The Yellow Book.
An Illustrated Quarterly.
London, Elkin Mathews & John Lane; John Lane The Bodley Head, 1894-97.
The yellow cloth covers blocked in black were an intentional nod to the yellow covers of French and European novels, generally of a less than salubrious character. Beardsley's cover designs are striking examples of his illustrative art; flat perspective, stylised form, empty space and the novel application of dots. Inevitably however they also quickly courted controversy. Oscar Wilde, whom Beardsley had insisted to Lane should not be allowed to contribute, commented on the first volume's cover-art, 'a terrible naked harlot smiling through a mask, and with Elkin Matthews written on one breast and John Lane on the other'. The cover for Volume III, in which a lady's boudoir is illuminated by a pair of miniature street lamps, potentially suggestive of a 'lady of the night', unsettled many contemporary reviewers.
Beardsley's tenure only lasted for four volumes. Oscar Wilde's arrest at the Cadogan Hotel in April 1895, during which it is claimed he was holding a yellow book, and the surrounding scandal of his trial, led to a backlash against all those associated with his 'decadent' values, not least against the publishers of The Yellow Book. Lane sacked Beardsley in an attempt to ameliorate the angry mob (though he was commissioning works by the artist again within a month), and the magazine carried on without Beardsley at the helm, a lesser vessel perhaps, though it did at least bring on and champion more female contributors after his departure.
Under Beardsley's aegis, The Yellow Book had seen works by such artists as Charles Conder, William Rothenstein, John Singer Sargent, Walter Sickert, and Philip Wilson Steer. The literary content was no less distinguished; contributing authors to the series included: Max Beerbohm, Arnold Bennett, Baron Corvo, Ernest Dowson, Henry James, Richard Le Gallienne, Arthur Symons, H.G. Wells and W.B. Yeats.
First edition; 13 vols (complete), small 4to; illustrated throughout, with tissue-guards, advertisements, occasional foxing, Dutch bookseller's discreet labels to front pastedowns, minor dampstaining to lower right corner of vol. IX; publisher's pictorial yellow cloth blocked in black, spines darkened, some soiling and rubbing to covers, extremities a little bumped, light spotting to edges, offsetting to endpapers, partly unopened, overall very good.
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