The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Association Copy (1898)
Book ID: 67458
The Ballad of Reading Gaol. London: Leonard Smithers, 1898. First Edition. Pp, 31, uncut. Publisher’s white linen-backed cinnamon cloth by Matthew Bell & Co., in nice clean condition. Light browning to endpapers & fore-edges, contents pages in nice bright condition. Preserved in collector’s solander box.
One of Eight Hundred copies printed on handmade paper.
Printed quotation to front pastedown, with inscription by the publisher’s Leonard Smithers in purple ink beneath “The Books of Today and the Books of Tomorrow, April 1898.” In addition there are several contemporary newspaper-clippings relating to the death of Wilde in Paris in November 1900 (pasted to front & rear endpapers).
Wilde had been incarcerated in Reading Jail after being convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years’ hard labour in prison. Upon his release Wilde had begun writing the poem in exile at the Châlet Bourgevat, Berneval, near Dieppe in the summer of 1897. Smithers sent a final proof to him in Naples on 29 December, and the work was officially published on 13 February, by which time Wilde had returned to Paris. C.3.3. was Wilde’s cell number. He noted to the publisher that ‘it would be better to publish there without my name. I see that it is my name that terrifies.’ After the seventh edition (1899) the publishers added his full name in brackets after C.3.3. on the title page.