top of page
Salome by Oscar Wilde / Aubrey Beardsley first edition 1894

Salome by Oscar Wilde / Aubrey Beardsley first edition 1894


London: Elkin Mathews & John Lane, 1894


8vo., original publisher’s blue gilt-stamped cloth with gilt devices to upper and lower boards; pp. [xv], 2-66, [v], 4-14, [iv]; with double-engraved title and a further ten full-page illustrations throughout text; one tail-piece; 16pp. Publisher’s catalogue to rear; outer edges untrimmed; endpapers lightly browned, a little cracking to some portions of the gutter, cloth faded along the spine with some rubbing and a little loss to tips; aside from the odd pencil marking to the prelims a very uptogether example. Provenance: ownership inscription of Violet Tweedale to the ffep.  


Limited edition, one of just 500 copies. Published on the 24th February 1894, not only was this the first English edition - having appeared in French the previous year - it was also the first illustrated and the first with Beardsley’s iconic drawings, many of them mocking the author himself: Wilde is depicted as the character in 'Woman in the Moon', as well as a jester in 'Enter Herodias'. The volume is dedicated to Lord Alfred Douglas: “the translator of my play”, although the translation proved to be so flawed that Wilde had to make extensive changes before its publication. 


In February of 1893, Beardsley had been commissioned by a British magazine to create a single drawing based on the French publication of Salome. The artist’s offering, however, of Salome revelling in the severed head of John the Baptist, was considered too graphic for publication, and was subsequently rejected. In April, the image appeared in a new art publication and was seen by Wilde, who was so taken with it that he offered Beardsley the contract for the first English edition. Wilde was delighted with the result. Upon receiving the designs, he believed that the artist had successfully combined biblical story with blatant eroticism, referring to them as “the naughty scribbles a precocious boy makes on the margins of his copybook,” - a comment meant in praise as opposed to belittlement.  


Wilde’s story of the seduction of John the Baptist by Salome, stepdaughter of King Herod, is perfectly depicted by these evocative designs. Perhaps unsurprisingly due to its depiction of biblical characters, it was banned from production, and the first play was only performed publicly in Britain in 1931.


This copy previously from the collection of Violet Tweedale, a prolific writer of short stories and novels on the theme of the supernatural. The granddaughter of the publisher Robert Chambers, she moved to London and was involved in literary circles during her time in the city, counting among her friends the poet Robert Browning. Claiming to be psychic from a young age, she became a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, working alongside mediums and psychics for the majority of her adult life.

    Product Page: Stores_Product_Widget
    bottom of page