Wednesday, February 27, 2019

396. Two Deluxe Copies of The Sphinx

On 30 January Forum Auctions in London sold the collection of the late Bruce Beatty, and three weeks later, on 20 February 2019, Christie's in Paris sold the library of Marc Litzler. Both collections could boast of a deluxe copy of Oscar Wilde's The Sphinx, designed and illustrated by Ricketts. Only 25 copies of this large paper edition were made, two of which came on the market in less than a month. 
Oscar Wilde, The Sphinx (1894) [deluxe copy Beatty collection]
The description of the Beatty copy mentioned that the tissue guard was present (for the Litzler copy this detail wasn't mentioned), and the Unbleached Arnold (Ruskin) paper was said to be 'very slightly foxed but barely affecting text'. The condition of the paper of the Litzler copy seems similarly affected, the description mentioned 'des rousseurs que l'on rencontre toujours dans les exemplaires du tirage ordinaire', which is true, except of course that the ordinary copies have been printed on paper of a slightly lesser quality (also Arnold, but thinner, and more prone to foxing). The special type of Arnold paper should have been in excellent condition.

Oscar Wilde, The Sphinx (1894) [deluxe copy Litzler collection]
The photographs seem to indicate that the Beatty copy, although 'very lightly soiled', looks fresher than the Litzler copy, the vellum of the latter showing some browning, while both copies have retained the original binding ties.

The provenance of the Litzler copy was not described; the Beatty copy has a bookplate by a former collector, Edmund Bulkley. The Beatty copy sold for £17,000 (hammer price; buyer's premium c. £4,250); the Litzler copy sold for €16,250 (including premium): a difference of around €2,000.