In 1893 a novel called Teleny was released in a print run of approximately 250 copies because, not only was it deemed obscene, it also dealt in homosexual themes, both of which happened to be illegal in late Victorian England. The novel was allegedly penned in part by Oscar Wilde, according to a bookseller who claimed to have overseen its production. Many editions of Teleny have been produced since that time. The 'sequel', Des Grieux, was released in 1899 and is the reason for this Kickstarter. Des Grieux has not received the same amount of attention as the original because only two copies are known to remain in existence, both in private collections. These extant copies are generally unavailable to public and researchers alike and I'm hoping to correct this scholarly oversight by purchasing one of the known copies and helping achieve its rightful place as a piece of public print history.
The 'sequel' (technically a prequel) has come up for public auction for, as far as I know, the first time in living memory. It's not cheap (Christie's London estimates it going for between £1000 - £1500 [approximately $1800 - $2700 CAD + 25% buyer's premium!]) but it is a steal considering its possible affiliation with Wilde. The text has neither been widely studied nor copied because the two known copies have resided in private collections. I don't personally know anyone who has seen this text and that's a huge blight for such an important piece of literature. Click here to read Peter Mendes' bibliographical notes on the text.
What I will do if successful in purchasing the text is threefold:
Because I am doing a PhD on this very topic I will use it in the context of my dissertation research, which you can find out more about here.
2) Scholarly Edition
I will transcribe and edit the first ever modern edition (similar to what I have already done with another 'lost' obscene novel from the same era) so as to disseminate the work as widely as possible for general readers and scholars alike. Remember, this text has only been seen by a small number of people and anyone interested in it cannot, at present, obtain a copy of it. I only have the slightest idea of what it contains based on second-hand accounts by people granted access to private collections. This is what makes this potential project so exciting. It'll be like uncovering Tut's tomb but on a way smaller scale. It'll feel like a Tut-sized find to me and my field, anyhow.
3) Donation (updated 15 November 2014)
Originally, I was going to bid on and hopefully win this book at auction, use it for my dissertation and produce a new edition, and then donate it to the British Library. Recently, I have been in contact with a public institution who is putting together a bid for Des Grieux and other items in this auction. Money raised from this fundraiser will be used toward this bid and Des Grieux will be preserved at this institution with easy access for anyone with identification and an interest in rare materials.
What this means is that nothing much has changed about this project, except it has now expanded and has a chance to preserve more than one rare text and keep them out of private collections.
I have been assured by the publicly funded institution that access will not be restricted to these materials, in keeping with policies already in place for their existing rare collections.
I will post full details after the auction has ended, so stay tuned.
The book goes on the auction block at Christie's in London Tuesday 18 November 2014 and I am hopeful that it will be liberated from private hands.
Thanks for reading this far and, if you can, donating to this project. Also, please let me know if you have any questions about this project or this fundraiser. I am not great at asking people for money, but this is something I really believe in and it is a huge part of my career. By backing this project you're not just helping me but future scholars and the public access important materials not otherwise available in public archives.
Risks and challenges
There is really only one major challenge involved in this project, namely the nature of auctions. Christie's has the book listed at a relatively low (in my opinion) estimated price and I am hoping that the bidding does not exceed my potential budget. I am putting some of my own money into this purchase but I cannot afford to come anywhere near the expected price listed in the catalogue.
If I can raise enough money and I am the successful bidder, that would obviously be the best outcome. If I am not the successful bidder, all donations will be refunded (less Kickstarter's fees). If the item goes for less than the amount raised, I will use the remainder to help finance future stages of the project, which will include publication costs and travel for research.
Again, thanks to everyone who has read, shared, donated, or even just heard about this project.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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