The Sphinx

WILDE, Oscar

Only edition thus with the Alastair plates. Quarto (overall 31.8 x 23.4 cm, the pages 29.8 x 22.5 cm). One of 1,000 unnumbered copies, illustrated with twelve full-page plates and thirteen opening initials by Alastair, printed in black with turquoise and teal highlights. Publisher’s cream buckram book cloth, gilt lettering on spine, pictorial front cover stamped in gilt and teal with design by Alastair, top edges gilt, others uncut. Printed by Spottiswoode, Ballantyne & Co. Ltd. on fine handmade Aldwych laid paper. Collates 5 ll. (half-title, title in black and teal, list of illustrations, Note by Robert Ross dated April 19, 1910, fly-title), pp. 11-36, plus 2 ll. inserted front and 2 ll. back (free fly-leaves each with a lithographed illustration), and 10 ll. inserted lithographed illustrations with tissue guards with printed titles, the illustrations on thicker cream laid paper printed one side only and inserted on stubs. Spine sun-darkened, slight edgewear top, and bottom of spine, small stain top edge rear cover, slight soiling on covers, usual offsetting on endpapers, otherwise the binding very good, tight, bright and square, internally fine, the paper bright and crisp, the illustrations brilliant.

Alastair (pseudonym of Hans Henning Baron Vogt, 1889-1969) was a noted illustrator of fine books issued by Lane, Black Sun, Crès, Narcisse, and others. Influenced by the linear Decadence of Beardsley, he infused his fascination with the bizarre with the new style of surface and line evolving in movements like the Vienna Secession. “La surface et la ligne so les souls éléments have sequels ALASTAIR compose son monde. Ses atmosphères don’t étranges et néanmoins réalistes.” H. Slonimsky, quoted in Marcus Osterwalder, Dictionnaire des Illustrateurs 1800-1914, p. 40 (Paris: Hubschmidt & Bouret, 1983). The John Lane archive of Birmingham City University houses an intriguing collection of Alastair autograph material principally about his illustrations for The Sphinx (via Robert Ross) and other Lane publications.

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