London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1920. Item #04226
Oscar Wilde’s “The Sphinx” Illustrated by Alastair
The 'Exquisite Grotesque! Half Woman and Half Animal!'
ALASTAIR [VOIGHT, Hans Henning, illustrator]. WILDE, Oscar. The Sphinx. Illustrated by Alastair. London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1920.
First edition illustrated by Alastair (first published in 1894, with decorations by Charles Ricketts). Limited to 1,000 copies.
Large quarto. 36 pp. Ten plates printed in black and turquoise, with descriptive tissue guards, plus two additional plates on the front and rear endpapers. Thirteen large decorative initials (including repeats) printed in black and turquoise. Title printed in black and turquoise.
Publisher's white buckram, front cover pictorially stamped in gilt and dark turquoise with a design by Alastair, spine lettered in gilt, top edge gilt, others uncut. Small circular bookplate on rear paste-down. Spine very slightly darkened, but the gilt and blue design on front cover quite fresh. A near fine copy.
"The publication of The Sphinx in 1920 signalled the start of Alastair's decade of fame. The book had been planned before the war. The illustrations had been printed in Belgium and stored in London during the war years: as a note in the book pointed out… First published by John Lane in 1894, this was originally a youthful poem, later revised. An invocation to the Sphinx, the 'exquisite grotesque! half woman and half animal!', it brought in a multiplicity of Egyptian echoes in its heightened language." (Victor Arwas. Alastair Illustrator of Decadence, p. 12 & p.30)
Alastair (Hans Henning Voight) 1887-1969, was a a writer, artist, dancer, and illustrator. His drawings were inspired by the work of Aubrey Beardsley, and combines his elegant skill with his fascination of the perverse, sinister, and satanic.
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). Oscar Wilde’s poem “The Sphinx” depicts a sexually voracious monster - the legendary Sphinx, who, in Wilde’s work, has been the lover of many classical figures, among them Ammon, the god Amenalk, the gryphon, and the Tragelaphos (a goat-stag monster of myth). Throughout the poem Wilde makes references to figures of legend.