(London: Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1893). 208 x 148 mm. (8 1/8 x 5 3/4"). 8 p.l. (first blank), 132 pp., 14, [2] pp. (ads). FIRST EDITION.

EXCELLENT CRIMSON MOROCCO, GILT (stamp-signed "Asprey" on front turn-in), covers with five gilt leaf ornaments (replicating the design on the original publisher's binding), smooth spine with vertical gilt titling, red and gilt patterned endpapers, all edges gilt. Mason 357. A couple of small marginal spots, otherwise A VERY FINE COPY, internally clean and fresh with generous margins, in a pristine binding.

This is a well-preserved and handsomely presented copy of Wilde's first successful play, a comedy that launched his career in the dramatic arts and cemented his reputation and popularity as a playwright of sparkling wit. The events of "Lady Windermere's Fan" revolve around a young upper-class couple whose relationship is tested when the wife suspects her husband of an affair. Distraught by the appearance of her rival, Lady Erlynne, at her own birthday ball, Lady Windermere risks personal ruin and nearly leaves her husband for another man out of spite. At the play's conclusion, it is revealed that the "other woman" is actually Lady Windermere's estranged mother, who had left her daughter as an infant. Her true identity was known only to Lord Windermere, who was not conducting an affair but rather paying the woman off to protect his wife's reputation. Many of the topics explored here--social class, attitudes toward women, keeping up appearances, hypocrisy, etc.--would later be revived in Wilde's two most famous society comedies, "An Ideal Husband" and "The Importance of Being Earnest." The strength of this play lies not only in Wilde's biting dialogue, but also the way in which he weaves heavy topics together with the lightness of comedy and satire. According to Andrew Dickson, writing for the British Library's website, the play "balances themes that are faintly absurd and also entirely serious." The high-end New Bond Street emporium Asprey has been a London fixture since 1781, serving as jewellers to a long line of British monarchs, and they sell a range of luxury goods, including finely bound books (for a short time, they even owned the merged firms of Zaehnsdorf and Sangorski & Sutcliffe).

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PJP Catalog: ABA1stSept20.018