As a three time Pulitzer Prize winner, Thornton Wilder’s works have undoubtedly made a significant impact on the literary world. His diverse artistic talents saw him write novels, plays, operas, translations and screenplays as well as performing as an actor while continuing in his first love of teaching.
Wilder never shied away from writing about difficult subjects. His work includes references to death, war and religion. His award winning novel of 1927, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, is an almost philosophical piece that tells the story of a group of strangers killed when the bridge they are on collapses, addressing the question of why bad things happen to good people.
Wilder’s approach is to use the major disaster of the bridge collapse as a focal point for the plot, allowing unrelated stories to be told in retrospect before all coming together on the bridge. This is now a familiar approach in books and film, but it was Wilder who first introduced us to it in a major work.
Collectors of Wilder’s literature have quite a catalogue to choose from. His prize winning literature understandably attracts the higher prices. Our Town, from 1938 is probably his most famous play and first editions have fetched $800 at auction. A first edition of The Bridge of San Luis Rey can reach similarly prices.
Wilder has left us with a raft of thought-provoking literature and far from being forgotten forty year after his death, his legacy is undoubtedly with us today. Our Town is performed at least once a day on average somewhere in the United States, the hit musical Hello Dolly was based on his work, and his screenplay for Hitchcock’s Shadow of Doubt is still enjoyed by film lovers. Wilder’s work continues to appeal.
Wilder, Thornton. Bridge of San Luis Rey. Albert and Charles Boni, New York (1927). Illustrated By Amy Drevenstedt
Wilder, Thornton. Bridge of San Luis Rey. Longmans, Green and Company (1927). with decoration and covers by Rockwell Kent.
Wilder, Thornton. Angel that Troubled the Waters. Coward McCann, New York (1928). Foreword by Thornton Wilder; Titles of the Plays: 1 Nascuntur Poetae; 2 Proserpina and the Devil; 3 Fanny Otcott; 4 Brother Fire; 5 The Penny that Beauty Spent; 6 The Angel on the Ship; 7 The Message and Jehanne; 8 Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came; 9 Centaurs; 10 Leviathan; 11 And the Sea Shall Give Up Its Dead; 12 Now the Servant's Name Was Malchus; 13 Mozart and the Grey Steward; 14 Hast Thou Considered my Servant Job? 15 The Flight into Egypt; 16 The Angel that Troubled the Waters; 750 copies printed.
Wilder, Thornton. Bridge of San Luis Rey. Albert and Charles Boni, New York (1928). With 10 full-page plate illustrations by Amy Drevenstedt
Wilder, Thornton Niven. Bridge of San Luis Rey. Longmans,Green and Co., London (1929). Woodcut illustrations by Clare Leighton
Wilder, Thornton. Bridge of San Luis Rey. Albert and Charles Boni, New York (1929). 100 best ever written is here enhanced by Rockwell Kents color illustrations, fine paper and 6 color illustrations by Kent including a color plate title-page and a color plate at the end of the story; 1100 copies printed.
WILDER, THORNTON. CABALA. Modern Library Edition, New York (1929). Intro by Herbert Gorman
Wilder, Thornton. Woman of Andros. Longmans, Green and Co., London (1930). 260 copies printed.
Wilder, Thornton. Long Christmas Dinner. Yale University Press, New York (1932). and other plays in one act; 525 copies printed.
Wilder, Thornton. Heaven's My Destination. Harper and Brothers, New York (1935). 11,750 copies; Dust jacket art by Haberstock
Wilder, Thornton. Narration. University of Chicago Press, Chicago (1935). Four Lectures by Gertrude Stein; 120 copies printed.
Wilder, Thornton. Geographical History of America. Random House, New York (1936). or, The Relation of Human Nature to the Human Mind; 1000 copies printed; Stein (Gertrude)
Wilder, Thornton. Our Town. Coward-McCann, New York (1938). A Play In Three Acts
Wilder, Thornton. Merchant of Yonkers. Harper and Brothers, New York (1939). A Farce in Four Acts; Dust jacket and end paper art by Donald McKay
Wilder, Thornton. Ides of march. Harper and Brothers, New York (1948). 750 copies printed.
Wilder, Thornton. Bridge of San Luis Rey. Limited Editions Club, New York (1962). with an Introduction By Granville Hicks; 1500 copies printed.
Wilder, Thornton. THE EIGHTH DAY. Harper and Row, New York (1967). 500 copies printed.
Wilder, Thornton. Theosophilus North. Harper and Row, New York (1973). 275 copies printed.
Wilder, Thornton. Our Town. Limited Editions Club, Avon (1974). A Play in Three Acts; Witn an Introduction by Brooks Atkinson; Illustrated by Robert J. Lee with 4 double-page color plates,3 full-page monochrome plates, and 18 marginal sketches printed in a rosy terra-cotta; 2000 copies printed.