Heritage Press – The Song of Roland (1938)

April 14, 2011 § 2 Comments

The Song of Roland (1938)
Sandglass Number VIII: 19
Artwork: Decorations by Valenti Angelo
Translated from the French into English by Charles Scott Moncrieff, and Introduced by Hamish Miles
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #102/9th Series, V. 7 in 1938

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – The Song of Roland is a classic retelling of the epic battle between France and Spain (or, to be more specific, Charlemagne’s forces against the Saracens), originally composed in French by an anonymous poet.  The George Macy Company was quite taken with the idea of attempting to recapture the era when this confrontation took place, and decided to have well-regarded illumination expert and illustrator (not to mention frequent LEC/Heritage Press artist) Valenti Angelo take the reins of trying to get the essence of an illuminated manuscript of the event done up in printed form.  Angelo, of course, was up to the task – having done incredible work on the Heritage Salome and The Song of Songs, as well as the LEC/HP Songs of the Portuguese, Angelo was quickly becoming a Club favorite and with good reason.  For this book, he would split the task with printer Edmund B. Thompson of Windham, Connecticut.  Angelo would do the art and hand-illuminate the decorations with gold, while Thompson would choose the type, set it and get it printed.  We’ll dig into that process in a moment – now let’s look at the binding.  The Sandglass indicates that Angelo was in charge of the binding, and I will report their coverage of the process:

Then Mr. Angelo proceeded to illuminate and color the binding.  The sheets are bound into heavy boards.  The boards are then covered with a back of bright yellow buckram imported from England, and stamped with a design in monk’s-blue leaf; and with sides of a brilliant blue kraft paper upon with a design by Mr. Angelo appears, in blue and red and green and gold.

My copy has seen its fair share of sunlight, which is the unfortunate gray stripe you can see on this shot.  The back lacks the decoration, but is the same otherwise.

Title Page – Before you get too excited, Angelo did not illuminate this edition by hand, per say – he did do such a feat with the LEC original, but here the gold was done through silk screen application.  The title font is gold, but it’s hard to tell here.  Three examples of Angelo’s decorations with the text follow.  Let’s focus on Thompson for a moment.  The poem’s lines are done in Caslon by hand, which is covered thoroughly by the Sandglass for those intrigued by the development of text over the years.  The binder is not specifically stated – I would assume Thompson did the work with Angelo’s artistic assistance, but I really have no clue.

Page 3 – Here’s a quick summary of Angelo’s decoration creation process.  Angelo began with the basic black outline of his art, which he then embellished with inks of alternative colors – blue, green, red.  He then hand-illuminated each illustration with gold.  Angelo deliberately wanted to use dynamic and striking colors to recreate the feeling of medieval manuscripts, so he chose vivid inks that would be intense on the page.  Very classy work.

Page 27

Page 84

Personal Notes – I got this for $1.00 from the anthropology club book sale at my old college, and it’s quite a looker, despite its faded boards.  I’d like to see the LEC one day.



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