SHAW, George Bernard (1856-1950). Widowers' Houses. A comedy .... first acted at the Independent Theatre in London. London: Henry and Co., 1893.
8° (190 x 127mm). Uncut in original blue cloth (crease marks in upper cover, head and foot of spine rubbed, inner hinges split), blue morocco solander case by Bennett, New York. Provenance: Conal O'Riordan, his gift to: John Galsworthy (one-page letter from Riordan to Galsworthy, dated 106 Meadvale Road, Ealing, 6 May 1929, on front blank), then passed to: -- E.V. Lucas (half-title with 2-page letter from the author, signed 'G. Bernard Shaw,' dated 4 Whitehall Court, London, 14 June 1929, to Lucas) -- Frank J. Hogan (booklabel), sold Parke-Bernet, New York, April 25 1945, for $330=£82 10s. Exhibited: Grolier Club (exhibition label loosely inserted).
FIRST EDITION WITH INSCRIBED LETTERS BY CONAL O'RIORDAN AND BERNARD SHAW. O'Riordan, in his letter to Galsworthy, excuses his absence from a Royal Literary Fund dinner, but offers him this book, purchased 'from Henry & Co. nearly six and thirty years ago ... to be sold for the benefit of the Fund ... it should fetch not less than £50'; he also acknowledges Shaw's 'private help' in the face of an 'unthinkable calamity' a few years earlier. Lucas, acting for the Fund, has almost immediately sent the volume to Shaw for a valuation. 'What puzzles me about this book is its blue cover,' begins Shaw, maintaining that it was published 'in a green colored cloth case of the shade called citrine.' He then alludes to the risks taken by inexperienced publishers. 'Publishing books by me -- or plays by anybody -- was in those days a sign of inexperienced optimism ... and was generally followed by bankruptcy or retirement from business.' When 'Henry & Co. honourably retired,' they presented him with the unbound remainder copies of his book which he had bound in mauve cloth. But he insists, 'I never saw or heard of any blue copies. Consequently, though I am actually writing these words in a blue copy I deny its existence, and reject Conal's yarn as incompatible with the evidence of the author.' Conal's estimate of £50 is 'an insult to the book market. It is quite the rarest of my published first editions ... I should suggest a reserve price of fifty millions as nearer the mark. The printing, which I designed myself, is alone well worth the money; and the paper is of the best. William Morris had taught me to be particular about such things.' The money will 'tide many a member of our ruthlessly sweated and -- even at that -- heartbreakingly precarious profession over those spells of starvation which are inevitable in a country where benefit of clergy has been abolished ....' Laurence A20, referring to this copy.