Arion Press - Lyre Logo

114. The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, with 19 illustrations by Sandow Birk and an introduction by Merlin Holland, Wilde’s grandson.

The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, with 19 illustrations by Sandow Birk and an introduction by Merlin Holland, Wilde’s grandson. November 2018.

Oscar Wilde (1854–1990) wrote his “fairy tales” in two installments at a pivotal point in his career. The Happy Prince and Other Tales, envisioned as a collection of children’s stories, was published in 1888, while Wilde was still serving as the editor of The Lady’s World, to all appearances happily married with children. The second collection, A House of Pomegranates, dedicated to his wife, Constance, was published in 1891. The Picture of Dorian Gray was published in the same year, marking a period of intense creativity for Wilde.

Accompanied by the drawings of artist Sandow Birk, whose images deftly extract messages from the stories and capture them in the light of modern-day, the Arion Press edition of The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde is an essential piece in the puzzle of the writer’s work. Birk’s artworks capture both the contradiction and the complexity of the stories, illuminating their timeless themes through imagery that bears a startling and immediate familiarity to today’s reader. The stark lines and style might at first trick an unsuspecting viewer into believing they do hail from Victorian times, but the content is very much of the now.

Indeed, the author’s grandson, Merlin Holland, who wrote the introduction for this edition, advises readers to hold an attitude of “both/and” rather than “either/or” as they read the collections. It is not hard to see the characters and themes as symbols and messages; in this way, Wilde’s tales behave like any other allegory. But they are also far stranger and more unpredictable, and therein lies their charm. Characters who might, in another writer’s hands, meet a bad end are shown a measure of grace and dignity, even as their flaws are exposed. And those who, like the Swallow, seem flighty and self-centered, are allowed rare depth and shown to change over time.

“Love and Death” frontispiece illustration by Sandow Birk

Wilde once explained, “My fairy tales … are an attempt to mirror modern life in a form remote from reality—to deal with modern problems in a mode that is ideal and not imitative.” He went on to add, “They are, of course, slight and fanciful, and written, not for children, but for childlike people from eighteen to eighty!”

Read the full prospectus (PDF).


Los Angeles artist Sandow Birk is a graduate of the Otis/Parson’s Art Institute, known for his expansive, multi-media projects. He was an artist in residence at the Ballinglen Arts Foundation in rural County Mayo, Ireland, in 2011, 2016, and most recently in 2018, where he worked on this project for Arion Press. Accompanied by his wife, the artist Elyse Pignolet, and their children, Birk was inspired by the landscape and quiet life of rural Ireland. With a crackling fire and a nip of Jameson, he “attempted to make (Wilde’s) moral visions relevant to our own troubled times … to create not just an illustrated book, but something more thought provoking and enduring.“


Merlin Holland, the only grandson of Oscar Wilde, is an author living in France. For the last thirty years he has been researching his grandfather’s life and works. At present he is working on an account of Oscar’s “posthumous life” which will show that his grandfather has caused even more trouble after his death than when he was alive.


The book is quarto in format, 12 ¼ x 8 ¼ inches, 152 pages. The type is Bookman in Monotype and hand composition, ornamented with initial Phyllis capitals. Sandow Birk has created nineteen original drawings that have been reproduced by polymer plates. In addition to the frontispiece, “Love and Death,” each of the nine stories is depicted by both a full-page image and a smaller vignette. The type and artwork have been printed by letterpress on mouldmade Magnani 90gsm Raffaello.

The 225-copy standard edition has decorative initials printed in green ink. It is machine-sewn; bound with an olive green cloth spine and paper sides imprinted with titling and a foil stamped butterfly; and housed in a slipcase. The 25-copy deluxe edition has decorative initials foil stamped in 22k gold. It is hand sewn with linen thread and silk headbands; bound in half olive green leather with cloth sides and gold titling; and housed in a slipcase. The total edition is limited to 250 copies for sale. All are signed by the artist, and the deluxe edition is also signed by Merlin Holland. And additional 26 lettered copies hors de commerce have been reserved for complimentary distribution to participants.

“Love and Death” frontispiece illustration by Sandow Birk

Current subscribers have spoken for most of the deluxe edition, though five copies have been reserved for new subscribers until December 17, 2018—please contact us for details. Other customers may add their names to a reservation list. The price for the standard edition is $800 ($560 subscription); the price for the deluxe edition is $2,200 ($1,760 for current subscribers).

Purchase the book securely online now:

Reserve the book and pay via check:

Reserve your copy

Click on thumbnails below to view larger gallery of images:

Book & binding Artwork

Go to title: 113. Exit Ghost

Search Arion Press

Artist, Author, Title, or Keyword

  Arion Press on Facebook   Arion Press on Twitter  Arion Press on LinkedIn


Format: Quarto, 12 ¼ x 8 ¼ inches, 152 pages, printed by letterpress from Monotype and polymer plates. Nine full page illustrations and ten vignettes. The edition is limited to 250 copies for sale; 225 in the standard edition with green initials, bound in cloth and paper with slipcase; 25 in the deluxe edition with gold initials, bound in leather and cloth in a slipcase. Standard edition: $800. Deluxe edition: $2,200.

Reserve your copy now:

Reserve your copy