|Title page (fragment) of Oscar Wilde, The Sphinx, illustrated by Alastair (London, New York, John Lane, 1920)|
|Oscar Wilde, The Sphinx: frontispiece by Alastair (London, New York, John Lane, 1920)|
The edition run was 1000 copies. Auction catalogues regularly include a copy of this edition. And every now and then the book is associated with Charles Ricketts, in which case the cover design is ascribed to him.
|Oscar Wilde, The Sphinx: cover design by Alastair (London, New York, John Lane, 1920)|
In May 2012 the Dutch auction house of Bubb Kuyper sold a copy of the book (lot 2768) for which the description reads: '[Alastair]. Wilde, O. The Sphinx. London/ New York, J. Lane, 1920, 36p., 12 plates and 13 capitals by ALASTAIR, all printed in black and blue, printed in 1000 copies, orig. gilt dec. cl. by C. RICKETTS, t.e.g., 4to. - Some sl. foxing. Otherwise fine. = Peppin/ Micklethwaite p.310 (under Hans Henning Voigt) and Houfe p.486': "(...) his colour illustrations have more the feel of the contemporary Russian school of ballet designers".'
Toovey's, located in Washington, UK, also sold a copy of the book in their auction on 10 July 2012, lot 3245. The description included the following: '12 plates and 13 decorative initials by Alastair printed in black and blue. (Occasional light browning or spotting.) Original decorated cloth blocked in blue and gilt to a design by Charles Ricketts, t.e.g. (somewhat soiled)'.
Earlier, on 23 October 2010, the Berlin auction house Galerie Bassenge described as lot 2508 another copy of the book: 'Alastair. - Wilde, Oscar. The Sphinx. 1 Bl., 34 S., Mit 13 farbigen Initialen und 10 (2 als fl. Vorsätze) mit Türkis kolorierten Tafeln von Alastair. 30 x 22 cm. In Golddruck illustr. OLeinenband (Einbandillustration von Charles Ricketts; etwas unfrisch). London und New York, J. Lane, 1920'.
Many more examples, earlier and later, could be quoted, but these suffice to indicate that it is a widespread error, the source of which can be found in the preliminaries of the book itself. Why would Ricketts be mentioned in relation to this book?
|Publisher's note in Oscar Wilde, The Sphinx (London, New York, John Lane, 1920)|
|Robert Ross, 'Note', in Oscar Wilde, The Sphinx (London, New York, John Lane, 1920)|
The 1920 cover, with a bold looking sphinx, is of course drawn by Alastair. There is no signature. Ricketts was not involved in the design of this edition.
[A copy of Alastair's Sphinx is made available by Nicholas Frankel on OpenStax.]