Heritage Press: Salome by Oscar Wilde (1945)
December 20, 2010 § 6 Comments
Salome by Oscar Wilde (1945)
Sandglass Number 3NN
Artwork: Decorated and hand-illuminated by Valenti Angelo.
Translated from the French by Lord Alfred Douglas, and introduced by Holbrook Jackson
Heritage Press Exclusive – The LEC put out a 2-volume set for Salome in 1938 that is discussed below.
Click on the images to see full-size.
Front Binding – Even before opening this book you can tell it’s something special. Mine has sadly faded to a significant degree, but its charming boards (this design is on both sides) make a strong impression regardless. Illustrator Valenti Angelo was also responsible for the design of the book. As for how the binding was made, I’ll let Django6924 explain:
The black cloth binding was purchased by the Macy companies before WW II and had sat in warehouses until its use in Salome. It was made by Interlaken Mills in Arkwright, RI, a specialist in making cloth for book covers. Salome was issued in October, 1945.
Oscar Wilde seemed to be a favorite for the George Macy Company. The Ballad of Reading Gaol came first in 1937, followed by the LEC Salome. This edition for the Heritage Press followed in 1945. The Picture of Dorian Gray was released in 1957, followed by his Short Stories in 1968. Two of his plays, The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Wintermere’s Fan, were the last, released in 1973. That covers the majority of his popular literary output.
Valenti Angelo was one of the more productive of Macy’s artists, producing eleven Limited Editions Club books and three unique Heritage Press books, which is very impressive. He was busy elsewhere, too, as I’ve seen his name attached to quite a few books outside of the Macy sphere. So far, our blog features The Sonnets of Shakespeare, A Thousand Nights and a Night, The Song of Roland and this particular book, but there’s plenty more to come. He has a simplistic yet charming style that well suits the books he works on.
Since I’ve omitted it before, here’s a complete chronology of Angelo’s work. For the LEC, it began with A Thousand Nights and a Night in 1934, where he did 1001 illustrations! Next was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables in 1935. The LEC Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam followed in 1935 (quite different than Arthur Szyk’s spin, I imagine). The Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yazdi was released in 1937. 1938 brought The Song of Roland. Vathek: An Arabian Tale was mailed out in 1945. The lovely Sonnets of the Portuguese came next in 1948. The stunning Koran was released ten years later in 1958. The Book of Psalms came out in 1960, followed up by The Book of Proverbs in 1963. The last was another Hawthorne work, Twice-Told Tales, published in 1966. The editions Angelo exclusively did for the Heritage Press include Salome, The Sonnets of Shakespeare (1941), and The Song of Songs (1935).
Title Page – If this didn’t floor you, I don’t know what book would. Gorgeously decorated yellow pages that have been specially cut (the top is uncut, giving each page added thickness), and EVERY single page in this book has an amazing border similar to this, all done by Angelo. Salome herself is boldly colored in a way that suits the page background, too. The gold was hand-illuminated by Angelo himself in early printings. The text is Garamond Bold, and works with the pages perfectly. A masterwork.
Page 20 – 21
Personal Notes – I had heard of the beauty of Salome from Django6924 before owning it, and my wife managed to uncover this copy at an antique mall in Merced. I was eager to see why Django thought of it so highly, and I was certainly not disappointed. This is among the most stunning books the Heritage Press put out, without question. I paid $8 (half off that day!) for it. That’s way more than I would usually fork out for a sun-faded HP book with no Sandglass or slipcase, but this was an exception well worth making.
Despite its exquisiteness, though, I found the play itself to be a little too repetitive for my liking. My loss, perhaps?
Django6924 was able to fill in a lot of the missing gaps, so enjoy his explanation behind the creation of this majestic book:
The Sandglass gives much biographical information about Mr. Angelo, but what will be of particular interest here is that he got his start in the book business illustrating books for the Grabhorn Press in San Francisco, and did indeed illustrate a Salome for them years before–an exceedingly rare edition, obviously, as I have never seen a copy of it online or in any bookstore.
Also interesting is the considerable space given in the Sandglass to the LEC Salome, which was, in fact, two books–the one illustrated by (Andre) Derain (most unusually on black paper) and printed in French (which is how Wilde wrote it). The second Salome (housed in the same slipcase), featured Lord Alfred Douglas’ translation into English–the version by which the play is most familiar to we English-speaking types. This volume is illustrated with the well-known drawings Aubrey Beardsley had made for the English publication of his translation.
The Introduction by Holbrook Jackson was used in both LEC and Heritage Press editions.
The Sandglass goes on to point out that this Salome resulted from the success of the similar hand-illuminated Heritage Press Song of Songs, that was one of the first 6 books issued by the Heritage Press. That book, too, is a treasure, especially if you find one of the earlier editions bound in red leather.
Sandglass (courtesy of Django6924):
Updated 5/28/2012 – JF