The Library has scored a rare book coup by acquiring two exceptional examples of early gay literature that share a connection with famed Victorian writer Oscar Wilde.
Teleny and its prequel, Des Grieux, were first published in the 1890s. It’s long been suspected, but never confirmed, that Wilde may have authored or contributed to the texts.
“Even if Wilde didn’t write them, the speculation is still a fascinating part of his enduring mythology,” says Gregory Mackie, Assistant Professor in UBC’s Dept. of English. “These are crucial documents in queer history, literary history, sexuality studies and studies of erotica.”
UBC graduate student Justin O’Hearn, a PdD candidate in Victorian literature, started a Kickstarter campaign last November when he learned that the books would be available at auction. Within a week he had raised more than $3,000 from 56 backers – including UBC colleagues, librarians and Wilde fans. The Library contributed the remaining funds for the titles, taken from a fund earmarked for rare and special acquisitions.
Only five known sets of the two-volume publication Teleny remain, and there are only three known copies of Des Grieux. “UBC is the only collection in the world with both texts, and that is huge from a research perspective,” says O’Hearn.
“We’re delighted that the Library has been able to bring both of these titles together for scholarly research,” adds Ingrid Parent, UBC’s University Librarian. “It was inspiring to see Justin’s enthusiasm as well as faculty support for the acquisitions.”
For more information, see the UBC Media Release “Wilde times: rare book coup for UBC,” (Jan. 12).