London: Ward Lock, 1891. 1st Edition. Octavo, publisher’s half vellum gilt, gilt-lettered beveled boards, uncut.
"There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That's all" (from the preface). First edition of Wilde’s Belle Époque novel, considered by many his greatest work, combining elements of the Gothic novel and French decadent fiction. Censored upon publication for its homoerotic themes and hedonism, this Faustian tale of beauty and vice tells of a narcissistic youth who sells his soul to stay young forever, while the sins of his libertinism manifestly accumulate in his portrait painting. Wilde at his best and most wicked. Wilde was inspired to write Dorian Gray at a dinner with Arthur Conan Doyle and his American publisher J.M. Stoddart. Conan Doyle at that time had published just one Sherlock Holmes story, and Stoddart was encouraging him to contribute another to his new periodical, Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. As Conan Doyle discussed a series of murders Holmes might solve, Wilde mused on a novel wherein the crimes would be unsolvable. Dorian Gray first appeared in Lippincott's simultaneously in Philadelphia and London, on June 20, 1890. This publication was immediately followed by an unauthorized, pirated version of the tale, printed June 22, 1890 in New York by M. J. Ivers & Co., that used the text of the story from the American edition of Lippincott's. Wilde then substantially revised the work, adding six new chapters, and it was published in this scarce first authorized trade edition in April 1891. (A deluxe signed limited edition of 250 copies on handmade paper was released in July 1891.) The title, half-title, and cover were designed by illustrator Charles Ricketts, who provided designs for many of Wilde's works. First edition, with “and” misprinted “nd” on page 208. Ellman, 314. Early owner signature (dated 1892) to front free endpaper. Re-cased, with inner hinges strengthened; rubbing to extremities; light foxing to text and boards; vellum spine uncommonly bright. An excellent copy overall of fragile book, and a landmark of English literature. Item #779