Wednesday, November 25, 2015

226. Two deluxe copies of "The Importance of Being Earnest"

Part V of The Library of an English Bibliophile was scheduled for auction at Sotheby's yesterday, 24 November. The sale catalogue lists two deluxe copies of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde in a vellum binding designed by Charles Shannon (1899).

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1899):
one of 12 copies bound in vellum
The play was published in an edition of 1000 copies. There were also 100 large paper copies printed on Van Gelder Zonen paper, numbered and signed by Wilde, and additionally there were twelve numbered copies on Japanese vellum. These copies were for presentation only.

For sale were number 3, with a handwritten dedication to Robert Ross, dated February 1899, and No. 5, with a dedication to Frances Forbes-Robertson, dated June 1899. The first one contains an autograph letter by Wilde to Ross promising three seats for the opening night of the play. Estimate of that copy was: £160.000-180.000 [it was sold earlier as part of the Jacques Levy collection in 2012; hammer price including buyer's premium was $362.500.] This time the hammer price including buyer's premium was £197.000.

Sotheby's estimate for the other copy (No. 5) was: £50.000-70.000. This copy remained unsold.

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1899):
one of 12 copies bound in vellum
In Wilde's bibliography (1914) a few other copies were listed: No. 2 was dedicated to Edward Strangman [this copy was sold by Christie's in 2001, for $60.000], No. 4 was located in the British Museum; No. 10 had been sold by Hodgson's in 1911; in 1912 No. 11 had been sold by Sotheby's from the collection of C. Sebag Montefiore and No. 12 was said to be in the collection of Maurice Schwabe.

Since then copy 9 has been added to the British Library collection, it was acquired from the collection of Lady Eccles.

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1899):
No. 9 of 12 copies bound in vellum
Another (?) copy was sold by Whitmore Rare Books in Catalogue 4. No. 10 is now in the J. Harlin O'Connell collection at Princeton University Library.

No. 1 Leonard Smithers (?)
No. 2 Edward Strangman [dedication]
No. 3 Robert Ross [dedication] [formerly in the collection of Jacques Levy]
No. 4 [location:] The British Library
No. 5 Frances Forbes-Robertson [dedication]
No. 6
No. 7
No. 8
No. 9 [location:] The British Library [collection Lady Eccles]
No. 10 [location:] Princeton University Press [collection J. Harlin O'Connell]
No. 11 C. Sebag Montefiore
No. 12 Maurice Schwabe