The Sphinx. With Decorations by Charles Ricketts (1894)
Book ID: 63291
The Sphinx. With Decorations by Charles Ricketts. Published by Elkin Mathews, London 1894. First Edition. Rebound in half morocco cloth boards, title lettered in gilt within a gilt panel to spine. Bookplate to pastedown. A fine bright copy. Housed in chemise and slipcase.
Published in a Limited Edition of 200 Copies.
Ricketts thought that The Sphinx was his best work as an illustrator, although Wilde disagreed, believing that they were the product of intellect rather than temperament. The book was delayed in its publication on account of the Beardsley illustrated Salomé appearing in 1893. Eventually the book came out in 1894 in an edition of 200 copies; press hostility to Wilde ensured its failure. The book became a rarity almost immediately owing to a fire at the Ballantyne Press destroying many of the unsold copies.
‘The Sphinx is his [Ricketts] best book. The result is a perfect whole, as harmonious as it is dazzling. The haunting designs gold-stamped on the vellum covers propose the subject. The poet’s mood is established by the figure of Melancholia gazing at the Sphinx in the pictorial title. The adventures of this hybrid creature through the ‘weary centuries’ are obliquely presented in the designs that follow. And the poet’s final turning back from the ‘foul dreams of sensual life’ that she has imposed upon him to the creed of the crucifixion is delayed in the conclusion. This remains his [Ricketts] most original and consistent work.’ – Ray [Illustrator and the Book, 262]. Mason 361