1982 · Bayreuth
Publisher's fine burgundy morocco by Erwin Lehr, upper cover with gilt rose in recessed square, flat spine with gilt titling, turn-ins with gilt fillet frame, pale yellow silk pastedowns. In the original burgundy suede slipcase. With three large initials in burnished gold and four signed and numbered original etchings by Peter Klitsch. Printed in red and black. Signed in the colophon by the artist, the binder, and the publisher/translator. In mint condition.
This is the splendid deluxe version of a finely crafted private press edition of Wilde's fairy tales "The Nightingale and the Rose," "The Happy Prince," and "The Selfish Giant." It is the third work issued by the Bear Press, founded in 1979 by literary scholar Wolfram Benda and still in operation. According to the firm's website, "at a time when the craftsmanship and ethos of the artisan in bookmaking have been damaged by ever-increasing industrialization and neglect . . . The Bear Press . . . tries to achieve the highest possible degree of technical and artistic perfection in its printed works." The font used to print the text and the artist chosen to illustrate each work are carefully selected to express "the individual author's personality and intention." Even the discriminating aesthete Wilde (1854-1900) would be pleased with the choices here, especially for the luxurious vellum printing: the type is set in refined Walbaum Antiqua, and shown off with special effect by the creamy leaves; the etchings by Austrian artist Peter Klitsch (b. 1934) are meticulous, detailed, and reminiscent of the work of Wilde's friend Aubrey Beardsley; and the binding is the epitome of tasteful restraint, flawlessly executed with premium materials.
The three tales here first appeared in 1888, and are bittersweet in their themes of love and self-sacrifice. His stories for children were one of Wilde's early successes, and DNB notes, "Their permanent place in child affections refutes the vulgarism that Wilde's literary reputation arose from his legal notoriety. In all cases [the fairy tales] are on the child's side, celebrating the courage and generosity of the poor and vulnerable, while their satire mocks the kind of pomposity and hypocrisy children can recognize." We have been able to trace just two other copies of the vellum printing at auction in ABPC and RBH.. (Inventory #: ST16482)