Oscar Wilde. Illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley
Boston: John W. Luce & Company, 1907. Small octavo. Gilt-embossed black buckram boards, minor soiling to the front board. 36 pages. Early printing. Near fine.
A Tragedy in One Act. Preceded in America only by a small limited edition in 1904 and prior run by Luce in 1906. Originally published by Wilde in 1891, the play tells the Biblical story of Salome, stepdaughter of Herod Antipas, who asks for the head of Jokanaan (John the Baptist) on a silver platter as compensation for dancing the dance of the seven veils. Beardsley, the illustrator and occultist who died so young, was an important Art Nouveau figure and a leader of the aesthetic movement with Wilde. His drawings for the book premiered in Paris in 1896. All of the illustrations accounted for (they're often extracted), this Wilde / Beardsley classic is remarkably crisp and fine given its age.
"Ah! I have kissed thy mouth, Jokanaan, I have kissed thy mouth. There was a bitter taste on thy lips. Was it the taste of blood?... But perchance it is the taste of love . . . They say that love hath a bitter taste . . . But what of that? What of that? I have kissed thy mouth, Jokanaan."