Of Interest – The Easton Press and the Limited Editions Club United for Private Sells to Easton Members

June 26, 2011 Comments Off on Of Interest – The Easton Press and the Limited Editions Club United for Private Sells to Easton Members

George Macy fanatics probably know this already, but the Limited Editions Club, when owned by the Cardavon Press, sold the Heritage Press to the owners of the Easton Press in the late 1970’s.  This gave Easton an incredible backlog of books to reprint under their banner, which they continue to do to this day.  Many of their 100 Greatest Books are in actuality Heritage Press/LEC reprints.  Around the time the Heritage Press was sold, Sidney Shiff purchased the LEC from Cardavon and began his long reign over the Club, limiting the print counts to 300 (although only 100 members were actually on the LEC rosters – the other 200 were sold to libraries, museums and other similar institutions) and altering the club’s focus to more contemporary authors and illustrators – today’s fine artists whose work goes for thousands if not millions of dollars.  The club also lost its monthly release schedule to one that depended on whenever a book could be released.

Apparently Easton and Shiff got along well enough to cooperate on liquidations, as this letter will showcase to you.  My anthro instructor got an offer in the mid ’90’s he recently unearthed from Easton soliciting the remainders of several of Shiff’s LEC creations, and he gave it to me to add to my miscellaneous “somehow tied to the books I collect” collection.  I’d like to share some of it with you, as you’ll likely not see too many of Shiff’s contributions to the history of the LEC on this site due to their extreme cost and scarcity.


Heritage Press: The Arabian Nights Entertainments – The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1962)

June 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

The Arabian Nights Entertainments – The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1962)
Sandglass Number 30R
Artwork: Illustrations by Valenti Angelo
Introduced, Annotated and Translated by Sir Richard F. Burton
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #59/5th Series, V. 12 in 1934.

Click images for larger views.

Front Binding – The Arabian Nights Entertainments, aka The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, were exquisitely rendered as a LEC in 1934, featuring 1001 separate illustrations from Valenti Angelo. This was his very first LEC project, and what a way to start! His simplistic yet graceful drawings give this book a wonderfully memorable cover. For more on Angelo, visit my post on Salome.

As for Sir Richard Burton, his translations of Arabic classics saw a fair amount of print from the George Macy Company. The Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yazdi followed this in 1937, with Angelo returning to decorate it. The Arabian Nights Entertainments was redone in 1954 with the marvelous Arthur Szyk giving it his artistic touch. Presumably the two Arabian Nights are one and the same in terms of content, but I’m not quite sure. The Heritage Press re-released Angelo’s spin on The Arabian Nights in 1962, smashing six volumes into three. Szyk’s was also re-released, condensed from four volumes to two. Szyk’s is not all of the Arabian Nights Entertainments. Django6924 was kind enough to pass along this information:

It is in 2 volumes rather than 4 as the LEC, and the ornamentation on the binding is in silver, rather than gold.

This set is really all about Szyk, as it only contains 65 of the stories–the ones told by Scheherazade–without all the other tales that were attached to the framework (including most of the famous ones: Sindbad, Ali Baba, etc.).

I have not seen the LEC edition of this work, but I suspect the illustrations will have slightly more saturated colors than my Heritage edition. Incidentally, since Szyk died before publication, the LEC edition is not signed. Those are the principle differences.

According to my Sandglass, Macy had originally wanted Szyk to do the illustrations for the Arabian Nights, but Szyk was too busy with other work–especially propaganda for the war, and felt he couldn’t do it, so Angelo illustrated the complete tales. When Szyk had a heart attack in 1945 and told Macy he wanted to do the Arabian Nights, Macy decided to commission him to do the most popular tales, and include Taylor’s notes in addition to some of Burton’s. It was a race against time and Szyk died before the book was published. It was a hugely expensive undertaking because of the elaborate printing required for the illustrations and the Heritage reprint was essential to recoup the costs.

The Heritage reprint here reproduces the Angelo LEC page by page through lithography. Unfortunately, the Sandglass omits any further production details! I can ramble about the board design or the reasoning for the thin paper, but I’ll refrain and let the Sandglass do that for me.

Spines – The slipcases are black, just to add.

Title Page – Burton’s “plain and literal” translation was a big deal for a long time, perhaps to this day. His annotations are as vital as the tales themselves, according to the Sandglass. Burton’s introduction is also included.

Page 2657 – Angelo’s art works quite well for the Arabian Nights, if I may say so. Both of the in-book illustrations are from the final volume.

Page 2687

Personal Notes – Originally this post came from a library checkout, but thanks to the 50 book haul I made, I snagged up this lovely set for $3 complete. Alas, they are not perfect. They have been opened often and the endpapers are splitting away from the book. Also, the spines feel like they have been sunned and seem flimsy. They have a cushy feeling when you touch them, which suggests that these books may not last for too long without some delicate care. Still, they’re lovely editions, and I’m happy to have them.


Updated 5/29/2012 – JF

Heritage Press: The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1953, Coronation Edition)

June 26, 2011 § 4 Comments

The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1953)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Illustrations by Agnes Miller Parker, decorations by John Austen
Specifically published by the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, introduced by John Hayward
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #234/22nd Series, V. 2 in 1953

Click images for a larger view.

Front Binding – An artistic tour de force lies within these boards, as two of the greats in the history of the Limited Editions Club unite for this special Coronation edition of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen.  Agnes Miller Parker, whose work has been featured on the blog twice before (for the Poetry of Shakespeare and Hardy’s Return of the Native…but there’s plenty more to come!), combines her wood-carving talents with the fine drawing abilities of John Austen.  Austen’s other works will be spotlighted soon on the blog, as I have come into possession of his very first commission for the Limited Editions Club, Vanity Fair, and he also applied his touch to Aristophanes’ The Frogs, among plenty of others. I think the two work well together, but you can judge for yourself momentarily.

Alas, this library copy is not in the greatest shape, so it’s got a few issues.  I do like the color choice of a creme board with aqua green adornments on top, with the pink spine giving it a little class.  However, this is a library copy, and Sandglasses are notoriously difficult to uncover within these well-read books, so I’m in the dark as to who put this beauty together.  Any help would be great!

Title Page – Parker gets the left side to herself to showcase her excellence, while Austen embellishes the actual title page with his decorations.  The work is introduced by John Hayward.

Introduction Page 1 – Austen did smaller pieces meant to decorate the text, while Parker offers full page woodcut prints.  Here’s two examples of Austen’s contributions.

Illustrations Contents

Page 18 – And here’s Parker’s.  Another follows.  Just incredible.

Page 146

Personal Notes – The list of my desired books continues to grow.  *sigh*  This was another I checked out through the library system.

Any and all info on this book’s design process would be very useful!  If you have a Sandglass or LEC Newsletter, please drop me a line here or through the comments at my thread about this blog at the George Macy Devotees @ LibraryThing!  Thanks!

Heritage Press: The Book of Ruth (1947)

June 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

The Book of Ruth (1947)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Illustrations by Arthur Szyk
Translation Prepared at Cambridge in 1611 for King James I, Introduced by Mary Ellen Chase
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #184/17th Series, V. 11 in 1947

Click images for a larger view.

Front Binding – Yes, we’ve got a special book on our hands here.  Arthur Szyk’s linework is as impressive as his miniature paintings, and it’s a fine way to make this otherwise barren white cloth board shine.  I’ll need some help with the design info, due to this being a library book.

Title Page – Right off the bat the book stuns with its gorgeous artwork by Szyk I don’t know if these are miniatures or not, but it doesn’t matter.  They’re beautiful.  The Book of Ruth’s translation comes straight from the King James Bible, and Mary Ellen Chase provides the preface to the work.

Page 13 – Words really can’t express Szyk’s talent, so I’ll just let these marvels vouch for themselves.

Page 42

Personal Notes – Another book I want to add to my collection posthaste – this copy came via the library.

Any and all info on this book’s design process would be very useful!  If you have a Sandglass or LEC Newsletter, please drop me a line here or through the comments at my thread about this blog at the George Macy Devotees @ LibraryThing!  Thanks!

Heritage Press: Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin (1943)

June 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin (1943)
Sandglass Number XII:28
Artwork: Lithographs by Fritz Eichenberg
Translated by Babette Deutsch, edited and introduced by Avrahm Yarmolinsky
Reprint of LEC #147/14th Series, V. 7, in 1943

Click images for larger views.

Front Binding – The Heritage edition of Eugene Onegin is quite a looker.  The boards feature a recreation of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul done by Fritz Eichenberg, which were then taken to Martin Weber, a man who invented a process called “repeat-patterns” via camera to duplicate the image multiple times.  Sounds straightforward to us today, but remember that this was before Xerox machines or computers!  Russell-Rutter’s Frank and William Fortney performed the binding in New York.


Title Page –
Alexander Pushkin’s first work to be printed by the Limited Editions Club (and later reprinted by the Heritage Press) is this fine poetic novel Eugene Onegin, arguably Pushkin’s most renowned work – The Golden Cockerel would follow in 1949 (with famous book artist Edward Dulac providing the art there), and The Captain’s Daughter and Other Stories would arrive in 1971, with Charles Mozley doing the artistic honors.

For this particular book, Fritz Eichenberg was commissioned to create lithographic prints for his first assignment for the Club, and this definitely stands as one of the finer achievements in his brilliant career.  The art is this book is incredible.  But we’ll get to that shortly – let’s run through the other important figures behind the book.  Pushkin’s Russian text was translated into English by Babette Deutsch, a poet and critic whose work on this book was quite notable.  She was married to the editor/introducer of this book, Avrahm Yarmolinsky, who served as the head of the New York Public Library’s Slavonic Division for three decades.  Not a bad team, I’d say.  The text is Bodoni’s Monotype, printed in New York by Robert Bederson on paper made for the book by the Strathmore Paper Company.

Pages 4 – 5 –
Eichenberg’s stunning lithographs begin each chapter in this dramatic fashion, further cementing him as one of my favorite illustrators of all time.  His style clicks so well with this book.  Pushkin himself is considered one of Russia’s finest (if not the finest) poets, and founded modern Russian literature during his lifetime – I’d like to hope he’d be pleased with the fine treatment Eichenberg did on this particular book.  George Macy had George C. Miller and his son Burr Miller handle the printing of the lithographs.  You’ll find a lovely description on how the lithographs were made and set to print in the Sandglass below, courtesy of Librarything’s kdweber.  Much thanks!

Pages 43 – 44 –
I may have to declare this one of the greatest pieces in any Macy book.  I adore this illustration on the left.

Pages 62 – 63

Personal Notes – Checked out through my library system at first, I added it to my own collection in 2011 thanks to Bookbuyers in Monterey.  I traded a heap of incomplete Heritage Press books for credit to get this and many others, and I’m really happy to own this one.  Alas, there’s a rather annoying price sticker on the slipcase that will destroy it if I attempt to remove it…*sigh*  I do want the LEC original, as it’s a beauty.

Sandglass (courtesy of kdweber)

Updated 10/16/2011

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