Item #125551 The Sphinx, with decorations by Charles Ricketts. Oscar Wilde.
The Sphinx, with decorations by Charles Ricketts.
The Sphinx, with decorations by Charles Ricketts.
The Sphinx, with decorations by Charles Ricketts.
The Sphinx, with decorations by Charles Ricketts.
The Sphinx, with decorations by Charles Ricketts.

The Sphinx, with decorations by Charles Ricketts.

1894. London: Elkin Matthews and John Lane, 1894.

Small 4to, [22] ff., unpaginated, illustrated throughout by Ricketts. Washed and cleaned to remove all the inevitable spotting always found, and rebound in stiff vellum retaining the elaborate gilt covers designed by Ricketts; printed on Arnold unbleached hand-made paper with green printed initials and russet headlines and full-page illustrations.

§ First edition, one of 200 copies on small paper. One of the very few indisputably great (and weird) illustrated books of the 1890s. “In 1894 Ricketts produced a masterpiece for Matthews and Lane with The Sphinx. Ricketts was evidently given a free hand not merely to illustrate the book but to design it from cover to cover. The book is brilliantly successful. The use of brick red for the illustrations and the bright green for the decorative initials and catchwords and the black printed text in large and small capitals throughout, provides an ideal setting for the artificiality of Wilde’s text.” (Muir, Victorian Illustrated Books, pp. 192-193). And Russell Taylor, in his Art Nouveau Book in Britain is also fulsome in his praise: “Whichever way one looks at it, Ricketts seems somehow to come out as the hero of any study of the art nouveau book -- each [of his books] is conceived freshly in terms of its literary materials, the design sometimes chiming with, sometimes counterpointing the qualities of the subject... in The Sphinx, the extreme elaboration of the book’s form mirrors exactly the luxuriant and self-consciously perverse exoticism of Wilde’s text; perversity, indeed, is even indulged graphically to the extent of having a left-hand title page.” Mason 361. Ray 262. There was a large-paper edition limited to 25 copies, and it is generally accepted that many of the 200 copies of the regular edition were lost or destroyed, while those that survived are almost always badly foxed and stained. Item #125551

Price: $7,500.00

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