Oxford: Thos. Shrimpton and Son (1878). 8vo.
The first edition of Wilde’s first work published in book form and the winner of the Newdigate Prize Poem competition in 1878 that was awarded to students at the University of Oxford for the Best Composition in English verse. “During a vacation ramble in 1877 he started for Greece, [and] visiting Ravenna by chance on the way, he obtained material for a poem on that ancient city, and singularly enough ‘Ravenna’ was afterwards given out as the topic for the Newdigate competition” (The Aesthetic Movement in England by Walter Hamilton, 1882). The subject was to be confined to the study of the ancient Greek and Roman remains of architecture, sculpture, and painting that was to be written in heroic couplets. Wilde’s success was announced on June 10 and advertised in the Oxford University Gasette (viii, 293, p. 451) on June 18th. In the same issue it was announced that the winners will recite their prized entries at the Hall of New College. “One of the Professor’s [of Poetry] duties is to suggest textual improvements to the Winner of the Newdigate. The amendments proposed are usually accepted with gratitude; but there have been exceptions to the rule. Shairp suggested many improvements in Oscar Wilde’s Ravenna. Wilde listened to all suggestions with courtesy and even took notes of them, but he went away and printed the poem without making a single alteration in it” (The Academy, February 17, 1906). Mason 301. Foolscap 8vo. Original publisher’s printed wrappers (slightly toned at edges, else fine); folding hardcover chemise. Provenance: George Cukor (bookplate on chemise).