Heritage Press: The Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France (1953)
March 8, 2011 Comments Off on Heritage Press: The Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France (1953)
The Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France (1953)
Sandglass Number I:19
Artwork: Etchings by Pierre Watrin
Introduced by Desmond MacCarthy, and translated by Mrs. Wilfrid Jackson
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #239/22nd Series V. 7 in 1953
Click images to see larger views.
Front Binding – Anatole France, the satirical French author who you see all too little reprinting of these days, is the subject of today’s post. This book, The Revolt of the Angels, was the last one printed by the Limited Editions Club, following At the Sign of the Queen Pedauque (1933), The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard (1937), Penguin Island (1947), and Crainquebille (1949). The first two were illustrated by Sylvain Sauvage (who would also do a special Penguin Islandfor the Heritage Press, among several others), while Malcolm Cameron and Bernard Lamotte supplied illustrations for the last two, respectively. The Heritage Press also did another of his works, The Gods are a-Thrist. Django6924 has this to add about France’s popularity within the Macy Companies:
It is interesting that the Macy companies gave so much attention to Anatole France, who, though a Nobel Prize winner, was certainly not in the upper echelon. Five of his novels found representation in the LEC and one additional Heritage Press only edition of The Gods are a-thirst. This puts him ahead of Thomas Hardy, one of the better represented English novelists (Conrad eventually pulled ahead of France, but a majority of his works were printed after Macy’s tenure–during the time George Macy was in charge, only Dickens was better represented among novelists.)
This particular book has a bit of interesting history to it, as the Club was wanting to publish a fine edition, naturally, but were not receiving sample illustrations that they felt matched the book’s spirit. In fact, they go on record saying that they were “disappointed with these sample drawings”. While in Paris, France’s (the author, not the country) original publisher, Calmann-Levy, was about to unleash their own collector’s edition of Revolt, with etchings done by Sauvage protege Pierre Watrin. Watrin’s work fit the Club’s imagining of their book so perfectly that they gained reprinting rights for the art, and had them reproduced via gravures thanks to the Photogravure and Color Company in New York (for this particular edition, at least). Saul and Lillian Marks of California designed the book, as well as setting the type, a font called Bembo. Django has this to add about the Marks:
The Revolt of the Angels was another production from Saul and Lillian Mark’s Plantin Press in Los Angeles, and the Macys shared HuxleyTheCat’s opinion about their designing and producing skills. In the Monthly Letter on another of the several books from Plantin, Macy wrote that the presswork “was the finest since John Henry Nash went to his reward.” This was the ultimate in praise, as Macy felt that for quality, Nash was unmatched by any printer alive.
HuxleytheCat is a fellow user on LibraryThing, FYI. But here we are still on the binding and I’m prattling on and on. Let’s talk about this! The boards are covered in a “silky material of a midnight-blue color” according to the Sandglass, with a sword adorned with angel wings stamped into the front boards in silver leaf. This blue is a lovely color, but the ink that stained it is incredibly sensitive to fading in the sun, as I’ve seen at least five different copies all afflicted with a grayed, dull spine. Shame, too, as it’s otherwise a nice book.
Title Page – Mrs. Wilfrid Jackson, who spent much of her time translating the works of France it would seem from a quick Googling, seems the right person for the job translating this work. Desmond MacCarthy serves up an Introduction. The book was printed by the Ferris Printing Company in New York, on paper specially made for the Heritage Press by the International Paper Company, which were then bound by Frank Fortney, also of New York.
Page 23 – I think that the LEC was wise to gain the rights to reprinting Watrin’s work, as he has a distinct style that seems to work well. This was his only work for the LEC, which was, as mentioned above, not unique to it. Blog commenter and fellow Macy Devotee featherwate had plenty to say about Watrin’s career following this book:
What the Sandglass doesn’t reveal is that during the seven years that elapsed between Watrin’s etchings appearing in the Calmann-Levy limited edition of the Revolt (1946) and their re-appearance in the LEC/HP editions of 1953, the artist himself seems to have largely abandoned serious book illustration to become an animation artist (and later director). He worked on one of the most famous of French cartoon features, Le Roi et L’Oiseau [English title: The King and the Mocking Bird], which began production in 1948 and was finally completed in – wait for it! – 1980; the delay was caused by studio bankruptcy and arguments over rights. The best-known of his other films is The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (1976), which he co-directed with Asterix’s creators Goscinny and Uderzo.
It was an interesting change of career for someone who was a star pupil of Sylvain Sauvage and according to the Sandglass had in only eight years established a high reputation as an illustrator and theatre designer. I have to say that most of the few illustrations of his I have found reproduced on the internet are pretty mundane compared to his etchings for Revolt: bread-and-butter pictures in children’s books and strip-cartoon histories of various French provinces (and let’s not overlook Space Mission Health Hygéa 7, a bizarre-sounding medical guide for teenagers[?] issued by the French government).
At http://www.flickr.com/photos/62235807@N02/ I’ve posted a still from Le Roi; the film is in colour but this b&w portrait hanging on a wall seems to have the same graphic wit as Watrin’s etchings for Revolt. I like to think of it as his work.
And I’m sure that’s more than you ever wanted to know about the life and work of Pierre Watrin!
Perhaps more than I wanted to know, but am happy to now know! Thanks!
Page 30 – There’s some in-text art as well.
Personal Notes – This is one of the most common Heritage Press books I’ve seen, as least where I live. My old bookshop gig had one, the last shop I worked at had one, I bought this documented one at a local library sale…it’s sort of bizarre how often I see this. I also spot it in the Bay Area a lot. Compared to France’s other books (which are rarer for me to spot), Revolt seems to follow me around. :p I bought the copy I have now at Second Time Around in Merced (the last shop I worked at), which had a slipcase and was generally a nicer condition. Since the initial writing of this post I have acquired the later Heritage printing of Penguin Island, and would like to get the others. I read this and absolutely loved it, so I want to get all of his books! :)
I also happen to have a delightful Penguin Island printing by Dodd, Mead in the late 1920’s that is illustrated wonderfully by Frank C. Pape. He did a series of France’s work for that publisher following France’s Nobel Prize win. Unfortunately, Pape never collaborated with the George Macy Company, but you can take a look at the Dodd, Mead Revolt here, if you’d like to compare.
Another interesting thing that happened with this book for me is the inclusion of a second Sandglass, for the Heritage Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, a book I have never laid eyes on (and not for lack of trying!). It is some relief to know that if I ever do stumble upon one I won’t need it to have a Sandglass inside it as a determining factor (although I’d probably buy it on the spot considering how scarce it is). Curiously, the second copy I bought had a Sandglass for Washington Irving’s History of New York if I remember correctly. So, look inside copies of Revolt for unexpected Sandglasses!
Updated 7/29/2012 JF