Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, widely regarded as his greatest work, has sold for triple its high estimate as part of a sale of the Jacques Levy Library in New York.
The auction, held by Sotheby's on Friday (April 20, 2012), saw rare and important works from an eclectic collection that was amassed over 40 years by Mr Levy.
The standout sale of the auction was the first edition copy of Oscar Wilde's most famous play, which was inscribed by the author with a touching dedication to his first gay lover, Robert Ross.
This presented an exciting opportunity for collectors of Wilde at the auction, bearing great significance and insight into the life of one of Ireland's greatest playwrights. Robert Ross was not only Wilde's lover; he was a lifelong friend, confidant and later, literary executor.
One of only 12 of its kind, it was the importance of this charming item that drove prices to $362,500, an increase of 202% against estimate.
You can read Paul Fraser Collectibles' preview of the sale here, for more information on this fascinating work.
Top lot of the sale went to a collection of drawings from David Roberts, which sold for $482,500. The lot comprised 99 preliminary sketches from the documentation of the artist's travels in Egypt and The Holy Land, which was to be released later. This fascinating series was sold with an estimate of $120,000-180,000, an impressive increase of 168%.
A beautifully bound copy of 12 watercolours and plates from the Eragny Press realised $314,500 against a high estimate of $150,000. The exemplary piece provided a great example of the works of father and son Camille and Lucien Pissarro, the latter of which founded the press in 1894.
For rare book collectors, we have this signed copy of Virginia Woolfe's Orlando. The book is made more exciting for collectors having been part of the library of American Impressionist artist, Daniel Garber.