Shannon, Charles. Hard Cover. London: John Lane at the Sign of The Bodley Head, 1894. First Edition. Near Fine.
First edition, one of 50 large-paper copies printed on handmade paper. Original publisher's yellow buckram boards with gilt decorations by Charles Shannon to covers and spine, spine lettered in gilt. Covers toned along outer margin, spine toned, only the slightest trace of rubbing to the extremities, former owner bookplate to front pastedown, and light offsetting to endpapers. A very good, tight and clean copy. An extremely scarce book in the large-paper format. Mason 365. A Woman of No Importance was published simultaneously in two formats: small octavo (the standard edition of 500 copies) and quarto (the "Large Paper" issue of 50 copies). While both constitute the first edition of A Woman of No Importance, the large paper copies are decidedly rarer than the octavos; intended to be more exclusive and deluxe publications, large paper formats were typically produced using higher quality materials, lacked the publisher's advertisements, and were printed in small print runs. Because they were intended as collectibles from publication, large paper copies of Wilde's plays are exceedingly scarce. A Woman of No Importance is a four-act play that was first produced in London at the Haymarket Theatre on April 19, 1893. Like many of Wilde's plays, it satirizes the English upper-class and criticizes Victorian society. The title "a woman of no importance" refers to the character Mrs. Arbuthnot who bears the illegitimate son of Lord Illingworth. Although societal conventions deem her a sinful woman, Wilde proves Arbuthnot a respectable widow who is rewarded with a son who treats women respectfully. In contrast, Illingworth, one of Wilde's archetypal dandy figures, is rejected by his son and may of the women in the play, making him a "man of no importance."