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A Wonderful Hand-me-down Heirloom

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

Margaret Franklin who I know from my hometown, Athlone, in the heart of Ireland, shares this fantastic family heirloom owned by her late father who used to quote from Ulysses often.

Part of the green dustcover has turned a dusty brown but Margaret dusts off Ulysses each June to read the book on Bloomsday in places like Burgess Park and Athlone Castle.

Margaret is originally from Enniscorthy and now spends her time in both Wexford and Westmeath.

It was only when she read the book herself that she recognised her father's witty Joycean quotes.

Margaret is a retired academic who has enjoyed her own share of writing and who also enjoys dabbling in a little poetry too. She has shared an excellent poem about the River Shannon in the past and I'd love to read more of her writing and poetry.

Most of her writings have been about science and I believe she used to write articles for Science Spin magazine. The aim was to explain science in layperson's terms and after she retired, she continued to write a regular column called Topical Science for The Westmeath Independent where she tried to explain the science behind current news items.

Her heirloom is a 1949 reprint of the first unlimited edition published by Bodley Head in 1937. You can also see her father's name neatly written on the title page.

Margaret asked me what edition I have and I have three copies and one is a beautiful 1941 edition which Margaret commented was older than her one but while I sought to buy something memorable yet affordable, and chose one from the year that Joyce died, it is nothing more than an impulsive e-bay purchase whereas her book is well-read and I trust a keepsake with fond family memories of her father Alan's witty quotes.

My other two copies are one I picked up when I first tried to read Ulysses but abandoned it after the first chapter or two and it sat on my shelf for years before finally finishing it for the Groundhog Day Challenge. I am very fond of this Wordsworth Classic edition but it is battle worn and should be burnt. Stuffed in a coat pocked while I commuted around Spain, it is not the prettiest book and I only managed to finish Ulysses thanks to the self confindment caused by Coronavirus and for future generations, I think I should at least put it in a hazmat bag.

They said from the onset of the pandemic that we should cough into our sleeves but I don't think they meant cough into the sleeves of our books so I won't be giving anyone my copy of Ulysses. Much cleaner and with no dog ears, Wordsworth Editions have given me six copies of their collection of James Joyce's books, five to giveaway and one for myself.

I am delighted to have their full collection of Joyce's work on my bookshelf but am not ready to break the back of Finnegan's Wake just yet.

Maybe you have an old copy of Ulysses lying around your house that belonged to your parents or grandparents, maybe it is worth a lot of money today, maybe it's not but it is definitely worth holding on to for future generations.

If you want a brand new version of Ulysses as well as A Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man, Dubliners and Finnegan's Wake, then there is still time to share your own selfies with Ulysses before Bloomsday in June to be entered in with the chance to win a Wordsworth Edition's collection of Joyce's work.

SIGNED COPY: Signed by the reader and not the author, you can still see Margaret's father's name and address

Wordsworth Editions have kindly provided five collections to continue The Groundhog Day Challenge past Groundhog Day and February's winner was Eugenia Sanchez Acosta from Uruguay who really wanted to expand her collection of Joycean books in Spanish to include some in English and she was thrilled to win the competition and says that she will bring her copy with her whenever she gets to celebrate Bloomsday.

Eugenia was one of the first followers of this project and without such enthusiasm from Uruguay at the beginning of the Groundhog Day Challenge, this guy might not have continued blogging and posting about it. Thanks Eugenia.

A Floridian friend won the competition in February and again she has been following The Groundhog Day Challenge since the beginning and was encouraged to go out and buy a copy of Ulysses and was delighted to win the entire collection.

HANDFUL: Eugenia with her collection of Ulises

April's winner is no stranger to Joyce as she is staging her own musical called Ulysses Missa in New York at the end of the month.

Wherever you are, however you have been drawn to Joyce, you still have two chances to win a collection of his books and all you need is to share a selfie with Ulysses which you can do in your own creative way by borrowing a book, picking one of the bookshelves of a bookshop or even posting an empty bookshelf and the adding the caption, "Hand me my Wordsworth," I still have no idea what Joyce meant when he wrote that as I don't believe Wordsworth publishers existed a century ago, and I'll have to presume it was a reference to a poetry book by William Wordsworth.

This is the year to get more copies of Ulysses off the shelves and into people's hands but there are many ways to enjoy Joyce today including Kindle editions, audiobooks, reading groups, films and television, and even a musical version of it being staged to enjoy.

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UNESCO City of Literature

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