright market.’
The second essay, Ulysses Blue, published here for the first time, starts its journey in the archive of the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas with over forty copies of the 1922 edition and follows Morgan and Bishop on the quest for the blue cover, which for Joyce had to be blue – ‘The colours of the binding (chosen by me) will be white letters on a blue field – the Greek flag though really of Bavarian origin and imported with the dynasty. Yet in a special way they symbolise the myth well – the white islands scattered over the sea.’
John Morgan is the founder of John Morgan studio and Professor of design, typography and book art at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.
Ted Bishop is the author of Riding with Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles and Books (Penguin 2005), and The Social Life of Ink: Culture, Wonder, and Our Relationship with the Written Word(Penguin 2017).
Usylessly by John Morgan
Texts by Ted Bishop
Paperback, 240 × 195mm, 736 pages. (64 pp. printed, 672 pp. blank)
Published in December 2021
Edition limited to 500 copies, each copy numbered
* Please be aware that the binding is delicate and the blue imperfect with some banding in the spirit of the 1922 edition. The paper will crease and dent at the spine and elsewhere and show signs of use and deteriorate over time as a large paperback book will.
* The books are wrapped in brown paper and shipped in cardboard protective packaging. As the note on binding explained, some minor damage may still occur in shipping and handling, this is to be expected.
* Please note that the book is mostly blank, and does not contain the text of James Joyce’s Ulysses.