Friday, February 24, 2017

Something Wilde

Wow, what a cool discovery we made this week. For a nineteenth-century British literature class we had out a slew of materials related to Oscar Wilde. Among them was the 1882 printing of Rennell Rodd's Rose Leaf and Apple Leaf with an introduction by Wilde. It is a great example of the aesthetic movement--bound in vellum, printed on a thin vellum paper and interleaved with green paper to give the whole book the air of leaves. That alone was pretty amazing, but then we noticed a faint inscription on the front cover.

"For my mother, the poems [of] my friend"

Turns out the inscription, mostly worn away, is in Wilde's hand. We got tingles when we realized this was the copy he had given his mother. He would have been 28 years old, and his own first book of poems was selling well. His mother, Jane, had some notoriety at the time as an poet, participant in the Irish nationalist movement, and having just been convicted of libel against a woman her husband had seduced.

It doesn't appear anyone in the library had noticed the inscription because it is not in the catalog. The book came to us from Richard Mandel '26, former chair of the Friends of the Dartmouth College Library, and member of the Grolier Club. Presumably, as a bibliophile, he was aware of Wilde's hand on the book.

To see it ask, for Rare PR5220.R34 R6 1882.

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