WILDE, Oscar (1854-1900)
The Picture of Dorian Gray
London, New York and Melbourne : Ward, Lock and Co., 1891. First English edition, de luxe, large paper issue; one of 250 numbered copies, signed by Wilde on the limitation page (this is copy No. 67). Small quarto, later full crushed red morocco binding, spine with raised bands, gilt lettering and ornament, gilt dentelles, armorial bookplate of John Byram; top edges gilt, others uncut, pp vii, 334; printed on handmade Van Gelder paper; a fine copy in a twentieth century binding; with an autograph note by Wilde, written in ink on Wilde’s personalized notepaper with embossed letterhead ’16, Tite Street, Chelsea, S.W.’ and dated 15 July 1889, informing the unnamed correspondent that ‘the book you refer to has been out of print for many years. Yours, Oscar Wilde’; the note has been mounted on a stub at the front free-endpaper.
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Wilde’s only novel – caused a scandal when it was first published in Philadelphia’s Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, in July 1890. Following its initial scathing reviews, Wilde revised the text, adding a further six chapters and a new preface, which included his famous statement on the nature of published writing: ‘There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.’ The English trade edition was published in April 1891; this signed large-paper edition was issued on July 1, three months after the standard trade edition. It was advertised in The Athenaeum on 16 May 1891 as the “Edition de Luxe”.
Wilde’s work became the most famous novel of its time, and the eponymous protagonist one of the most famous creations in all literature.