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.

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.

Slipcase

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 (sorry, I want to keep this secret!) 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 dog nomming (sorry, but I do love I Can Has Cheezburger), 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!

LEC Newsletter

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

Updated 7/6/2012 – JF

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§ 3 Responses to Limited Editions Club: Tartuffe, or the Hypocrite by Moliere (1930)

  • […] by Lynd Ward Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky with woodcuts by Fritz Eichenberg Tartuffe by Moliere with drawings by Hugo Steiner-Prag Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy with […]

  • Jack says:

    I’ve had my copy of Tartuffe for a couple of days now, and it really is a beaut ! It has a slightly sunned spine (and no slip-case) so it’s not a Fine copy (and wasn’t sold as such) but its strengths shine through. It certainly is a shame Macy didn’t commission Steiner-Prag more often, The full-page lithographs are striking but I’m not sure I don’t find the smaller head-pieces even more attractive: the one on page 3 is incredibly delicate.
    As for the paper (thick enough to eat a TV supper off**) and the Japanese paper boards (the most tactile binding I’ve come across after South Wind’s coarse linen), they just have to be handled to be believed.
    **Don’t try this at home….
    And, of course, the finishing master-stroke is the typeface, Winckelmann. Beautiful clear, and I can’t recall seeing it used anywhere else.
    So thanks, Jerry. To mis-quote Oliver Hardy “Here’s another nice book you’ve gotten me into!”.

    • Wildcat-Lvl says:

      Hi Jack,

      Glad you’re happy with the purchase! I adore this edition of Tartuffe. While I have the later LEC edition as well, this one exceeds it in nearly every way as far as I’m concerned!

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