The Importance of Being Earnest.
A Trivial Comedy for Serious People.London: Leonard Smithers and Co, 1899 Stock Code: 132907
One of 100 large paper copies signed by the authorFirst edition, signed limited issue, number 46 of 100 large paper copies signed by the author.
Wilde's last and greatest play opened to huge acclaim on Valentine's Day 1895 but was withdrawn after Wilde's failed libel suit against Lord Queensbury led to his arrest. The subsequent "utter social destruction of Wilde" (ODNB) meant that the play was not published in book form until February 1899, after Wilde's release from prison. Richard Ellmann comments that Smithers's handsome editions of Earnest and An Ideal Husband "brought Wilde a little money".
The play was issued in a standard edition of 1,000 copies, this large paper edition, and 12 copies on Japanese vellum, most of which the author presented to his few loyal friends.
Square octavo. Original pale purple cloth, gilt lettered spine, gilt floral motifs from designs by Charles Shannon on spine and covers, edges untrimmed, pages uncut. Housed in a purple quarter morocco solander box by the Chelsea Bindery.
Cloth very slightly faded at spine and upper and inner edge of front board, a couple of small areas of cockling to front board, free endpapers browned as usual from reaction to pastedowns, still a near-fine copy, fresh and clean internally, with one unopened top edge.
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