We’re excited to share our newly digitized Oscar Wilde manuscripts, part of the rich collection of literary manuscripts and first editions in the Rare Book Department. The draft of The Ballad of Reading Gaol, in Wilde’s hand, dates from October 1897. The notebook, which includes Wilde’s sketches and both published and unpublished poetry, is circa 1874-1881. Both manuscripts, along with a hand-corrected typescript of Wilde’s play Salome, were donated to the Library in 1978 by Julia Gimbel. Mrs. Gimbel was the widow of collector and aeronautical literature curator Colonel Richard Gimbel, the benefactor who gave us his Edgar Allan Poe collection, including Grip, Charles Dickens’s pet raven.
In addition to our exciting Oscar Wilde items, other highlights of the Rare Book Department’s literary manuscript collection include materials by Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, and Mark Twain. The collection complements our superlative collections of Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Dickens. Our finding aids for these collections, and others, can be accessed here.
If you’d like to learn more about our collections, please feel free to contact the Rare Book Department at 215-686-5416 – we’re always thrilled to share our remarkable materials. Our Oscar Wilde materials will be on display beginning January 23 at the Rosenbach of the Free Library’s exhibition, “Everything is going on brilliantly”: Oscar Wilde and Philadelphia.
From our digital collections:
Manuscript Fragment of Ballad of the Reading Gaol. Canto III with comment.
Autograph manuscript of many poems, in a notebook illustrated with numerous sketches.