Of Interest – The Readers Club

September 24, 2011 § 3 Comments

Very much overshadowed by the Limited Editions Club and the Heritage Press is George Macy’s third venture into book publishing under his George Macy Company umbrella – The Readers Club.  What you are about to read is compiled from many tidbits of information scattered about the web, and the sources will be at the end.

First of all, courtesy of olepuppy at the George Macy Devotees is this meaty bit of information:

A History of Book Publishing in the United States,vol. III, The Golden Age Between Two Wars, 1920-1940 contains several paragraphs about George Macy with references and anecdotes. One paragraph p.504 relates to the Readers Club:

“In March 1941, Macy inaugurated his third venture, the Readers Club, a dollar reprint operation designed to give buyers books that Macy thought had never won the popularity they deserved. Again, other publishers for the most part found little merit in this idea, but Macy persuaded Sinclair Lewis, Clifton Fadiman, Carl Van Doren, and Alexander Woollcott to constitute his board of judges, and on the strength of these names as well as the books they selected, and with the further help of Macy’s high-powered advertising, 140,000 members were enrolled in the first six months. The first selection, E. H. Young’s ‘WILLIAM’, went to 40,000 subscribers. Later choices went as high as an 84,000-member acceptance. As an innovation in book club mechanics, Macy gave his judges one-cent-a-copy royalty for every volume sold.”

From that base, let’s fill in some of the gaps.  Woollcott served as the executive chairperson.  It would seem that the Club printed 45 individual volumes within its timeline (which, alas, I do not know when it met its end – I’d wager 1943, the last year I have in my checklist below).  I do not know with any certainty if letters of some sort or a slipcase were issued with these books – the two I have seen do not have either.  They did come with dust jackets judging by this particular copy of The Last Frontier.  The books are bound in a somewhat plain fashion, with a “Readers Club” logo on the front and a more elegant spine with a “RC” featured somewhere.  The judges provided the forewords to the majority of the titles – Sinclair Lewis for example did the honors for The Days of the King and The History of Mr. Polly.  This fact is prominent on the spines and dustjackets of the books I’ve seen.   Below is a list that I’ve compiled on the books printed (title followed by author, illustrator [if applicable], the provider of the foreword and year):

1941 Titles

William by E.H. Young/?/Carl Van Doren/1941
The History of Mr. Polly
by H.G. Wells/?/Sinclair Lewis/1941
The Last Frontier by Howard Fast/?/Carl Van Doren/1941
The Murderer’s Companion by William Roughead/?/Alexander Woollcott/1941
Twelve Against the Gods: The Story of Adventure by William Bolitho/?/Alexander Woollcott/1941
The Fortunes of Richard Mahony: Australia Felix, The Way Home, Ultima Thule by Henry Handel Richardson/?/Sinclair Lewis/1941
The Asiatics by Frederic Prokosch/?/Carl Van Doren/1941

1942 Titles

The Days of the King by Bruno Frank/Adolf von Menzel/Sinclair Lewis/1942
Charles Dickens, The Last of the Great Men by G.K. Chesterton/?/Alexander Woollcott/1942
Anel Pavement by J.B. Priestly/?/Sinclair Lewis/1942
Henry Ward Beecher: An American Portrait by Paxton Hibben/?/Sinclair Lewis/1942
Billy Budd, Benito Cereno and the Enchanted Isles: Three Shorter Novels by the Author of Moby Dick by Herman Melville/?/Carl Van Doren/1942

1943 Titles

Rendezvous and Other Long & Short Stories About Our Navy in Action by Alec Hudson/?/Carl Van Doren/1943
Tommy and Grizel by J.M. Barrie/?/Clinton Fadiman/1943
Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev/Fritz Eichenberg/Sinclair Lewis/1943 (Heritage Reprint)
The Golden Violet: The Story of a Lady Novelist by Joseph Shearing (Majorie Bowen)/?/Sinclair Lewis/1943
The Young Melbourne by Lord David Cecil/?/Carl Van Doren/1943

Note that this is by no means definitive – I’ve picked what I can from the internet, but any additional insights would be very welcome.  I have a special thread at the George Macy Devotees seeking info on the Reader’s Club – drop me a line there or leave me comments here.

Now, since this is an arm of the George Macy Company, I will document books as I stumble upon them here, but I do not plan on making them a part of my personal collection.  They are a little too plain for my taste.  Expect The Days of the King sometime in the near future.










Heritage Press – The Story of Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost (1935)

September 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

The Story of Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost D’Exiles (1935)
Sandglass Number 3K (not the original printing’s)
Artwork: Illustrated by Pierre Brissaud
Translated by Helen Waddell, with a note by the author
Heritage Press Exclusive
Special Limited Edition, with a special exclusive print on the title page signed by Brissaud. Only 1500 of these exist.

Click images for larger views.

Front Binding – The Heritage Press began in 1935 with a fine set of six books exclusive at the time to that imprint (with some remaining so), but George Macy decided to celebrate his second major printing business by creating 1,500 limited edition copies of those six, and gave the LEC membership first crack at them. I’ve gone into more detail about these on The Pickwick Papers (due to Dickens’ David Copperfield being in that initial salvo), but I’ll summarize — Manon Lescaut is one of those, with the aforementioned Dickens, plus Romeo and Juliet, The Scarlet Letter, A Shropshire Lad and The Song of Songs. For these limited versions, the bindings are distinctly different from the standard printing and feature a signature of the artist somewhere within, usually with an exclusive print. This copy of Manon Lescaut is one of those 1,500 copies.

Glacierman at the George Macy Devotees Librarything forum acquired both the limited version of the book alongside the standard reprints that followed, and gave me permission to post their findings here:


Buss1. Bussaco, Michael C. Heritage Press Annotative Bibliography Volume Three Authors L-R. Second edition. (Archibald, PA: Tribute Books, 2008).
Buss2. ———–. Heritage Press Catalog & Checklist. Second edition. (Eynon, PA: Tribute Books, 2008).
Ransom. Ransom, Will. NY: Philip C. Duschnes, 1963.


Ransom (p. 91, no. 6) notes that 3000 copies in leather of the first edition of Manon were printed. Ransom notes, as does Wildcat (link above), the first 6 books all had 1500 copies issued with an extra illustration signed by the artist . What is not made clear is whether the 3000 total included the 1500 specials or if the specials were in addition to them.

Regarding the illustrations, Wildcat notes the signed frontispiece in his copy of the special issue is “far sharper and more colorful” than the others. That may be due to its having been separately printed by a different process than those in the text, as it appears to have been tipped in prior to binding. NOTE: The entries in Buss1 indicate 11 illustrations for the special issue and 10 for the regular. Well, my copy of the regular has eight (8) illustrations and my special has nine (9).

According to Buss1, there were two issues of the special version (p. 155, #BHP-D 107-J & p. 156, BHP-FS-6-A). I assume the first, with the dual imprint of the HC and the Nonesuch Press (as in Wildcat’s copy) refers to those copies which were issued to LEC members, as they were not issued with a Sandglass (Buss1, p. 155). My copy is of the second version (Buss1, p. 156) which was issued to HC members with a Sandglass (First Series 6-A) per Buss1. The title page on this issue has no mention of the Nonesuch Press. It reads: New York/THE HERITAGE PRESS/1935.

Binding. Both the regular and the special issues are bound in 1/4 leather over marbled paper on the boards. The special issue appears to be brown calf or a similar smooth skin, whereas the regular issue is bound in brown pigskin and not, as some folks have stated, “faux leather.” The blue marbled paper of the special issue appears to be hand-marbled whereas the brown marbling on the regular issues is a printed design. I should also note that the spine of the special issue has several panels blind-stamped into it in addition to the title panel whereas the regular issue has only the title panel.

In Buss2 (p 11), the binding of the regular edition (BHP-FS-6) is described as “French marbled paper over 1/2 pigskin binding,” but as noted above, it is 1/4 leather. If it were 1/2 leather, either the corners would be leather covered or the spine leather would extend out to half way across the board. Either way, 1/2 the width of the cover board in total would have leather on it. The same error is repeated for the special issue lower down the page.

This title was re-issued several times subsequently.

Django6924 built on this, adding:

I have both issues of Manon. The later edition with the pigskin leather quarter binding has Sandglass 3K, which indicates an issue in August, 1946, and states that the sides are covered with a “French marbled paper.” I tend to think it is marbled paper and not a printed design. As Glacierman posts, the Sandglass affirms “genuine pigskin.” Alas, the pigskin has not held up well at all, compared to the leather on the first, special, edition: the pigskin is cracked and detached from the text block in several places, and as I was reading it during my convalescence…one piece at the top fell off. In addition, the paper, “a sparkling white paper made for this book by the Collins manufacturing Company…of rag content…of a better quality than any paper we got in the war years,” did not remain sparking white, but has turned beige. The paper in the first edition is still “sparkling white” but since I don’t have a Sandglass, I don’t know who made that paper. The illustrations in the later edition are poorly reproduced compared to the ones in the first HP edition; the Sandglass makes no reference to who did the reproductions of Brissaud’s watercolors in the later edition, but they are very muddy compared to the bright colors in the first HP.

I confess that I had never read Manon before (having been very familiar with the story through the 2 operas) until the last few weeks, when I was recuperating from knee replacement surgery. I decided to do so after watching a video of the Peter Wimsey story “Clouds of Witness,” in which copies of Manon provide a valuable clue. I fear that the story itself is one that has the greatest appeal for men who are in the throes of, or have only recently experienced, what the French call l’amour fou, or, as in the title of one of my favorite old films, “Mad Love.” I found myself getting so impatient with Des Grieux, that twice I had to put the book down for a day or so before I could continue, with the result that it took me a week to finish what I should have been able to read in a day.

Incidentally, for all completists, the HP includes in an appendix the episode of the Italian prince, which was a later addition by Prévost. It doesn’t really add anything essential, and simply piles on another case of the fatal lure Manon has for men–of which cases there are already more than enough in the story.

The Sandglass I got with it is, unfortunately, not the proper one for the limited edition (which may not have come with a Sandglass at all, per the above commentary), but it states that T.M. Cleland was responsible for the design. Cleland illustrated for Macy on top of designing lovely books (see Monsieur Beauclare) but in this case French watercolorist Pierre Brissaud was recruited for the task. As for other design notes, Cleland went with A. Colish’s Fournier type, which the printers at The Nonesuch Press set at 14-point. The later Sandglass makes no mention of who printed those editions. The Nonesuch Press was tightly knit with the George Macy Company for a considerable time — Macy briefly owned the press from the late 1930’s to the 1950’s, and was good friends with Sir Francis Meynell, its founder. Nonesuch collaborated with Macy on a set of Dickens for the Heritage Press and a series of some French romances, among other things. Meynell also provided an introduction to George Meredith’s The Shaving of Shagpat, which is fitting since he was the author’s godson. His mother was well-known suffragist and poet Alice Meynell. Finally, in terms of the paper, the standard print used Collins Manufacturing Company paper as noted above, but I’m not sure who provided it for the limited set.

Brissaud began his Macy contributions here, and he would have been the original Cyrano de Bergerac (1936) artist if it weren’t for the chaos leading into World War II that sent Brissaud into hiding during the German occupation. Luckily, Brissaud survived and resumed his output for the Macy houses in 1950, which the Cyrano link above goes into more detail.


I did get a slipcase for this, but it’s not all that amazing and it’s a bit fragile, so I refrained from photographing it.

Title Page – For Manon Lescaut, Brissaud’s signature is on the title page with an exclusive print that is, to my knowledge, not in the reprints. I looked at a variety of standard printings while browsing and did not see this reprinted at all. Later illustrations were bumped up into its place, and one even had the left side blank. I’m not 100% sure of the publishing era of any of those, but I’ll try to check next time I’m at the same shop. This print is distinctly different from the rest of Brissaud’s watercolors gracing the book — it’s far sharper and more colorful. The effective shading is just wonderful. I suspect that this is a tipped in print of a much higher quality exclusive to this edition.

Page 6 – I originally wrote here I needed to collect all of Brissaud’s work; I think I’m nearly there now! I like the dogs in this piece — it adds a lot to the overall liveliness of the painting.

Page 20

Personal Notes – As I was perusing my favorite shop, I noticed this book and thought that it was something unique. I had no idea how unique it was until I began comparing it to other editions (of which there were ample supply), and Brissaud’s signature just didn’t seem real to be in a Heritage book (I had not done the research on the first six prior to this discovery!) in such a prominent place…but yet there it was, and it was $15! The boards were luscious compared to the others, and that title page art was so bold…I knew I had something special. I checked on it in the hotel room and was delighted to see my instinct was right — I did pick up a special printing of an exquisite book.

Sandglass (later printing):

Special thanks to Glacierman and Django6924 for additional insights.

Updated 9/30/2018 – JF

Limited Editions Club – Monsieur Beaucaire by Booth Tarkington (1961)

September 24, 2011 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club – Monsieur Beaucaire by Booth Tarkington (1961)

Monsieur Beaucaire by Booth Tarkington (1961)
LEC # 329, 30th Series, V. 2
Artwork: Illustrated and Decorated by T.M. Cleland
Preface by J. Donald Adams
#403 out of 1500

Click images for larger views.

Front Binding – A beautiful white/light brown cloth with a pretty clover pattern decorates Booth Tarkington’s one LEC selection, which is probably his best-regarded novel Monsieur Beaucaire. I’m not exactly sure how this was created. It looks embroidered, but I’m not 100% sure on that. I just put up the letter for this book, and I will peruse it when time allows and flesh this out a bit. While this was Tarkington’s only work published by the George Macy Company, he did contribute an introduction to the LEC Huck Finn, which is documented a few places on the internet, curiously enough.

The illustrator for Beaucaire is no stranger to the George Macy Company, however! T.M. Cleland (Thomas Maitland) was a busy man, beginning his career with Macy in the very first series of the LEC in 1930 with The Decameron, and continued until She Stoops to Conquer, done three years after Beaucaire. In total, Cleland rendered eight LEC’s with his artistic talents, and had a hand in designing others. His other major LEC productions include Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones and History of the Life of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great, The Life and Times of Tristan Shandy, Gentleman by Lawrence Sterne, Montaigne’s Essays, and a lovely edition of William Cosgrave’s The Way of the World. He passed away in 1964, making She Stoops to Conquer among his final works. Cleland has a regal style that well suits this particular book. Out of what I’ve seen of his, I like Beaucaire the most, so I’m happy to have it.


Slipcase – This comes with a two-part case, giving the book a very nice presentation.

Title Page – I think Cleland’s greatest strength was in his title pages. The ones I’ve seen are all just exquisite. He knew how to make such a page pop, that he most certainly did. J. Donald Adams provides an preface to the work. I know A. Colish in Mt. Vernon, New York performed publishing duties, and that Cleland was responsible for the book’s design as well as its art, but that’s the extent of my knowledge.

Signature Page – As is par the course for the majority of my Monterey LEC’s, this is #403. 8 of the 20 LEC’s I have are from this particular number.

Page 21 – I prefer Cleland’s work with backgrounds. She Stoops to Conquer lacks them, and I don’t think Cleland’s style is as effective without some setting behind them. This is quite a lovely rendering.

Page 39

Personal Notes – $35 netted me this lovely little gem, from my favorite Monterey area shop. I’m very happy with it. My wife helped me pick it out. :)

LEC Monthly Letter:

Updated 10/13/2012 – JF

Limited Editions Club – Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (1958)

September 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (1958)
LEC # 287, 26th Series, V. 8
Artwork: Wood Engravings by Agnes Miller Parker
Introduced by Robert Cantwell
#403 out of 1500

Click images for larger views.

Front Binding – Thomas Hardy’s second LEC, issued in 1958 two years after Tess of the D’Urbervilles, continues the stylistic motif established by its predecessor.  Curiously, in 1942 the Heritage Press started off this series with The Return of the Native, but the LEC never reprinted it for their members.  Agnes Miller Parker was the illustrator for it, too, and the design is identical – repeating art from Parker over the boards in a vibrant color (in this case purple), so who really knows what happened.  At any rate, in 1956 the LEC began their four book series of Hardy – following Far from the Madding Crowd was The Mayor of Casterbridge in 1964 and Jude the Obscure in 1969.

Mrs. Parker was among the more productive women artists on George Macy’s commission list, with a solid seven assignments for the LEC and two Heritage Press books.  She began with the lovely Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray back in 1938 (I have the Heritage of this, so look forward to it!), began her Hardy run with the aforementioned Heritage Return of the Native, and then had a brief hiatus until 1953, where her artistic talents were called on, alongside John Austen, for The Faerie QueeneShe then completed the four remaining Hardy novels, a Heritage compilation of Shakespeare’s Tragedies in 1958/59, and a Poems of William Shakespeare in 1967.  Jude the Obscure would be her final contribution to the Company.  She is quite well known for her George Macy Company output, which is deserving, as she shone brightly among the many astounding artists who provided artistic assets to the LEC and Heritage Press.

The book was printed at the University Press at Cambridge, but that’s about all I can tell you about the design process of the book due to no LEC letter.  A.G. Hoffman did Return of the Native, and John Dreyfus designed the Heritage Jude the Obscure, so I can make an assumption that the latter performed the same task here due to the similar choice in design and the surge in Hardy’s novels being produced in this period, but I won’t proclaim that as fact until I hear from one of my LEC compatriots.

Spine – It’s leather, I can say that much!

Slipcase – The slipcase also has the Parker design from the boards on its sides, which is a nice touch.

Title Page – Robert Cantwell has written up the introduction, and Parker’s wood engraving of a stately manor sets the mood.  I haven’t read this book, but I’m curious as to how it goes thanks to Parker!

Signature Page – Parker’s signature is here (and it’s among the nicer ones!), and this copy is #403.  Studious viewers of this blog may recollect that number, and with good reason, as I’ve snagged several LEC’s from this member from my favorite bookshop.  Shame they seemed to make the letters vanish!

Signed Print of Page 5’s Woodblock – From what I can gather, every member was sent a Japanese paper print of Parker’s Page 5 woodblock, which Parker signed and dated.  Jude the Obscure would also be issued in the same manner.  The print sold me on the book – I love Parker’s work, and I’m trying to figure out some way of framing this that won’t damage it.

Page 17 – Dynamic rendering of a fairly static, ordinary exercise – that’s talent!

Page 37

Personal Notes – I bought this at my favorite book store in Monterey, California, for $80.  It’s currently the most expensive LEC I’ve purchased, but the print made it worth it to me, and it’s nice to finally have a signed Parker in my collection.

If you have a LEC Newsletter, please drop me a line here or through the comments at my thread about this blog at the George Macy Devotees @ LibraryThing!  I could use extra insights into this book.  Thanks!

Heritage Press – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (two printings, 1936/1964)

September 11, 2011 Comments Off on Heritage Press – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (two printings, 1936/1964)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1936/1964*)
Sandglass Number III:34R (from a later New York printing)
Artwork – Paintings by Norman Rockwell
Introduced by John. T. Winterich
Heritage Press Exclusive – the LEC would print their own Tom Sawyer with Thomas Hart Benton’s illustrations in 1939.

Click the images for larger views.

The Connecticut reprint is usually on top here, followed by the New York Illustrated Bookshelf edition below.  I’ll explain the Illustrated Bookshelf distinction below!

Front Binding – Well, the first thing that should leap out at you is the fact I’ve got a Huck Finn binding as the New York representative…but I assure you that Tom Sawyer is the book inside.  A curious binding error I imagine didn’t happen too often.  Anyway, the Connecticut printing keeps Tom’s head front and center but drops the text, going with a beige/brown combo.  I can’t vouch for the actual Tom Sawyer binding for the Illustrated Bookshelf run, alas, due to the error, but I imagine it was close to this but with Tom Sawyer items where Huck’s are.

The original Heritage was designed by Frederic Warde, no stranger to the George Macy Company.  The Sandglass mentions that he had done “several” Heritage books, which indicates that this is not the first printing’s letter.  The binding itself was designed by Norman Rockwell.

Tom Sawyer was printed up by the Limited Editions Club in 1939 with the artistic talents of Thomas Hart Benton, which was his first commission for the Club.  Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (a second printing – I’ll explain below) and Life on the Mississippi would follow, as well as the acclaimed printing of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and his final work, Lynn Riggs’ Green Grow the Lilacs.  The latter three would see reprint as Heritage Press editions (good luck finding The Grapes of Wrath – it’s almost as rare as the LEC!), but for Tom and Huck the Heritage Press had gone with their own unique printings featuring renowned American painter Norman Rockwell as the illustrator.  Tom was printed in 1936, but I’ll have to check on Huck.  Rockwell also did Poor Richard’s Almanac for both clubs later on.  The Sandglass goes on and on about Rockwell, which I’ll let it do.

As for Mr. Clemens himself, the George Macy Company loved him, and Cardevon Press continued that love.  Twain was printed twelve times by the LEC alone – a remarkable number that few other authors could match (Shakespeare is the only one who leaps to mind at present, with a staggering forty-one LEC editions, although thirty-seven of those were a special run of his complete works).  We currently have this and the Heritage A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court up, but that wasn’t where it began.  Twain’s legacy with the George Macy Company kicked off with Huck Finn in 1933, but neither Benton or Rockwell are attached to that project.  Carl Purington Rollins provides a signature (as its designer), but E.W. Kemble served up illustrations for it.  Booth Tarkington wrote an introduction, as well – another case of a future LEC author getting an intro in an earlier work (like Thornton Wilder).  This one was printed at Yale University.  Anyway, Benton’s Huck arrived in 1942, likely after his Tom Sawyer was so received.  Bernard DeVoto supplied that edition’s intro.  But enough with Huck – this is about Tom!  The Rockwell Heritage here preceded Benton’s LEC by three years, and, if I can, I’ll provide further comparisons down the road.  My last note – Benton’s never saw release as a Heritage.

As both of my Toms lacked any informational letter, I’d like to know who designed the original Heritage printing, so if you know, please drop me a line!

Title Page – The Connecticut reprint removes Rockwell’s whitewashing painting for a later on in the book, but the Illustrated Bookshelf (and I’d imagine the Heritage original) keeps it at the front.  Now, since this is the first appearance of the Illustrated Bookshelf, I imagine you’d like to know a little more about it.  According to Heritage Press historian Michael C. Bussacco, George Macy began a Junior Heritage Club in 1942 to cater to a youth market on a subscription basis.  The books were fairly similar, if not identical to their “adult” editions, but included a Magazine over a Sandglass that went into further detail about the author and illustrator (The Vicar of Wakefield, which I recently acquired, is a Junior Heritage Illustrated Bookshelf edition and its magazine has those features – I’m making a broad assumption that all of them did) on top of its design and creation notes.  The slipcase (again, broad assumption) likely featured an illustration from the text on both sides, as well as putting the title on the back end of the case (The Vicar does this).  The two books’ publication dates do not sync up with Bussacco’s date of the Junior HC’s foundation, but perhaps Macy figured it wasn’t as essential to alter the dates of his Junior line, or perhaps it was an oversight.  Now, Bussacco does not mention when the Company ceased the Junior Heritage Club ceased to operate, so I can not pass along that info.  Any insights into this fascinating arm of the Heritage Press would be appreciated. :)

Thanks to kdweber at Librarything, I can pass along the book’s printing details!  Warde selected the Bell font (which was also used in The Innocents Abroad, which was done in 1962 – obviously this is not a first printing!) in 12-point, which the history of which is in the Sandglass.  It was printed by the Quinn and Boden Company in New Jersey (at the very least this one was).  The binding process is notably absent, though.

Now, with all that out of the way, we can focus in on the book’s paintings.

Conn. Preface – Why this was moved to the preface instead of the title page is beyond me.  I will say that the colors and sharpness are a bit dulled for the Connecticut reprint, which isn’t a surprise.  However, compared to South Wind, it’s at least recognizable.

Conn. Page 60

Illustrated Bookshelf Page 60

Personal Notes – I think Rockwell is a good fit for Twain’s ragamuffins, so I wouldn’t mind owning a nicer edition of it than I had (which got wet :( ).

Sandglass of a later New York Heritage Printing (courtesy of kdweber):

* = I suspect Cardevon did not alter a pub date from the George Macy Company for their printing, as they did not take over until 1970, and Helen Macy was still in charge in 1964.

Limited Editions Club – Zadig by Voltaire (1952)

September 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

The History of Zadig, or Destiny, by Voltaire (1952)
LEC # 233, 22nd Series, V. 1
Artwork: Illustrations and Decorations by Sylvain Sauvage
Translated by R. Bruce Boswell, and with an introduction by Rene De Messieres
#144 out of 1500

Click images to see a larger view.

Front Binding – I want you to put yourself into my shoes here for a second. I’m in Monterey in one of its great bookshops, looking through a huge pile of Heritage Press and LEC books. Suddenly, my then-wife spots this lovely title on the shelf, pulls it out from its slipcase, and gasps. She hands it to me, and I’m immediately in love with it. I see that it’s a paltry $35. I made the obvious choice between buy it now or forever live in sadness for passing up a gem at a steal.

Zadig is by the legendary French satirist Voltaire, who amazingly was not featured by the LEC until this volume launched in 1952. The Heritage Press had already printed Candide, which, like this book, was also illustrated by the great Sylvain Sauvage, but the LEC never resurrected that particular work. During the Cardevon Press period it was decided that they would redo that classic with the art of May Neama, and that would be that.

Sauvage had an illustrious career with the George Macy Company. He would illustrate six LEC’s for the publisher, including the first Cyrano de Bergerac, two of Anatole France’s works At the Sign of the Queen Pedauque and The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard, the curious The Physiology of Taste, and for a set of Evergreen Tales Sleeping Beauty in the Wood. Zadig was his final commission, which he finished right before his passing. Beyond Candide, he was also the illustrator for Laurence Stern’s A Sentimental Journey through France & Italy, Anatole France’s Penguin Island (the LEC would later redo Penguin Island with Malcolm Cameron’s art), and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Ten books in total is quite the legacy, and Zadig may very well be his crown jewel, as you shall see.

Design Notes – Thanks to the Quarto I am now able to provide some insights. As originally noted, Henri Jonquieres was the designer of the book; I dug up a fairly nice French biography of him here. It was printed by Priester Freres of Paris in Pastonchi font on Lana paper, with the binding handled by Russell-Rutter with brown linen stamped in several gold decorations and a blue leather block on the spine for the title and author. Sauvage’s pen and watercolor drawings were printed in key black collotypes by Louis Duval of Paris and his watercolors hand-colored by Etienne Girardot. It doesn’t state how the page frames were specifically printed.



Title Page – EVERY SINGLE PAGE IS DECORATED LIKE THIS. And there’s hardly any repetition of these decorations. It is absolutely incredible how gorgeous this book is.  It may be my favorite LEC thus far, even after all these years. The Limited Editions Club dedicated this to Sauvage for his incredible input to the George Macy Company, and this is a lovely tribute to a grand artist.

R. Bruce Boswell translated Voltaire’s French into English for this edition, and Rene de Messieres gives an Introduction (which was translated by frequent translator Jacques Le Clercq).

Signature Page – This is number 144 of 1500. Madame Sauvage is mentioned for endorsing the publication of her husband’s masterpieces, which is nice. Sauvage passed before the book was printed, so his signature is notably absent. However, his fingerprints are all over in the glorious artwork, which I think I’ll let speak for themselves here on out.

Page 29

Page 47

Personal Notes – As I mentioned above, I got this in Monterey, CA for $35 at Carpe Diem Rare Books, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s nice to own a work of Sauvage’s (I now have his Cyrano as well), and I think I got the best one…although I’ve put Sauvage’s remaining output on the top of my hunting list!

Updated 10/8/2017 by JF

Heritage Press – South Wind by Norman Douglas (1968, Connecticut)

September 4, 2011 Comments Off on Heritage Press – South Wind by Norman Douglas (1968, Connecticut)

This is the first time I’m posting a Connecticut-era reprint of an earlier Heritage Press/Limited Editions Club book.  This one in particular will highlight the inferior quality some Connecticut Heritage Press titles received under presses outside of the George Macy Company, as South Wind’s illustrations suffer greatly here.  Not all of the books are this notably poor, but I will do my best when I can to provide one example between the Heritage Press’ two major eras.

South Wind by Norman Douglas (1968, Connecticut)
Sandglass Number: X-R : 43
Artwork – Drawings by Carlotta Petrina
Reprint of LEC #34/3rd Series V. 10 in 1932

Click the images for larger views.

Front Binding – If there’s one area the Connecticut book exceeds the New York Heritage, it’s here.  The New York edition is a darker shade of blue, with red text displaying the title in a nice font, but I do like the waves the Connecticut designer utilized here.  For the Connecticul edition, the Connecticut Printers did the printing, the Tapley-Rutter Company bound it, and the original LEC/Heritage design was by John Fass, who also was responsible for The Ballad of Reading Gaol.  The LEC is pretty distinctive, but my memory is drawing a blank on what its front actually looks like – I recall white boards with a brown box on the spine with the title and author alongside a nice symbol of some sort, but that’s about all I can recollect.


Title Page – The New York South Wind featured specialized pages for Carlotta Petrina’s illustrations, while the Connecticut redo forgoes that for low quality prints directly onto the page.  It’s a huge difference, and I’ll see if I can get a New York copy from the library to prove that to you.  Petrina has been on the blog before for The Aeneid, but South Wind was her first assignment for the George Macy Company.  Petrina actually met Norman Douglas and discussed her thoughts for the illustrations with him prior to putting them to paper.  The font here is Esteinne, designed by George W. Jones. This is the sole work of Douglas’ produced by the LEC. I go into Petrina’s brief but solid carer with George Macy in The Aeneid.

Page 1 – As you can see, Petrina’s art is fuzzy and pale, making her renditions of Douglas’ world difficult to enjoy.  The Heritage from New York is much sharper and printed at a higher quality comparable to the LEC.

Page 9

Personal Notes – I’ve seen the LEC once in Flagstaff, although its condition wasn’t ideal enough for me to take the plunge.  Every New York Heritage copy I’ve seen has been through tough times for some weird reason, and the vibrant blue that covers the boards is faded on the spine every time.  I sold off this edition in the hopes a truly good copy of South Wind lands in my lap sooner or later.


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