John Morgan’s ‘Usylessly’ Celebrates Aesthetics From James Joyce’s Pioneering Novel
unnecessarily by John Morgan is a bibliographic and typographic sculpture, based on an exact replica of the 1922 edition of Shakespeare and Company by James Joyce Odysseus
The John Morgan studio has constantly pushed the boundaries of typographic invention, working closely with creative clients to bring visual life to a wide range of design projects.
John Morgan and his team designed the guidance for Tate Britain, redesigned the Common prayer book for the Church of England, created the visual identity and signage for the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, and worked hand in hand with architects such as 6a and David Chipperfield.
Since the studio was founded in 2000, Morgan has always nurtured self-initiated side projects. These include the type foundry and independent publisher of editions and artist multiples, ABYME, which he created with his collaborator Adrien Vasquez in 2017. When he is not practicing design, Morgan is a professor of Design, Typography and Book Art at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.
unnecessarily by John Morgan
unnecessarily is a new work by Morgan, a bibliographic and typographic sculpture based on an exact replica of the 1922 edition of Shakespeare and Company by James Joyce Odysseus – the first edition of the legendary experimental novel.
As the book’s centenary approaches, the designer shaped this volume to celebrate the physical form of the book – particularly the blue, specifically requested by Joyce, and how this particular form has become so closely associated with writing.
unnecessarily exactly matches the specifications of the 1922 edition of Shakespeare and Company, so there are 736 pages in total. However, it only contains 64 pages of content; the rest of the book is left incredibly empty. This print section consists of two essays, the first of which, “Re-Covering Ulysses”, was written by Edward L Bishop and originally published in 1994. Chronicles of Bishop Odysseus as a physical object, an idea explored in more detail by the other essay, “Ulysses Blue”. Part of Bishop’s piece is about finding the perfect blue, including a trawl through the extensive James Joyce collection at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin.
Odysseus has captivated and bewildered in equal measure since its first publication, confirming Joyce as a pioneer of modernist literature. unnecessarily plays with the designer’s eerily powerful relationship with the presentation of literature, and how different editions and design approaches can take on subtle but assertive new meanings over time. Too often, these meanings run counter to our modern expectations of lasting perfection.
“Please note that the binding is delicate and the blue imperfect with some stripes in the spirit of the 1922 edition,” notes the book’s website. “The paper will wrinkle and dent on the back and elsewhere and show signs of use and deteriorate over time as a large paperback will … minor damage can still occur during shipping and handling. handling is to be expected. ” He concludes: “Please note that the book is largely blank and does not contain the text of Ulysses by James Joyce.” Joyce would have been proud of this simple recognition of a complex reality. §