Heritage Press: William Tell by Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1952)

December 15, 2010 Comments Off on Heritage Press: William Tell by Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1952)

William Tell by Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1952)
Number XI:16
Artwork: Illustrations by Rafaello Busoni
Introduction by Thomas Carlyle, translated from the German by Theodore Martin
Heritage Press Exclusive: The LEC did their own version with Charles Hug’s illustrations in 1951.

Click images for larger views.

Front Binding –
This is a curious book, one with two separate issuings with their own unique artwork. The Limited Editions Club created their rendition of this book in 1951, but it features artwork by Charles Hug instead of the Heritage edition’s Rafaello Busoni. According to Django6924, who has a copy of the LEC, the binding is made out of a grayish-green wood that has very straight grain. Unfortunately, he feels that this is fragile-looking, so he is hesitant to read it. Perhaps it is from a tree found in Switzerland? It features the same crossbow, but it’s laid into the wood in gold. Hug’s lithographs are similar in style to Busoni’s, but for some reason the Heritage Press went with Busoni over reprinting Hug’s. Very curious. The Sandglass does not explain why the artists were changed, other than saying that the Heritage edition went with Busoni to do its illustrations. It’s looking quite probable that we may never know.

Mr. Busoni began his career with the George Macy Company with Stendhal’s The Red and the Black in 1947, and would do two more LEC projects along this Heritage exclusive before his death in 1962: Nathaniel Hawthrone’s take on Pandora’s Box for a set of Evergreen Tales, and his final commission, The Charterhouse of Parma, also by Stendhal. Apparently, if the German Wikipedia page is to be believed, Busoni was the winner of one of George Macy’s competitions, presumably for The Red and the Black, the first work he did for them.

Von Schiller only had this one sole play done by the LEC or Heritage Press. His story is rather interesting, but I’ll let the Sandglass explain.

Design Notes – The book was designed by Max Fretz of Fretz Freres of Zurich, Switzerland, with a quite appropriate crossbow etched into the front. The back is bare. The publisher was Walter Diethelm, utilizing his own Diethelm-Antiqua font for the text, which gives it some flourish. The printers even designed this to resemble classic Swiss books, a novelty for American Heritage Club members.

Title Page – Although a Swiss classic, the play originated from a German, and Von Schiller never visited Switzerland. He thoroughly poured over the histories of the country written by Tschudi and Schleuchzer, and managed to create what the Sandglass refers to as “their great drama of patriotism” without ever stepping into its borders. Pretty interesting. Thomas Carlyle offered his opinion of the play in an introduction, and Theodore Martin rendered it into English from the native German.

Examples of the Illustrations by Busoni (right click and open in new tab for full size):

Personal Notes – I purchased this from the Oakhurst library book sale for $4.00. It did not come with the slipcase, but I found a decent replacement through one of the Connecticut books, so it’s sort of complete.  I think this cover is one of the best of the Heritage Press line-up. It’s just so fitting. However, I didn’t foresee myself reading this, so I sold it some time ago.

Sandglass (right click and select Open in New Tab to see full size):

Updated 8/9/2014 – JF


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