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 the great bookshops, looking through a huge pile of Heritage Press and LEC books. Suddenly, my wife spots this lovely 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 – buy it now or forever live in sadness for passing up a gem at a steal. So I did!
Zadig is by the French satirist Voltaire, who amazingly was not printed by the LEC until this volume launched in 1952. The Heritage Press did Candide, which, like this book, was also illustrated by the great Sylvain Sauvage, but the LEC never resurrected that particular work. In the Cardevon Press period it was decided that they would redo the classic with the art of May Neama.
Sauvage had an illustrious career with the George Macy Company. He would illustrate six LEC’s for the company, including the first Cyrano de Bergerac, two of Anatole France’s works, 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.
I was not fortunate enough to land a letter for this particular book, but the Signature page does provide some insights. It would seem that Henri Jonquieres was the designer of the book, judging by the phrasing. Jonquieres was very well regarded in France for his book designs – I dug up a fairly nice French biography of him here.
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. 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. The printing and binding were done in Paris, France, with Priester Freres doing the text printing, and Sauvage’s illustrations were reproduced by Duval and hand colored by Girardot. The paper was specifically made for this book by Papeteries de Lana. I do not know who bound the book – if you can help me out with that, I’d be most grateful.
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 an antiquarian shop and I couldn’t be happier. It’s nice to own a work of Sauvage’s, and I think I got the best one. :)
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 amazing book. Thanks!