A previously unknown First Edition of one of the most important plays ever written starred in Dominic Winter's UK auction of Printed Books & Maps, yesterday (July 22).
The Irish poet Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) began writing Salomé in 1861. This 1893 signed and inscribed London/Paris First Edition is all the more remarkable for being in French, which Wilde spoke and wrote fluently.
Controversy dogged Wilde throughout his life, and Salomé was no exception. A year before this edition was published in 1892, Lord Chamberlain's licensor banned the play in London for its illegal depiction of biblical characters.
Nevertheless, the play eventually had its debut performance at Paris's Theatre de l'Oeuvre, on February 11, 1896 - the same city in which Wilde would die four years later, penniless and destitute, aged just 46.
Released a year prior to its English language version, this First Edition of Salomé sold in its original purple wrapper printed in silver, and is somewhat faded with marginal browning (including on the spine).
Also adding to the book's historical significance is a signature and inscription by Wilde himself.
Alongside Wilde's autograph, with trademark paraph to the last letter of his name, the fascinating inscription reads: '… Gustave Moreau, Hommage respectueux, Oscar Wilde'.
This inscription is especially significant as it suggests that the book was a personal gift from Wilde to Moreau (1826-1898), whose paintings of Salome the author had praised and which may have inspired the play.
French artist Gustav Moreau's painting of Salome dancing (bottom right);
The book - sold with a contemporary photograph of French Symbolist painter Moreau's 1886 watercolour of Salome dancing pasted into its opening pages - appeared in Dominic Winter's Gloucestershire sale with a pre-sale estimate of £20,000-30,000.
Unsurprisingly, this singular and historical artefact of one of Ireland's most important playwrights exceeded all expectations, realising a final price of £34,000.
Elsewhere on the market, collectors have an opportunity to acquire another example of Oscar Wilde's famous signature - on a rare photograph autographed by Wilde during his famous American tour of 1882.
It was during this trip that he famously stated, while at New York City's custom house, "I have nothing to declare but my genius..."
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