A book is a machine for generating meaning; the material form of the book itself contributes to the creation of meaning and, in so doing, shapes the reader. Often statements like this are produced as if the book historian or textual critic were discovering new truths rather than restating shared knowledge in a new vocabulary. The Royal Engineers conducting the Ordnance Survey in Brian Friel's Translations (1981) rename the places of Donegal; they give the authority of print and lend the status of officialdom to the new names. Yet the people of Donegal have known, and worked and lived in, these places for countless years under their original names. Publishers, who take the decisions about the material form that the text will take, can be relegated to the same status. Their role in making calculated and calculating judgements is ignored in the renaming of paratext and in the analysis of its generation or qualification of meaning. This essay attempts to reinstate publishers as active agents in making books and shaping readers, through a case study of the 1969 Penguin edition of Ulysses.
The establishment of Joyce's novel in the academy in the UK, the essay will argue, was a deliberate result of the marketing of that 1969 paperback edition, Penguin number 3,000. The date is significant.