SIGNED BY OSCAR WILDE: “WHEN I WAS ALIVE AND HAD A HUMAN HEART, I DID NOT KNOW WHAT TEARS WERE”—THE SIGNED LIMITED FIRST EDITION OF THE HAPPY PRINCE, ONE OF ONLY 75 LARGE-PAPER COPIES
WILDE, Oscar. The Happy Prince and Other Tales. Illustrated by Walter Crane and Jacob Hood. London: David Nutt, 1888. Quarto, original full Japan vellum over beveled boards, uncut. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. $48,500.
Large-paper limited first edition, number 21 of only 75 copies on handmade paper, signed by Oscar Wilde and the publisher David Nutt. Extraordinarily rare.
"Wilde's reputation as an author dated from the publication of The Happy Prince and Other Tales… He presents the stories like sacraments of a lost faith… Their occasional social satire is subordinated to a sadness unusual in fairy tales" (Ellmann, 299). Wilde wrote these tales for his own children. He told Richard La Gallienne that "It is the duty of every father… to write fairy tales for his children." His children later wrote of their father's "never-ending supply" of fairy tales and tales of adventure, which he often told them to calm them down. Many of his stories were never put to paper, unfortunately, but the ones that do survive are considered to be examples of his most creative writing. In addition to the title story, this collection includes "The Nightingale and the Rose," "The Selfish Giant," "The Devoted Friend," and "The Remarkable Rocket." Wilde commented that he intended these stories "partly for children, and partly for those who have kept the child-like faculties of wonder and joy, and who find in simplicity a subtle strangeness" (Hart-Davis, Letters of Oscar Wilde, 219). With three pen-and-ink line cuts by Art Nouveau illustrator Walter Crane, each in double suite (black and brown) on mounted India paper, and with intricate head- and tailpieces by Jacomb Hood, also on India paper. Mason 314.
Plates and text fine, light foxing to endpapers, slightest soiling and very mild toning to extremities of boards, far less than usual, and small bump to lower corner. A most superior copy, about-fine, of a delicate and rare production.