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A rare copy of James Joyce's epic novel Ulysses has been sold for £275,000 ($486,000) the highest price ever paid for a 20th-century first edition.

A British private buyer purchased the book, signed by the author, at one of the world's largest antiquarian book fairs in London this week- an annual event at which prints, photographs, manuscripts and books are sold for up to £500,000.

"This copy of Ulysses is exceptional because it is in such pristine condition," vendor Pom Harrington, who made the deal, told Reuters.

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"The book was smuggled into New York during the ban in the 1920s and has been in the same family since," Harrington added.

Other highlights of the fair include an 1859 first edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species , priced at around £68,000, and a second edition of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations going for approximately £37,000.

Ulysses , originally published as a series in an American journal between 1918 and 1920, triggered controversy because of its explicit language and was banned for more than a decade in Britain and the United States during the 1920s and 1930s.

"The book is unopened and unread, except for the famous last chapter which contains all the naughty bits," Harrington said.

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