BRANDED scandalous and obscene when originally published, a first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses has sold for more than £20,000 at a Salisbury auction house.

The book, sold by Woolley & Wallis, was found at the bottom of a box of bric-a-brac that had been taken to the company by a local family.

Covered in brown paper, the book was not immediately recognised as something of value.

Liz Merry, a book specialist at the firm, said: "There was a lot of stuff packed into 28 boxes and, without exaggeration, this was at the bottom of the last box I looked in.

"The edition is very scarce and the owner had no idea how it was acquired by the family, but it is in good condition."

Published in 1922 by a Parisian English-language bookshop, Ulysses was banned in America until 1933 and in Britain until 1937.

Joyce wrote the book between 1914 and 1921, and this copy is one of only 1,000 printed on handmade paper.

There was huge interest in the book during the auction, with more than 14 people bidding for it, including some international buyers.

Found in its original blue dust jacket, the book was estimated at £8,000 to £10,000 but eventually went for £23,000.

It was sold last on Wednesday last week in Woolley & Wallis's painting and books sale to an English man bidding over the telephone.

Charlotte Heneage, marketing and PR officer for Woolley & Wallis, said: "It's fantastic, really exciting.

"It's difficult to predict how much these items will go for but this price was amazing.

"Occasionally, we get things of this rarity often the owners don't know how valuable some of the items they are bringing in are."