Inscribed Oscar Wilde play leads Sotheby's rare book sale
A unique inscribed copy of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest will lead a forthcoming Sotheby's sale, featuring a private library of unique first edition books inscribed by the authors themselves.
More than 140 books will cross the block, including examples signed by the likes of Ian Flemming, James Joyce, Winston Churchill, John Steinbeck and Kenneth Graham.
The books on offer each feature personal inscriptions, and were gifted by the writers to close friends, family members or people who inspired their work.
Amongst the most notable lots is a first-edition copy of The Importance of Being Earnest, inscribed by Oscar Wilde to Robert Ross, his first male lover with whom he shared a close friendship throughout his entire life.
Ross prevented Wilde's manuscripts being confiscated by Police following his arrest for indecency, worked to rescue his estate from bankruptcy and even commissioned the Epstein sculpture for his grave in Paris. Wilde dedicated The Importance of Being Earnest to Ross, and presented him his own copy with the inscription:
"To | The mirror of | perfect friendship: | Robbie: | Whose name I | have written on the portal | of this little play. | Oscar. | Feb. 99."
As a significant memento from one of Wilde's most important personal relationships, the volume is expected to sell for £150,000-£200,000.
Further highlights will include a copy of You Only Live Twice inscribed by Ian Flemming to friend Richard Hughes, the inspiration for the character Dikko Henderson (est. £20,000-£30,000); a copy of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows inscribed to the novelist and journalist Thomas Anstey Guthrie (est. £20,000-£30,000); and a copy of James Joyce's Ulysses inscribed to friend and left-wing writer David Karsner (est.£100,000-£150,000).
The Sotheby’s Library of an English Bibliophile sale takes place in London on Tuesday November 24.
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