WILDE, Oscar.

Newdigate Prize Poem. Ravenna.


Newdigate Prize Poem. Ravenna.
Recited in The Theatre, Oxford, June 26, 1878, by Oscar Wilde, Magdalen College.
Oxford, Thos. Shrimpton and Son, 1878.

In stock


A fine true first edition of the first published book of Oscar Wilde, with the original printed wrappers bound in at the end and attractively rebound in a style reminiscent of the 1890s period that was for many epitomised by the works of Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley, Charles Ricketts & Charles Shannon.

The poem Ravenna was inspired by a visit to the city undertaken by Oscar Wilde and the Revd John Mahaffy in 1877: ‘During a vacation ramble in 1877 [Wilde] started from Greece, [and] visiting Ravenna by chance on the way, he obtained material for a poem on that ancient city, and singularly enough, ‘Ravenna’ was afterwards given out as the topic for the Newdigate competition.” (Hamilton, The Aesthetic Movement in England, quoted in Mason). Oscar Wilde was announced winner of the Newdigate Prize in June 1878, shortly after which he gave a public recital of the poem at Magdalen College. The book was printed by Shrimpton and Son in an initial run of 25 copies in June and a further 143 copies between then and February 1879.

The Newdigate Prize was founded in 1806 to award the Best Composition in English verse by an undergraduate who has been admitted to Oxford within the previous four years: ‘the length of the poem is not to exceed 300 lines. The metre is not restricted to heroic couplets, but dramatic form of composition is not allowed.’ Other notable winners in the past include John Ruskin, Laurence Binyon, John Buchan and, more recently, Alan Hollinghurst.


First edition, with university coat-of-arms to both the title-page and upper wrapper (distinguishing it from the pirated edition issued by Wright & Jones in 1904); small 8vo (172 x 115 mm.); woodcut device to title, woodcut head- & tail-piece, internally fine; original printed wrappers bound in at end, small, old sticker mark to top-left corner of upper wrapper, bookplate tipped onto verso of same, with additional blank leaves inserted after lower wrapper, handsomely bound in green crushed half morocco by Hatchards, spine gilt-tooled in 1890s style foliate design & lettering, t.e.g., a fine copy, housed in green cloth-edged marbled chemise and green morocco-backed marbled board slip-case, spine gilt, to style.

Bookplate of George Herbert Wailes, a prolific collector of books during the latter part of the 19th century, with several other works by Oscar Wilde from his collection surfacing in bookseller and auction catalogues in the early 20th century.


Mason 301


Stock ID: 99244