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WILDE, Oscar.

The Importance of Being Earnest.

A Trivial Comedy for Serious People.

London: Leonard Smithers and Co, 1899 Stock Code: 142975
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One of 100 large paper copies signed by the author

First edition, signed limited issue, number 19 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Wilde's last and greatest play opened to huge acclaim on Valentine's Day 1895 but was withdrawn after Wilde's failed libel suit against Lord Queensbury led to his arrest.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.

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Square octavo. Original pale purple cloth, gilt lettered spine, gilt floral motifs from designs by Charles Shannon on spine and covers, edges untrimmed. Housed in a purple quarter morocco solander box by the Chelsea Bindery.


Cloth faded at spine and inner edge of front board, free endpapers browned as usual from reaction to pastedowns, small patch of browning to pp. 40-41, otherwise fresh and clean internally, with one unopened top edge.


Mason 382.


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