The Ballad of Reading Gaol. First Edition (1898)
Book ID: 64994
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., some browning to endpapers and light soiling to covers, light wear to head & tail of spine; internally a fine bright copy. [Mason 371]
One of Eight Hundred Copies printed on handmade paper. Bookplate of Vyvyan Holland -Second son of Oscar Wilde – (possibly in facsimile) to front pastedown.
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. Smithers only risked printing 400 out of the projected 800 copies in January 1898, but due to demand, printed the remaining 400 early in February.
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.