The [Oscar Wilde] manuscript collection, comprising some 150 items including letters, photographs, theatre programmes, as well as items of memorabilia, will now be made freely available online to a global audience. In addition, a new catalogue of the Library’s significant Oscar Wilde book collection, consisting of over 500 printed items is also now available online.
Now for the first time items from this wonderful collection are freely available to Wilde fans and researchers worldwide, via the Library’s main Digital Collections platform.
The collection is unique in its focus on the playwright’s downfall and exile years and contains items of symbolic significance for Wilde’s biography, such as a receipt for a loan of money he received on leaving Reading Gaol in 1897, and the only known letter written to his son, Cyril.
The Oscar Wilde book collection contains over 500 books relating to Wilde, including both books by Wilde himself and works about him. Many of the books are first editions and/or inscribed copies, which makes them particularly valuable. Among these is a first edition of An Ideal Husband inscribed by Wilde to the book’s dedicatee, Frank Harris.
Another rarity in the collection is a copy of the auction catalogue for the sale of Wilde’s possessions at his home in Tite Street at the time of his trial in 1895 – only four copies of this catalogue are known to survive. Several biographers of Oscar Wilde were given access to the collection by Julia Rosenthal in the past when they were researching their subject.
This book collection has recently been catalogued and is now visible on the Library’s online catalogue providing an invaluable resource of material relating to this Irish writer for researchers.
Commenting on the significance of the digital collection, the Library’s Head of Research Collections Laura Shanahan says: “The Oscar Wilde Collection held here at the Library of Trinity College Dublin is unparalleled in giving a unique insight to this remarkable man and his experiences during the most challenging period of his life. In making this collection available online, fans and researchers around the world will now have unfiltered access to this material, which until very recently was in private hands. In her book, Mendelssohn makes reference to this being the ‘the Golden Age of the Archive’, where digitisation of collections is allowing new research and discoveries about some of the most significant characters of their generation and we in the Library are delighted to be a part of this.”
Last year the Library hosted the first major Irish exhibition on Oscar Wilde entitled ‘From Decadence to Despair’. Curated by Assistant Librarian Caoimhe Ni Ghormain, the highly personal display mapped out the playwright’s meteoric rise to fame and also his dramatic fall from grace. An online exhibition is available to view here.
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