Do you have a spare £18,000 for a glimpse into Oscar Wilde’s library?

In 2006, someone paid £18,000 for the catalogue from the auction of Oscar Wilde’s belongings in 1895. Not £18,000 for one of Wilde’s books – £18,000 just for a list of the books he ownedChristie’s description of Lot 155, Sale 7275 gives you some idea of the wonders of Wilde’s personal library and Lucasta Miller’s article in The Guardian conjures up the anticipation the catalogue created when it was offered at Sotheby’s in 2004.

On 24 April 1895, Wilde’s library, along with all the Wilde family’s possessions, was auctioned off to pay his creditors, in particular the Marquess of Queensberry, who was determined to see Wilde thrown in prison and stripped of all his dignity. During the auction, many of Wilde’s belongings, including manuscripts, were stolen by looters; not all have been located by scholars. At the time, Wilde was awaiting trial. The loss of his books was a terrible blow.

I will carry on looking for a 1971 facsimile of the catalogue to help me recreate Oscar Wilde’s library online, as an original is just a tad beyond my means.

© JD Ellevsen

4 comments

  • I have a photocopy of the complete catalogue. I forget the original book it was in. But I’ll try to scan it sooner or later. It has a list of all the items sold out of Wilde’s Tite Street home.

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    • Thank you for the kind offer! Some time after posting the astonishing auction price for the original, I managed to get a secondhand copy of the book that reproduces the Tite St list.

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  • Rebecca Jones

    I love your library project! I am trying to find a facsimile edition of the 1895 forced-sale catalog, too. Can you give the title you searched, as well as any available information about editor or publisher? I’m surprised at how difficult it is to find a copy of this facsimile.

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    • Thanks, Rebecca! Yes, the auction catalogue is hard to get. I got a second-hand 1971 copy, published by Mansell Information/Publishing Ltd, London and Sotheby Publications Ltd, London. The full title is Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons, Volume 1, Poets and Men of Letters, Edited by A.N.L. Munby.

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