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.
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