"DECORATIVE ELEGANCE WITH A FASCINATION WITH THE PERVERSE": LIMITED EDITION OF WILDE'S THE SPHINX, ILLUSTRATED BY ALASTAIR
WILDE, Oscar. The Sphinx. London and New York: John Lane, 1920. Large slim quarto, original white buckram, pictorially decorated in teal and gilt, top edge gilt, uncut.
Limited edition of Wilde's famous poem on the "foul dreams of sensual life," one of 1000 copies, with cover design and 12 superb illustrations by Alastair, heightened with color.
Working under the pseudonym "Alastair," Baron Hans Henning Voight, German-born artist, dancer and mime, derived his provocative style of illustration directly from Aubrey Beardsley. His pictures are known for their combination of "decorative elegance with a fascination with the perverse, sinister and satanic" (Peppin & Micklethwait). This special edition of Wilde's The Sphinx, designed entirely by Alastair, contains ten fine tissue-guarded full-page black-and-white illustrations, two additional illustrations tipped front and rear, and numerous large ornamental initial letters—all heightened in teal by hand. "The publication of The Sphinx in 1920 signaled the start of Alastair's decade of fame… First published by John Lane in 1894, this was originally a youthful poem, later revised… [I]t brought in a multiplicity of Egyptian echoes in its heightened language" (Arwas, Alastair Illustrator of Decadence, 12, 30). The book states, "This edition is limited to 1,000 copies and cannot be reprinted, as the stones from which the offset plates were printed were in Belgium at the time of the German invasion, and were destroyed."
Interior fine. Some light soiling to original cloth, spine faded. A lovely copy of this beautiful production.