Limited Editions Club: The Oresteia by Aeschylus (1961)

January 27, 2011 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club: The Oresteia by Aeschylus (1961)

The Oresteia by Aeschylus (1961)
Thirtieth Series, Book # 328 (1st of the series)
Artwork: Paintings by Michael Ayrton
Translated by E.D.A. Morshead, and introduced by Rex Warner
#403 out of 1500

Note: I’ve added in the Monthly Letter to the post, but I have not updated the post itself. That will come in time.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – This was designed by Adrian Wilson, and was bound by LEC mainstays the Russell-Rutter Company in a quarter crimson cowhide and a brown natural finish cloth for the spine label and sides.  Thanks to kdweber for this info!

Spine – Mine’s a little faded.


Title Page – The Oresteia features the interesting illustrations of painter Michael Ayrton, who would also do a set of Euripedes’ plays for the Club.  He has a very unique style that works well for the plays.  The text is set in a special LEC font called Janson and American Uncial.  The paper was Curtis antique, and the text was printed by A. Colish in Mt. Vernon, while Ayrton’s paintings were reproduced at the Photogravure and Color Company in New York.  The book was translated by E.D.A. Morshead and introduced by Rex Warner.  Again, thanks to kdweber for the info!

Signature Page – Here’s my copy’s signature page, which is #403.  Ayrton provides his John Hancock, which is a rather nice one.

Page 53 – This is such a great capturing of terror.  My favorite piece in the book.

Page 60

Personal Notes – This was my third LEC, purchased at the same store in Monterey where I got my Man and Superman and House of the Dead, as well as many of my Heritage volumes.  It’s a great book, but the translation takes the dry route, which bored me upon my attempt to read it.  At least I enjoy Ayrton’s art!

Monthly Letter:

I’m looking for comparisons to the Heritage reprint or any other insights, so if you have that info, please let me know through the comments here or at my thread about this blog at the George Macy Devotees @ LibraryThing!  Thanks!


Heritage Press: The Journals of the Expedition of Lewis & Clark (1962)

January 24, 2011 Comments Off on Heritage Press: The Journals of the Expedition of Lewis & Clark (1962)

The Journals of the Expedition of Lewis & Clark (1962, 2 volumes)
Sandglass Number 27:iv and 27:v (one for each volume)
Artwork: Watercolors and drawings by Carl Bodmer, George Bird King and other contemporary artists of the period
Introduced by John Bakeless, and edited by Nicholas Biddle
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #336/30th Series V. 9 in 1962

Click images for a larger view.

Front Bindings of Both Volumes – Both volumes utilize a recreation of one of the maps created by the team Lewis & Clark led out into the Western United States.  The white boxes are library UPC codes, which I have removed, but I didn’t feel up to attempting a Photoshop to remove them completely.  Django2694 chips in what he knows about this book’s history in the two clubs:

The Heritage Lewis and Clark is one of their triumphs, in my opinion. This is not an easy set to find in Fine Condition, and these books usually sell for more than the usually undervalued Heritage Press books of the same vintage. A quick search online shows that the majority of copies in the Good + to Near Fine condition are being offered from around $50 to well over $100.

There’s not much I can add to WildcatJF’s information from my Sandglass pamphlet (Numbers iv & v: 27, as the books were sent in separate months but with the one Sandglass to cover both so “you will have to go without, roll your own, or read this one over again” as the Sandglass author says). The designer was Eugene Ettenberg, who also designed the LEC Beowulf, Reynard the Fox and the two Melville classics, Billy Budd and Benito Cereno.

The illustrations, which are, as the Sandglass says, “super-extra-special,” are culled from the many that the Swiss artist Carl Bodmer did, eighty-one of which were reproduced as engravings from Bodmer’s watercolors in Prince Maximilian’s own book, Travels in the Interior of North America. Prince Maximilian’s work is famous in its own right, and I first read about his own fascinating journey many years ago in Bernard DeVoto’s classic history of the Mountain Men, Across the Wide Missouri. As the Sandglass points out, this tour was no dilettante’s pleasure trip–Maximilian was a trained naturalist and was determined to record as much of the unspoiled New World as he could before it was changed by the already-ongoing westward expansion–for which Lewis & Clark’s Journals were greatly responsible. He hired Bodmer to provide the “Kodak Moments.”

One of the many pleasures of the Heritage edition is the paper, which is wonderful to the touch–“a suede-finish paper made to our specifications by the Meade Paper Company.” The printing was done by The Connnecticut Printers in Hartford, and the illustrations printed by the Meriden Gravure Company (also in Connecticut). The map on the cover is a reproduction of Clark’s own drawing of the route and was printed by The Crafton Graphic Company of NY. The book was bound by the usual suspects, Frank Fortney and the Russell-Rutter Company.

Spines – Volume 1 is on the left, Volume 2 on the right.

Title Page – For this book, the LEC felt that gathering up some of the art done by artists who lived in Lewis and Clark’s time would be most appropriate, so they worked out arrangements to do so.  Carl Bodmer was a big hit, it seems, as his work is the most frequently used in the book.  His watercolors were made while he was “accompanying Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied on an epochal tour of North America in 1833-1844”, according to the back of Volume 2.  “Several Bodmer pieces came from specimens kindly loaned by Harry Shaw Newman of the Old Print Shop, Inc, New York”, it continues on.  George Bird King, the second most used artist, did his work around 1837,  and “are from the Indian Journals of Lewis Henry Morgan, by arrangement of the publisher, The Univ. of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor,” again from the back of the second volume. The type is Monticello, and the books were designed to look like an explorer’s journal (which I have to say they achieved!).  Monticello is based on a parent face by Archibald Binny, who lived in Philadelphia and composed the type in 1789, which became the most popular native typeface in Jefferson’s lifetime, and may explain why it’s named after his villa.  Nicholas Biddle edited the journals, and John Bakeless gives an introduction.

Page vii – The first page of the Introduction had a nice illustration, so I felt compelled to share.

Pages 10 – 11 – An example of Bodmer’s work.

Pages 298 – 299 (Volume 2) – And an example of King’s.

Page 16 – 17 – The journal also includes scraps from the explorer’s own journals, which is a nice perk.

Map (end of Volume 1) – The Heritage Press reprinted the exact path of Lewis and Clark, which Clark himself created.  It’s a nice four page fold-out, with the trail specifically marked in a thick red line.  The original is in the Coe Collection of Western Americiana at Yale University’s library in New Haven.

Personal Notes – I’ve enjoyed looking at these books, but alas, they are not mine.  These were also checked out at my local library in Mariposa.

Heritage Press: John Brown’s Body by Stephen Vincent Benet (1948)

January 24, 2011 § 6 Comments

John Brown’s Body by Stephen Vincent Benet (1948)
Sandglass Number unknown
Artwork: Paintings by John Steuart Curry
Introduced by Douglas Southall Freeman
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #192/18th Series V. 7 in 1948

Click images for a larger view.

Front Binding – A fairly basic cover with John Brown’s Body boldly circled in the center in blue and gold.  I did some slight Photoshopping to remove a library UPC symbol from the cover, as this is not mine.  Django2694 has a treasure trove of information to share:

John Brown’s Body–better late than never, I suppose, but there is a considerable story behind this book that I haven’t had time to go into until now.

Along with the Monthly Letter, in my copy was an additional mailing from the LEC which went out with the Monthly Letter which mentions it thus:

“What he {Francis Meynell} did, in making a typographic plan for this American edition of a great American book, at this moment seems to us an object lesson in the work of a typographer. So we have decided to print, as a separate leaflet for inclusion with this issue of this not-always-Monthly Letter, the letter which Francis Meynell sent us on the twentieth of August in 1946; and, in addition, the forward which he later prepared for inclusion in the book itself.

For that reason we will not list the physical qualities of this book here. If you are not interested, you can throw the separate leaflet into the waste-basket; where, indeed, you may have already thrown it along with this Monthly Letter.”

The accompanying leaflet is a 7-page pamphlet titled “What a Typographer Does To/For/With A Book” It contains very elaborate notes on the font, layout, ornamentation, paper and embellishments. Meynell was the original advocate behind the LEC’s decision to produce this book (more about this later), and he had given much thought to how to present the poem in a way that would help the reader–who he assumed with some justification would not be normally in the habit of reading book-length poems. Thus he came up with his own “chapter headings,” as he referred to them–“Ellyat’s Tune,” and “Wingate’s Tune,” for example. It is a fascinating portrait of one of the great book designers of the 20th century approaching a text he really loved and determining how to set it in its best appearance on the page.

How much he was an advocate of this book becomes very clear when we fast forward 9 years. Francis Meynell is giving the Address on the Dedication of the George Macy Memorial Collection at Columbia University (Macy’s alma mater). After the expected eulogistic remarks, Meynell tells a personal anecdote which he feels is most illustrative of “Macy’s general attitude towards book-making.”

He goes on to say how he had written Macy in January of 1944 extolling the virtues of Benet’s John Brown’s Body, begging him to put it on the LEC’s schedule of publications and letting himself (Meynell) design it. Five weeks later Macy responds that he was delighted with Meynell’s burst of enthusiasm for the work, but adds “there are, of course, many other tellings of the John Brown story. I will arrange to send you God’s Angry Man, which seems a superior telling to me.”

There the matter sat for two years–or so it seemed to Meynell–when suddenly Meynell received a letter from Macy saying “you wrote me recently in a burst of enthusiasm for John Brown’s Body to say that you would like to plan a new edition typographically. The time has come, it is here.” This letter goes on to describe what was probably behind the impetus for the project–the completion of a series of paintings illustrating the poem by Curry. I think probably Macy commissioned these illustrations when the furore over Curry’s John Brown mural in the Kansas State Capitol building collided with his memory of Meynell’s burst of enthusiasm for a work Macy obviously did not think that much of. This letter ends with Macy urging Meynell to complete this design ASAP. When Meynell had not sent anything after four months, Macy telegrammed him, “I am very anxious to have the typographic plan for John Brown’s Body since the illustrations are languishing for reproduction.”

When Macy arrived in London to look at the plan, the two men came to an impasse over Curry’s illustrations. It seems obvious that they had been the deciding factor in Macy going ahead with the project, but Meynell objected, feeling that the poem was illustration enough in itself. They reached a rough compromise with deciding to put the illustrations in a pocket in the binding–not interleaved in the pages of the poem. But a year later, during which interval Curry had died suddenly of a heart attack, Macy wrote to Meynell that he had been puzzling over the inclusion of the illustrations and had almost wished it were possible to strike the book from the production schedule. Finally, he had decided to go ahead with an edition which would give Curry’s illustrations “the prominence which he expected to have” and says he therefore planned to proceed with an entirely new typographic plan made in the US.

An impasse followed in which “Cold War telegrams” were exchanged, and the long-standing friendship between the two men seemed on the verge of collapse until Macy visited London again, greeted Meynell with “his fantastically, his annoyingly, persuasive charm, the contest was over, and he had of course won hands down.” The book came out with Meynell’s plan and the extra letter which showcased Meynell’s design genius–and with Curry’s art reproduced as he had wished it. Even though one suspects Meynell still had reservations about this latter, he remarks several times in tones of admiration about Macy’s loyalty to the artist.

A few years later when Macy and his family attended a dramatic reading of the poem–a production that even ran on Broadway starring Tyrone Power, Judith Anderson, and Raymond Massey, and directed by Charles Laughton. Macy sent Meynell the playbill autographed by his family and inscribed “To our beloved Francis–we have looked on ‘John Brown’s Body’ and we think of you.”

As a final to this anecdote, Meynell reveals that Macy, in printing Meynell’s original enthusiastic letter of proposal,

“monstrously, unjustifiably, but quite delightfully…inserted a few words. He makes me write ‘Did you ever hear of it {the poem}? Is it at all known in America?’ Those words are wholly his, not mine! He invented them in order to raise a smile at the superior, the condescending Englishman! And a smile they did raise….”

It’s hard to imagine the head of Easton Press or the Folio Society or A.A.Knopf acting in similar fashion these days. But these men–Knopf, Macy, Meynell, Liverwright, Scribner, etc. weren’t just those corporate executives whose main concern is the bottom line and who don’t really care whether they sold limited editions or soap flakes. They were booklovers, and were engagingly human in their business.

Title Page – John Steuart Curry has some notoriety painting John Brown in the past – see the Kansas State Captiol website for his more infamous depiction. This shows Brown as a crazed-looking man out for blood, which was a common motif for illustrating Brown in the days of segregation to make him look wild and insane. Here, Curry curtails his rendering of Brown to a fairer portrait of the man, more in tune to how he actually was…although he still has some intense eyes.  Curry supplied fourteen illustrations to the Limited Editions Club for this book, and would also provide the artwork for three other LEC’s – The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, The Prairie by James Fenimore Cooper, and The Literary Works of Abraham Lincoln.  This was his last work for the LEC, and it seems that he died before it was released, as the LEC was unsigned (he did sign the earlier three).  Along with Douglas Southall Freeman’s introduction, Benet himself has a brief preface.

Page 48 – Nice colors, here.  I like this one most from this book, although I will admit that Curry does little for me.

Page 188

Personal Notes – I checked this out from my local library in Mariposa, although I have seen a few copies for sale, too.  It’s not too high on my list, though, as I’m not too keen on Curry’s work.

Finding a Sandglass with a library copy is rare, and this is one of the all too common occurrences where such documentation has been lost.  If you have any info on the book’s Sandglass number, please let me know through the comments here or at my thread about this blog at the George Macy Devotees @ LibraryThing!  Thanks!

Limited Editions Club: The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1946)

January 22, 2011 § 3 Comments

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1946)
Seventeenth Series, Book #185 (1st in this series)
Artwork: Miniatures by Arthur Szyk
Translated by Frank Ernest Hill, who revised his earlier translation for the LEC in 1934 for this edition.  Hill also provides an Introduction.
#1122 out of 1500.

Click images to see a larger view.

Note – This is a special post, as I get to compare the Limited Editions Club original to the Heritage Press reprint.  I’ve taken shots of both books on the same pages and topics, and will put the LEC shots on the top and the Heritage ones on the bottom to make it easy to look at both.  This will be a continuing feature that will continue to occur as I manage to procure the LEC and Heritage copies of books to document.

Also, I have been fortunate enough to be gifted a Limited Editions Club newsletter with my LEC copy, which I have scanned and provided below underneath the book’s images.  I may do this with my own books in the future, but considering how hard these things are to find, and I stumbled on one at a library, I felt compelled to share this particular one with you.  If it goes over well, I’ll definitely ponder putting up mine.  Enjoy!

Front Bindings

The two utilize the same idea – a looping illustration done by Arthur Szyk in miniature that features Chaucer in the middle of one pattern.  The LEC has a leather spine, while the design continues onto the Heritage edition, which you can see below.  George Macy was responsible for the LEC design, and I imagine he carried that title over to the Heritage edition as well.  Here’s the details of the book’s creation, straight from the Club themselves:

That simplifies things a little. :p


Title Page – The LEC edition went with a nice blue ink for its title page, while the Heritage ran with standard black.  Otherwise, they’re about the same.

Introduction – The LEC continues to spice up its pages with color – blue and red are used throughout the text, while the Heritage reprint sticks it out with their black.  The LEC also has the added bonus of “feeling” the text with your hands (and by that, I mean that the ink rises above the page slightly, and you can notice the difference brushing the page with your hand), which is just incredible.

Signature Page – Oh, how I wish you were mine.  Alas, it is UC Merced’s, and is #1122 of 1500.  Szyk has a very nice signature, I must say.

Title Illustration – Flip the title page and you’ll see this decadent piece that Szyk did of the entire cast of the Canterbury Tales.  The LEC original is much more vibrant with its colors and detail, which isn’t much of a surprise.  It’s a bit hard to tell in these shots, but the LEC artwork has a nice border around it that’s a light tannish color, and the text on the right or left of the portrait shares that attribute, as you’ll see below.

The Host

The Wife of Bath

Personal Notes – I…don’t own either of these books, so I can’t get too deep into their histories.  One came from the Mariposa Library (the Heritage), and luck gifted me the LEC at UC Merced’s library.  I wouldn’t mind owning this, I’ll say that much. :p

LEC Newsletter

Limited Editions Club: Tartuffe, or the Hypocrite by Moliere (1930)

January 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

Tartuffe, or the Hypocrite by Moliere (1930)
Second Series, Book # 16 (4th in the series)

Artwork: Lithograph illustrations by Hugo Steiner-Prag
Translated into Verse by Curtis Hidden Page, who also provides a Preface. Introduced by Brander Matthews.
#1005 out of 1500

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – A very enticing binding, with a striking relief of Moliere’s profile towards the center of the front board (the back lacks this). Here’s what Django6924 had to say about this book:

Tartuffe, designed as well as illustrated by Herr Steiner-Prag, lithos pulled by Meissner & Buch: Leipzig. The binding is half natural linen, with mould-made Japanese paper sides. No Heritage Press edition exists of this (again, of the first 10 years of the LEC, maybe only half ever had reincarnations as Heritage press books (using the same illustrator, designer, etc.), although many years later the LEC, and then the Heritage Press did a 2 play Moliere volume containing Tartuffe and The Would-Be Gentleman, in translations by H Baker and J Miller, and illustrations in color by Serge Ivanoff. I can’t offer any comment on the merits of this translation as opposed to the one by Page, but I have to say I think Steiner-Prag’s black and white lithos far superior to Ivanov’s beautiful, but somewhat characterless illustrations for Tartuffe–although Ivanoff’s work seems better suited to The Would-Be Gentleman.

In the Quarto-Millenary, Macy has this to say about the Steiner-Prag edition: “This is one of the ten finest books we have ever issued to our members, yet it is one of the ten least popular. O tempora, o mores!”

Below is a larger view of the relief.


Spine – The text is upside down. Moliere’s name is actually at the bottom of the spine when the book is correctly flipped to be read.


Title Page – The first Tartuffe the club put out was translated by Curtis Hidden Page (a man born for books, let me tell you), who also provides a small preface before the play begins. Before that, Brander Matthews gives the introduction. Hugo Steiner-Prag gives the comedy some most excellent illustrations in his first work for the Club. He did not return to the LEC until his Shakespeare commission in 1939, resulting in his rendering Measure for Measure for Macy. Next was The Tales of Hoffman (which he also provided the Introduction for) and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, both in 1943. He passed away shortly after completing the work for Poe. Lord Byron’s Don Juan was also illustrated by Steiner-Prag for the Heritage Press, also in 1943. A short but brilliant collaboration, if you ask me. This particular book was printed by Poeschel & Trepte in Leipzig, Germany, which also happened to be where Steiner-Prag resided.

Signature Page – Here’s my limitation number: 1005 out of 1500. Steiner-Prag’s signature is in pencil (sorry for its faintness).

Introduction – A moody piece of the play’s lead, Tartuffe, a man with “many faces”. This page is right after the Introduction and Preface, preceding the play’s beginning.

Page 41 – Steiner-Prag was brilliant with lighting, as is evident here.

Page 57 – My favorite piece in this book.

Personal Notes – Purchased at Moe’s in Berkeley for $25, but it was not my first exposure to the book. My favorite shop of all in Monterey Bookhaven (now Old Captiol) had a copy that a dog had unfortunately sunk its teeth into the top right corner, but I had to argue with myself not to buy damaged goods. The binding was just that captivating. This copy has no chew marks, and was wrapped in a sufficient piece of butcher paper with some tissue protecting the relief from harm. The slipcase is a little battered, but the book is relatively unscathed. Lucky me!

I’ve read some of Tartuffe, as well as watching the Gerard Depardieu film, so I have some familiarity with this play, but not as much as, say, Macbeth or Cyrano de Bergerac. I’ll have to reread it soon!

And be sure to check out the post on the later printing!

LEC Newsletter

Page 3 is omitted due to it being a preview of a later book.

Updated 7/6/2012 – JF

Limited Editions Club: The Diary of Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe (1954)

January 19, 2011 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club: The Diary of Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe (1954)

The Diary of Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe (1954)
22nd Series, Volume 11
Artwork: Illustrations drawn by Reginald Marsh, colored through stencils
Introduced by John T. Winterich

Originally printed by the Heritage Press
#1040 out of 1500

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Today’s modernizing is of my very old Moll Flanders post, one of the first LECs I acquired! I still don’t have a letter for it, but my handy Quarto does include production details, so I can get into the story of this book just a touch more than I originally could.

This book has a vibrant blue silk binding that is very soft and squishy (for lack of a better word). The motif was to have the edition come across as a lady’s private diary, and given the contents it’s an appropriate concept well executed here. Now if you looked over the heading of this post you’ll notice that it stated it was a Heritage Press edition originally; this is indeed the case, a relative rarity in the LEC’s history but not entirely uncommon. The LEC edition of Beowulf is another example, and I have an incomplete listing of other such publications in my Heritage Press Exclusives page here on the blog. For Moll Flanders, the Heritage was issued back in 1942, twelve years before the LEC was printed. Typically whenever this happened it was intended to fill a gap caused by a planned LEC falling through or slipping past its deadline; I wonder what the reasoning was for this particular upgrade.

Daniel Defoe, England’s first notable novelist and prominent journalist of his time, had a pretty prolific run with the Limited Editions Club, which I detailed in the Journal of a Plague Year post. This falls right in the middle of his bibliography, and would be the last George himself would have a hand in.

Reginald Marsh was the artist for both the Heritage original and this LEC upgrade; Django6924 has plenty to say about him:

Reginald Marsh is one of the half-dozen famous “regional artists” of 20th century America, along with the 3 Midwestern painters Benton, Wood and Curry, and in the East, his contemporary Edward Hopper. Although he did several works for the LEC, Moll Flanders would seem to be an unlikely choice of assignments for the famed chronicler of Coney Island, the Bowery and the burlesque houses and movie theaters on the Lower East Side. But, I think he did a remarkable job, and as WildcatJF pointed out, the burlesque queens he depicted so memorably are distant cousins of the scandalous Ms. Flanders. Marsh’s more typical jobs for Macy were Sister Carrie and his final illustrated book for them, Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, completed just before his death and, as a result, one of the unsigned LECs. The Dreiser work, along with the illustrations he did for Dos Passos’s U.S.A. Trilogy, are his masterpieces of book illustration. Here is a link that tells a little more about him and shows some of his fine art:

Design Notes – Thanks to my Quarto, I can finally lift some mysteries about this book’s creation. George Macy himself handled the design duties; presumably he also was responsible for the Heritage? Marsh’s ink drawings were colored by Martha Berrien. The printing was handled by Peter Beilenson, with the font Waverly inked onto Ticonderoga Text paper. Russell-Rutter handled the binding duties.

Here’s some more info on Mr. Beilenson from Django6924:

Printed at his Mt. Vernon press, which was the home of his own famous press, The Peter Pauper Press. Beginning in the Thirties and continuing to his death in 1962, the Peter Pauper Press printed many beautiful letterpress editions of classic works–nothing monumental in scope, but made with wonderful design sense and beautiful materials. The press also designed and printed several special editions for Random House and for the LEC.


Slipcase – The slipcase was wrapped in a beautiful copper foil that compliments the blue binding and its copper stamps; alas, mine is falling apart. Django6924 mentions that the same cruelty has befallen both his and a relative’s copies, so it would seem that this foil was not meant to last (since this post went up I’ve heard additional reports about the slipcase foil being very sensitive).

Title Page – Here the book is referred to as “The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders.” This was printed in 1954 by Peter Beilenson in Mt. Vernon.

Unstated here, John T. Winterich provides an introduction, a commonality among Heritage exclusives.

Signature Page – Here’s Marsh’s signature. The aforementioned Beowulf was unsigned by its original illustrator Lynd Ward, so it’s perhaps fortuitous that Marsh was available to provide his for this reprinting. This is #1040 of 1500.

Page 56 – 57 – A nice piece of revelry and debauchery. I found the vomiting gentlemen in red by the page divide to be a particular highlight for some bizarre reason.

Page 151 – Most of Marsh’s work is in between the book’s text.

Personal Notes – My first trip to Moe’s in Berkeley led to this purchase, an absolute steal at $15. To this day it’s one of the best deals I’ve ever had with a LEC (the best are my copies of The Way of the World and the second Three-Cornered Hat I acquired at my local Goodwill for $4 each). I have a feeling it was so cheap because of the slipcase’s poor condition; it really is a shame that the foil is falling to pieces. I haven’t read Defoe, but I’ve heard of the story of Moll Flanders, and Marsh’s work seems to be a good fit for the tale, so I’m content. And the cushy binding adds a lot to the joy of flipping through it.

Updated 10/6/2017 by JF

Heritage Press – Beowulf (1939?)

January 15, 2011 § 5 Comments

Beowulf (1939?)*
Sandglass Number 5K
Artwork: Drawings by Lynd Ward
Translated and introduced by William Ellery Leonard
Originally a Hertiage Press exclusive, later reprinted by the Limited Editions Club in 1952 (Book #225, 21st series V.

Click the images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Designed by John S. Fass, these boards were covered by a binder’s linen that was left intentionally rough, dyed several shades of brown.  The bold blue foil box that surrounds Beowulf‘s title was stamped into the linen, with the gold pressed into that.  The spine repeats the idea, albeit smaller.

Django2694 has this to say about the LEC edition, among some other comments:

I don’t have my Heritage edition at home–it’s packed in storage and I don’t remember whether it had a Sandglass. I can say that the Ward-illustrated Beowulf was an original Heritage Press publication, done in response, perhaps, to Rockwell Kent’s wonderful Beowulf for the Lakeside Press–which was the first to use Leonard’s translation. Kent’s work is justly famous, so I expect Macy felt he needed to go one better by having Ward do his illustrations in color. This original edition was in 1939, but from everything I have read or seen, that edition was exactly like yours–same binding, illustrations, production details–which was probably a later reissue.

The Monthly Letter for the later LEC mentions Kent’s work:

“”There are pundits who go so far as to say the Lynd Ward’s illustrations for Beowulf are as good as those truly remarkable lithographs which Rockwell Kent made for Beowulf in the year 1928.”

The designer of the LEC Beowulf was Eugene Ettenberg. It is a largish book–bigger than the Heritage Press edition–8.5″ x 12″–and it is set in 14 point Janson while the chapter heads are set in “an utterly new typeface imported from Amsterdam called Libra.” The quarter binding on the spine is blue linen and there is a design of a spear by Ward stamped in gold. The boards are covered in a handmade paper from Sweden featuring a wavy pattern of browns, beiges and blues. The Monthly Letter says Ward “revised” the original illustrations, drawing directly on the lithographic plates. In addition to the size increase, they are also much more delicate in color than the saturated blues and golds of the Heritage edition (but with none of the muddiness you see in the reproductions for the Easton press edition, as was pointed out by EP collector Lucas Trask in an informative side-by-side comparison:

In addition to these “revisions” Ward also adapted one of the illustrations for a two-page black & white spread for the title treatment, and numerous little designs–battleaxes, meadcups, etc–reproduced in brown and sprinkled throughout the text. I would not say that the LEC is inferior**–just subdued whereas the Heritage original is exuberant.

Title Page – Lynd Ward’s stunning artwork quickly lets readers know they are in for a treat.  The Heritage Press acquired the rights to reprint Professor William Ellery Leonard’s introduction and translation, which was at the time deemed “the most interesting” by Americans according to the Sandglass.  Leonard also has a preface before each section of the poem.  The text is Garamond, picked for its harmony with Ward’s work.  The paper was, as par the course, specially made for this book by the Collins Paper Company, who supplied a “soft yet tough rag paper” for Leonard’s words and Ward’s ink.

While on the subject of Ward, the Sandglass mentions three other books Ward had done for the Press by its publication – Les Miserables, Gargantua & Pantagruel, and The Innocent Voyage.  Curious that last one, as its publication date was 1944, five years after this book’s copyright page claims to have been printed.  I’m inclined to believe that I do not own a first printing of this book, or it was held for five years plus before its actual release, which is possible.  Ward’s first LEC book was not listed, oddly enough, which was The Cloister and the Hearth in 1932, but perhaps that’s omitted due to its position as an early LEC predating the Heritage Press and was not printed by them.  If you have any further info on this, I’d appreciate it.

Page 5 – Grendel is grotesquely rendered here – a poignant and powerful illustration.  In total, Ward did 16 full-page illustrations like this one, printed with a lithographic process in blue and brown inks.

Page 8 – Beowulf gets a glorious introduction, properly playing up his heroic nature.  Ward was a genius.

Page 1 – An example of Leonard’s introductions to each section, which Ward also contributed smaller black-and-white pieces for.

Personal Notes – I paid too much for this book. :p  Before I had a clue about the Heritage Press and its price scales, I dropped $30 for this at my friend’s old Page One Used Books (the same that I’ve swapped Brownings with), but considering how rarely I see it in other shops (i.e. once, last time I was in Berkeley), I suppose it’s all right that I forked out a fairly hefty sum…although it is lacking a slipcase.  It did introduce me to Lynd Ward, one of my favorite illustrators in the George Macy Company’s long list of artists.

My copy came with a second pamphlet that I’d be disinclined to believe came from the Heritage Press, looking at the original Beowulf manuscript and analyzing it some.  One of the neater bonuses I’ve gotten out of any book I have.


* = Due to the Sandglass listing books published after 1939, I’m not certain that I can rely on that as a publication date.  As I do not have any other year to work from, I’m arbitrarily using it as a placeholder until I know for certain what year this book was published.

** = Before Django supplied with me with info on the LEC, I commented that I had heard the LEC edition was inferior to the original Heritage edition.  I’ve dropped those comments (since he was nice enough to provide info on the LEC!), but that’s what he’s referring to here.

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for January, 2011 at The George Macy Imagery.