Limited Editions Club: The Innocent Voyage by Richard Hughes (1944)

May 5, 2011 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club: The Innocent Voyage by Richard Hughes (1944)

The Innocent Voyage by Richard Hughes (1944)
LEC # 175, 16th Series, V. 1
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Color Lithographs by Lynd Ward
Introduction by Louis Untermeyer
#542 out of 1500

Note – I wrote about my old Heritage Press edition a while back, which this post will replace.  This one will now be the third comparison between the LEC original and Heritage reprint, and I hope you will enjoy seeing the differences!  The LEC images will be up top.

Click images to see larger versions.

Front Binding – The premise is the same – a nice frontispiece of a little girl drawn by Lynd Ward, surrounded by a repeating and expanding box border.  It’s the final execution that differs between the two editions.  Here’s the LEC Announcement Letter to clarify some of the book design:

The front and back are identical on both books, and both were designed by Robert L. Dothard, owner of the E.L. Hildreth publishing house in Brattleboro, VT (thanks to Django6924 for this info prior to my acquiring my LEC).  My Heritage copy, bound much more simply with a printing of this image stamped onto a creme cloth, had an unfortunate water spot on the back.  Let’s pause and focus on the book at hand for a bit.  The Innocent Voyage, better known these days as A High Wind in Jamaica, is the best known work of Richard Hughes, a British novelist.  It is about a pirate crew who kidnaps a family of children who were trying to find a new home (theirs was destroyed by a hurricane) in the Caribbean, and of the time the kids are held hostage.  The two sides rub off on each other over the duration, and eventually it is the pirates who are the victims.  The girl on the cover is more than likely Emily Bas-Thornron, a major player in the tale who by its end manages to (SPOILER) get the pirates hung for her own crime of murder (SPOILER END), making her a rather notable callous child in literature.

Spine – The Heritage is similar, minus the leather and gold leaf, natch.

Solander Case – Inside the slipcase is this very attractive solander case that covers the book, featuring Lynd Ward’s gorgeous lithograph of “A High Wind in Jamaica”.  This image would be used as the endpapers in the Heritage edition.

Django2694 has more to comment on about the case and the Club’s choice of words on it:

Though the Monthly Letter describes the folding wrapper with the stunning “High Wind” lithograph as a solander, it is more properly a “chemise in a slipcase” rather than a solander. A solander is a box whereas a chemise is open and simply wraps around the book in its slipcase. (This is the reason that there is no title on the slipcase itself as the chemise faces out.) A chemise-wrapped book inside a slipcase was used several times by the LEC–for Vathek, School for Scandal, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to name a few. Solander boxes were used less frequently–Wilkie’s One World, Dead Souls, The Koran, and The Panchatantra are the only ones I have, though there are probably more. Here is Wikipedia’s excellent definition of a proper “solander”:

“Both lid and bottom sections of the box have three fixed side sections or “lips”; the lid is slightly larger so that the side pieces “nest” when the case is closed. The fourth “spine” side has flexible joints where it joins the main top and bottom pieces and so goes flat onto the surface where the box is opened. The front-edge of the case often contains a clasp for closure. The exterior is covered with heavy paper, fabric or leather, and its interior may be lined with padded paper or felt, especially if made for a book. All materials should be acid-free for conservation. The depth of the box is normally about five inches, if it is not made for a specific object, and various standard sizes are made, with traditional names including “royal”, “imperial”, “elephant” and others. Ones for very old books will typically be custom made to an exact size. The boxes are stored flat, and are strong enough to be kept in small stacks if required.”

LEC Slipcase – A white slipcase with no title on the back for this one – a little unusual for a LEC case, but with the solander case above as a bonus, I suppose the George Macy Company figured that was sufficient enough.  I’d agree. :)

Title Page – The Heritage edition tries very hard to replicate Ward’s beautiful color lithographs (which I’ll let Django2694 explain for me in a moment, since he did it so well!), but there’s a slight edge to the LEC in terms of vibrancy and sharpness which makes these pop.  It’s a testament to how much care and craft were put into these books.  Here’s Django’s comments on the process:

The lithos in The Innocent Voyage are amazing in their Technicolor vibrancy and wide range of hues. They mark the first time Ward did other than monochrome lithos for Macy. Each of the five colors had to be done on a separate stone, and then overlaid in register–an incredibly complicated procedure. I quote from the Monthly Letter:

“…he had to draw each color on the flat, not knowing what the finished illustration would look like until he had drawn each of the five brilliant colors and could then possess himself of prints in which each color had been printed on top of the preceding color, or colors, in order to create the final compositions…twenty-five in all. Every one of these (in the LEC, and, I think, in the Heritage version as well), is an original lithograph, an auto-lithograph in color, printed directly from the flats upon which the artist made the drawings, without the interference of a photographic camera or paid operatives to work over the plates.”

The printing was done by George Miller, the acknowledged dean of American lithographers, who was honored by an exhibition of his life’s work in February, 1976, at the Smithsonian. Longtime Macy favorite Frank Fortney did the binding.

These became even more impressive knowing that Ward had no clue how the end result would turn out until he finished.  Astounding.  Here’s some more from Django about the book’s history and George Macy ranting a bit about the quality of the book (beginning with an excerpt from the LEC Monthly Letter – his own commentary follows):

“The page is certainly open and readable, but we do hope that you will find George Miller’s (who printed the lithographs) printing and Lynd Ward’s lithographs so unusually fine that you will not mind the fact that the Hildreth printing of the open and readable pages is not very good. We tell ourselves and can tell you, that many of our best pressmen are still at the front shooting at the Japs and Germans and, what is tragic for us, sometimes being shot at: so one must be patient.”

This is one of those times, which occur more than one might imagine, in the Monthly Letters when Macy–usually accused of only printing panegyrics about his books–is openly critical. He panned the LEC Green Mansions because he didn’t care for the airy type of the page (being a staunch and unwavering advocate of crisp, deeply stamped black type), and he had similar reservations about several other of the LEC output, one of which ended in the enmity between Macy and Grabhorn that lasted the rest of his life. It is also indicative, in the comment about shooting at Japs and Germans, of his fervent patriotism which manifested itself most strikingly in the legendary Heritage Press Ink and Blood.

Now, as I look through the book, I do not find the book unsatisfactory in any form, but Macy is allowed to find faults with his own books.  It’s also right in the middle of World War II when this was published, so perhaps he was unhappy with losing a lot of his favorite presses to the war and felt that Dothard’s work was not up to the high standards he expected, but I think Macy’s damning of Hildreth’s work is a little harsh.  Django2694 had some additional comments after his initial posting from before explaining Macy’s disdain:

Macy’s complaints about the presswork mostly relate to the kerning. In the days before computer-set type, the typesetters with the highest level of skill were masters at setting the ideal spacing between letters. This is purely a matter of the setter’s eye determining how much space there should be between each individual character to achieve a visually pleasing result. It’s a very subtle difference, and our discernment has been compromised by mass-market printing, but if you look at the lines of type in The Innocent Voyage, and compare them to a page from the Heritage Press edition of Emerson’s Essays, which was designed by John Henry Nash, you will see the difference in the grace of line.

You’ll see Emerson’s Essays soon enough, as it’s on my queue. ^_^

Signature Page – As you can see here, this is #542 out of 1500, and is signed in red by Lynd Ward.  I’ve minimized my gushing for Ward’s excellence in this post thus far – let’s remedy that. :p  Ward is definitely one of the George Macy Company’s finest choices for an illustrator – his dynamic style suits so many different books, which the Company picked up on.  For example, out of what I own of Ward’s handiwork includes this, Beowulf, Rights of Man by Thomas Paine, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and The Master of Ballantre by Robert Louis Stevenson.  He worked actively for the Clubs from his first contribution, The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade way back in 1932, to his last, 1975’s On Conciliation with America, and Other Papers on the American Revolution by Edmund Burke.  In that span he illustrated thirteen LEC books, plus a Heritage exclusive Gargantua and Pantagruel.  He was adapt at woodcutting and lithographic techniques.  On top of that, he was revolutionizing the concept of a graphic novel, several of these being  reprinted by the Library of America, which were put out a while back in a handsome edition.  He’s also well regarded for his Frankenstein illustrations, which Dover reprints today (some samples can be seen here).  In short, Ward was very much a legendary American artist in the twentieth century, and deserves more accolades than he seems to receive.

Page 19 – Again, Ward’s work is very well reproduced in the Heritage printing, but lacks the little something that the LEC original has to truly make it shine.  The fine detail is gone, I suppose.

Page 29

Personal Notes – The LEC I purchased at Moe’s in Berkeley for a cool $45, which I’m pleased with.  I liked my old Heritage, but I fell in love with this edition, especially now that I have Ward’s signature. :)  As for the Heritage, I don’t really know how I came into owning that book.  It was likely a purchase from my local library or from volunteering at Page One, but I don’t have any recollection of where and when I got it.  Due to its poor shape and lack of any redeeming collectible value (lacking a Sandglass or slipcase), I sold it off after acquiring the LEC.

As I am lacking a Sandglass, I need its Volume number printed on the front page of the Sandglass.  Either comment here or at my thread about this blog at the George Macy Devotees @ LibraryThing!  Thanks!

Special thanks to Django2694 from LibraryThing for additional insights.

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