The Sphinx

WILDE, Oscar

WILDE, Oscar The Sphinx

Elkin Mathews & John Lane at the Bodley Head, 1894.

First edition, deluxe issue. One of only 25 large paper copies on handmade paper (in addition to 200 small paper copies). Original vellum with a gilt decorated design by Charles Ricketts including additional ornamentation to the small paper edition. Ties present. House in a quarter-vellum, velvet lined custom box. Nine dramatic, full page wood cut illustrations by Ricketts printed in sepia, initial letters and catch words printed in green. A fine copy, with the vellum, so usually prone to soiling, uncommonly clean and bright. Internally fresh.

Wilde's phatasmagorical lyric poem, which he began as an undergraduate influenced by the works of Baudelaire and Flaubert. It is described as "a prime example of many aspects of the English literary Decadence, an extravagant example in both style and subject matter of the ornate become outré, the esoteric entering the forbidden, the luxurious growing lascivious." (Jerome Buckley - Oecho and Artifice: The Poetry of Oscar Wilde)
The book is, however, as notable for being one of the most pre-eminent late nineteenth century book productions as it is for its text.
"Wilde requested Ricketts to design this first edition of The Sphinx, and it is the first book over which he [Ricketts] exercised complete control of illustration, page, and binding design. His use of a pictorial title, placed on a verso like a frontispiece, was to continue in many of his later publications" (The Turn of the Century)
It is regarded as Ricketts's best work as an illustrator, the Pall Mall Gazette remarking in a contemporary review, "the monsters of the Egyptian room at the British Museum live again in weird, sometimes repulsive, but at all times stately and impressive lines."
Seldom seen in commerce by dint of its tiny limitation, it is notably rare in such sparkling condition free from the soiling and foxing which usually affects it.

PROVENANCE: There are erased inscriptions to the half-title and dedication leaf. The latter was an apocryphal presentation inscription from Wilde to 'Walter du Bosque', dated 1897. It was sold at Parke-Bernet, 10 December 1957, lot 247 as a genuine presentation copy, from the collection of Emile Du Bosque (his bookplate to half-title). Both inscriptions, now sometime since erased, can be barely discerned.

Mason 362, Turn of a Century 10.

Stock ID: 40832


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