Lyra's Classics


The Picture of Dorian Gray

A Novel, by

Oscar Wilde

Published In A Hand-Bound Limited Edition From

Lyra's Books


“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it”

Dorian Gray is the subject of a full-length oil portrait by Basil Hallward, an artist infatuated by Dorian’s beauty. Through Basil, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, and he is soon enthralled by the aristocrat’s hedonistic world-view: that beauty and sensual fulfilment are the only things worth pursuing in life.

Newly understanding that his beauty will fade, Dorian expresses the desire to sell his soul, to ensure that the picture, rather than he, will age and fade. The wish is granted, and Dorian pursues a libertine life of varied amoral experiences while staying young and beautiful; all the while, his portrait ages and records every sin.

‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ was Wilde’s only novel. It was first published in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in 1890, and heavily censored for fear of it being indecent. Although over 500 words were cut, the story still managed to offend British book reviewers and was released to some scandal. Wilde aggressively defended his work and later wrote a preface to the longer 1891 novel, defending the role of the artist and addressing the earlier criticisms. This preface is included in our edition.

This edition is the full twenty chapters from 1891 and contains an exclusive foreword written by Oscar Wilde’s only grandchild, Merlin Holland. Merlin has extensively studied and researched his grandfather’s life and is the author of several books on the subject. Merlin is an honorary patron of The Oscar Wilde Society.

Our version contains newly commissioned paintings by the award-winning artist Gregory Manchess. Greg is widely respected in his field and is the recipient of the Society of Illustrators highest honour: the coveted Hamilton King Award.

All books are letterpress printed and hand-bound, using the finest materials available.


Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish celebrity playwright and poet. His beautifully turned but provocative witticisms made him the toast of late-Victorian London. He is best remembered for his epigrams, essays and plays, as well as his children’s stories and his novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. One of the greatest comic minds in the history of theatre, his works include classics such as ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’, ‘An Ideal Husband’ and ‘A Woman of No Importance’.

At the height of his fame and success, while ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ was still being performed in London, Wilde prosecuted the Marquess of Queensbury for criminal libel. The trial was dropped and he was subsequently tried, convicted and sentenced to two years hard labour for ‘gross indecency’. Due to the harshness of prison life, his health suffered greatly and he never recovered. He spent his last three years impoverished and in exile, succumbing to an early death caused by meningitis at the age of 46.


Gregory Manchess

The award-winning painter, Gregory Manchess’ work has appeared on covers and feature stories of National Geographic Magazine, Time, Atlantic Monthly, and The Smithsonian. His figure and portrait work has led to numerous commissions for stamps by the US Postal Service, including Oregon Statehood (2009), Mark Twain (2011), and The 1963 March On Washington (2013).

National Geographic Society sent Manchess on expedition and chose his work to illustrate the adventures of the first discovery of an actual pirate ship for the traveling exhibition, Real Pirates: The Untold Story of The Whydah, from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship. His large portrait of Abraham Lincoln and seven major paintings of key moments from Lincoln’s life are highlighted in the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.

Manchess wrote and illustrated his first ‘widescreen novel’ Above the Timberline, released in 2017 to stellar reviews. Thirty of the 120+ paintings from the book were recently featured as an exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts.

The Coen Brothers chose Gregory’s work to illustrate the book showcased in their latest film, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

Widely awarded within the industry, he exhibits frequently at the Society of Illustrators in New York. In 1999, his peers at the Society presented him with their highest honor, the coveted Hamilton King Award. Manchess is included in Walt Reed’s edition of The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000.

Today, Gregory lectures frequently at universities and colleges nationwide and gives workshops in painting at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, and teaches at the Illustration Master Class in Amherst, MA.


Merlin Holland

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 and writes, lectures and broadcasts regularly on the subject in English, French and German. His publications include Irish Peacock and Scarlet Marquess, the first complete, verbatim record of the libel trial which ultimately brought Oscar Wilde to ruin and social disgrace, and The Wilde Album, a pictorial biography of Oscar Wilde which has now been translated into seven European languages. He is also the co-editor of The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde and author of Conversations with Oscar Wilde, a series of imaginary conversations between Merlin Holland and his grandfather.

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. After Oscar’s conviction in 1895, his wife, Constance, and their two sons were forced to move abroad and change their name to Holland. The family has never reverted to the name Wilde.

Interiors Design Notes

Marcelo Anciano

After working together on Arete’s inaugural book ‘The Case of Death and Honey’, Rich asked if I wanted to work with him on designing the interiors of his Lyra’s books. While we were working on the next book for Lyra, Rich talked about wanting to set up a new imprint where he would do ‘classic’ books that were in the public domain. One of the titles he mentioned was ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. I said that the only way we could do a unique book of Dorian Gray, was a way it had never, in my view, been done before. What if all the interior illustrations were the painting? All the reader saw was the picture changing, reflecting Dorian’s descent into the moral hell he was protected from by the painting’s transformation. We would see what he, and a couple of other characters, saw – the painting changing. Each painting would not only show the change in Dorian but also, around him, would be the scenes of the bodies of the people he murdered, the women he corrupted, the depths he had descended to… The paintings would be done like the society paintings of John Singer Sargent, lush and painterly.

There was only one artist we thought could do that: Greg Manchess. His mark making had the same sensual paint making as Sargent. Greg was working with us on Arete’s ‘Frozen Hell’ so we asked him if he would also do Dorian. When we described to him the concept, he grasped it immediately. He got that at the end, Dorian’s picture would show him in front of the gates of Hell, awaiting his fate. He is also a fantastic designer and understood what Rich needed for his cover designs, and they worked well together. Once we had decided on the fonts and readability (of a very dense, philosophical story), it became a book, and a unique take on Dorian Gray.

– Marcelo Anciano

Bindings Design Notes

Richard Tong

‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ has long been a favourite of mine and was an easy choice for the first of the Lyra’s Classics line.

The idea with this imprint is to create books of a more traditional style than the Lyra’s Press imprint, so when I first began to discuss design ideas with Marcelo and our artist Greg, this was always at the forefront of my mind. We needed to create something with a classic feel, but I also wanted it to have a slight modern twist. The way I work is quite probably very different from many other publishers. I have the luxury of being the binder of these editions as well as the publisher and have a bindery at my disposal 24/7. I make physical prototypes and maquettes as I develop the ideas, trying out different materials and colour combinations with different designs until I have something I feel comfortable with. I can create a huge amount of these ‘sketches’ and the process can go on for many, many months until I get to the stage where I’m ready to refine that final idea.

I showed Greg some examples of the kind of look I was aiming for, incorporating frames and something that looked a little ‘Arts and Crafts’ for the Lettered edition. He very quickly came up with a design concept and we threw it back and forth between the three of us for a while. As we worked together tightening the design, I was trying different variations on different materials, with different colours and foils, until we hit something that I thought worked well.

The Numbered edition needed to be something that was less complex than the Lettered and also utterly different. Initially, I devised another full-leather binding with a different type of leather, but found that the design we created just didn’t sit perfectly on the cover and felt way too modern. Instead, part of that design found its place on the slipcase where it turned out to be far better placed. Accidents and failures can often be quite providential. After more experiments and consideration, I made the choice to bind the book in a half-leather style which seemed much more suited to a classic title. This would end up being a much more labour intensive binding than the intended full-leather, due to the additional operations required in its construction, but it just felt right for this title. I also chose to upgrade the leather to the same as the Lettered in order to make this edition shine. A half-bound leather book has a very elegant style and simplicity of design, while still allowing the use of high-quality materials to create something quite magnificent and in keeping with the time period.

I worked with Freya at Paperwilds to find and create some designs that would complement the leathers, using traditional marbling techniques but more modern combinations of colours. The colours of the ‘non-pareil’ pattern of the Lettered edition, for example, look to be quite traditional and muted until you turn the paper in the light and see that they are in fact shimmering metallic paints.

With both of these editions I have tried to create elegant bindings with a respectful approach to the material and to the mind that created it. I very much hope that I have achieved that.

– Rich Tong

Unfinished Portrait
Oil on canvas, original artwork by Gregory Manchess.
Dorian Gray
Preliminary sketch, pencil on paper, original artwork by Gregory Manchess.
Oscar Wilde
Frontispiece painting, oil pastels on paper, original artwork by Gregory Manchess.
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