Heritage Press – Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen (1957)

February 26, 2012 Comments Off on Heritage Press – Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen (1957)

Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen (1957)
Sandglass Number X:21
Artwork: Illustrations by Per Krohg
Translated and introduced by William and Charles Archer
Reprint of LEC #259/24th Series V. 4 in 1955

Click images to see a larger view.

Front Binding – With the coming of our second Ibsen post (see here for the first), this one on his play Peer Gynt, I notice that I was amiss in talking much about Ibsen then.  I’ll need to rectify that with an updated post.  Why not here?  Well, there’s a hugely fascinating story behind this book’s creation that will take some time to tell, and I tend to like introducing authors when I first talk about them.  Ah, if I wasn’t so busy with university work (and slacking off on it… XD ).  Anyway!  The story.

This book is the result of World War II.  The book’s designer, Harald Grieg, was one of the many prisoners taken by the Nazis when they invaded Norway.  It was not because he was Jewish – as far as I know, that was not the case with Grieg.  He was Managing Director of Gyldendal, the largest publisher in Norway, and the Nazis were utilizing their presses to create propaganda materials for their cause.  When the board of Nationaltheatret, which Grieg was a board member of, declined being subordinated by the Nazi Ministry of Culture and Enlightenment, Grieg and other members of the board were arrested and sentenced to a similar fate of many Jews in Europe – being taken to a concentration camp.

It so happened that Per Krohg, this book’s illustrator (and “the most famous artist of Norway” at that time if the Sandglass is to be taken at face value), was also interred into the same camp as Grieg and the two were able to meet in these dire circumstances.  To pass away time, Krohg would doodle scenes fromPeer Gynton the walls of his cell.  As of the Sandglass, the murals Krohg created were still visible, and the two men would often visit the site and vow to each other to make a book out of these illustrations.  Grieg went back into the publishing world and became a publisher himself, managing the presses of Gyldendal and serving as president of the Norwegian Publishers Association.  Hedrik Ibsen’s work was under his publishing house, and he had always wanted to produce that special “fine” edition ofPeer Gyntwith Krohg’s powerful art backing it.

Enter George Macy in 1951.  Macy talked to Grieg and Krohg and got the ball rolling for making that dream a reality.  Krohg was then engaged in other work, but once it was completed, the two men who were victims of a horrendous period of history were granted their one solace from that dark period, the publication of Peer Gynt for the Limited Editions Club in 1955, designed by Grieg and illustrated by Krohg.  The Heritage edition took a little longer to come to fruition, perhaps due to the death of Macy in 1956.  It has a publication date of 1957.  As a sidenote, World War II tends to be a major factor in a few books done by the Company – Oedipus the King was deeply affected and significantly delayed by the war, arriving well after its intended due date thanks to the chaos the Nazis ravaged on Greece.

Let’s jump into the book perimeters for a moment.  Grieg handled the overall design, but assigned the typography to a relative of his, Robert Grieg Gran.  Baskerville was the font choice, and the Centraltrykkeriet of Oslo, Norway printed the LEC edition.  Kellogg and Bulkeley of Hartford, Connecticut reproduced the text and illustrations for the Heritage printing on International Paper Company’s Ticonderoga paper.  The binding credits are notably absent beyond the mention of green linen covering the boards.


Title Page – William Archer would revisit Ibsen with the later collection of Ibsen’s other plays – here he is joined by Charles Archer on translation and introductory duties.

Krohg would only do this sole book for the George Macy Company, but you can read up on his career in the Sandglass.  He did a fine job for this particular book, with over a hundred drawings of various sizes AND several double-paged paintings.  No shortage of visual treats here.

Page 7 – An example of the drawings above and below (some are really sketchy compared to these examples, mind).

Page 9

Page 16-17 – And here’s one of the paintings.  Krohg has a style that’s his alone.  I wonder how vindicated he must have felt getting this assignment completed.  To have his and Grieg’s goal accomplished.  You can see the results all throughout the book, and it truly is a special title in the Macy canon.

Personal Notes – I got this one from Bookbuyers in Monterey, California.  I traded in a plethora of books, and got a large pile of Heritage Press titles in exchange.  I’ve done this twice and have gotten twelve or thirteen books in return…I think. XD


Thanks to skyschaker @ Librarything for bringing Harald Grieg’s biography to my attention, allowing me to modify my post to make it much more factual.


Heritage Press – Prometheus Bound and Prometheus Unbound by Aeschylus/Percy Bysshe Shelley (1966)

February 19, 2012 § 2 Comments

Prometheus Bound and Prometheus Unbound by Aeschylus/Percy Bysshe Shelley (1966)
Sandglass Number XI:30
Artwork: Drawings by John Farleigh
Prometheus Bound translated by Rex Warner, who also provides a Preface
Reprint of LEC #367/33rd Series V. 5 in 1965

Click images to see a larger view.

Front Binding – The sun was a little abusive to this shot, but I think you can still get the gist of what it looks like.  Both front and back boards, colored black , have this neat gold-stamped “flame” column that runs from top to bottom.  Russell-Rutter bound this edition, which was (as its LEC forebear) designed by Jan Van Krimpen’s assistant Hendrik Clewits (Van Krimpen passed away in 1958).  Clewits mimicked his old ally in terms of his design choices, utilizing Van Krimpen’s Spectrum font, which was set at Van Krimpen’s old studio Joh. Enschede en Zonen.  I’m sure they printed the LEC edition, but the Heritage Press went with Michael Pagliaro’s printing press, the Holyoke Lithograph Company, in Holyoke, Massachusetts for their edition.  They also reprinted John Farleigh’s incredible illustrations.  Mohawk Paper Company provided the paper.

Aeschylus, one of the legendary Greek dramatists, got a fairly late induction into the George Macy canon, with his classic trilogy The Oresteia debuting in 1961, followed by this book in 1965 for the LEC.  While it took some time, at least both of them are quite lovely and highlight the majority of Aeschylus’ important works.  Percy Bysshe Shelley also had a post-George Macy introduction, with this being his first production by the Club, as well as the last under the Macy family.  Cardevon produced a book with his poetry in 1971 that tied into the British Poet line that Helen Macy began.  His wife Mary, known for Frankenstein of course, had a significantly earlier appearance with that particular novel being produced in 1934 for the LEC (which the Heritage Press reprinted in the ’60’s).

John Farleigh was a master in woodcuts, and I go into his career with the Club fairly extensively in my post on The Histories of Shakespeare.  This was his concluding work for the Company, passing away before he could sign any of the LEC editions.  As of present, this is his masterwork for the George Macy books he produced that I’ve seen.  Wondrous stuff within these pages.


Title Page – Man, I adore Farleigh’s work here.  It’s very fantastical. The Sandglass reports that Farleigh mixed line and wash techniques to create “tones and subtleties that we don’t often see in this medium”.  They are most exquisite.

Rex Warner handled translation duties on Aeschylus’ half of this puzzle, and also provided a preface to the overall work.  Warner also introduced The Oresteia, making him the Macy expert on this author it would seem.  Now, I don’t believe that this combination of two separate authors happened all too often in the LEC or Heritage Press, so this has a uniqueness to it.

Cast Page of Prometheus Bound – Astounding.  What more can I say?

Page 18

Personal Notes – This is a curious book in my collection.  When I acquired it I was employed at a bookshop in my hometown.  Owners of another book store in Monterey, California frequently came up to Yosemite and established a rapport with my boss.  On a visit to Monterey, I visited their shop and let them know I worked for their acquittance by Yosemite.  Well, I had this book in my hand and it was unpriced, so I asked the clerk how much they wanted for it.  They gave it to me.  I was a little stunned, and thanked the clerk profusely.  Alas, a few years later when I revisited the shop, the same person had forgotten me (and apparently my former boss), and was bitter about the shop’s decline in sales.  It was not a super pleasant shopping experience, so I don’t know if I’ll ever return there.  I’ll keep the name of the store off the record – I’m not here to slander.  But I am thankful to have this lovely book regardless of changing attitudes.


Limited Editions Club – The Memoirs of Saint-Simon (1959)

February 11, 2012 § 1 Comment

The Memoirs of Louis de Rouvroy due de Saint-Simon (1959)
Sandglass Number XV:23
Artwork – Drawings by Pierre Brissaud
Selected, translated, edited and introduced by Desmond Flower
LEC #297/27th Series V. 6 in 1959
LEC #403 of 1500

Click the images for larger views. LEC will be on top/left, Heritage on bottom/right (unless otherwise stated)

Front Binding – Well, I lost my first rendition of this post to the void of WordPress oblivion, so I’m condensing a lot of my memories of what I originally wrote so I can get this properly posted.  If it seems a bit terse, I apologize, but I did lose a hour of work. XD

For the memoirs of French soldier/diplomatist Louis de Rouvroy due de Saint-Simon, Sir Francis Meynell (founder of the Nonesuch Press) handled design duties.  He chose Monotype Garamond 156 to serve as its font (which, according to the Sandglass, was likely the first time the font had been used in an American book!), and the George Macy Company recruited Frenchman Pierre Brissaud to render the royality-filled world Saint-Simon depicted in his memoirs into illustration.  Brissaud is no stranger to this blog, with his Cyrano de Bergerac and The Story of Manon Lescault being highly praised by your faithful curator already, and this is another testament to his astounding talent.

As for the comparative aspect of the two versions, the Heritage is one volume versus the LEC’s two, which is fairly obvious methinks.  Secondly, the Heritage lacks the decorative gold border by its edges.  Third, the spine designs are different, which you can see below.

Spine – The LEC has faded into a light yellow-orange compared to its vibrant red.  The sun is a harsh mistress.

Slipcase – Sorry for the fuzziness on the HP slipcase.  Both went with blue, and it works nicely.

Title Pages – The Heritage ran with the second volume’s title page for its own, and I also think it’s more colorful than many of the other selections in that edition.  The major difference here is the lack of a Volume announcement and the year being dropped in preference for “New York”.  You can compare the Heritage rendition of the LEC title page below.

Clarke and Way of The Thistle Press were responsible for handling the LEC edition – without a letter, I can’t go too deep into the process.  Brissaud’s artwork was reproduced into gravures by the Photogravure and Color Company, and after Brissaud colored the gravures and sent them back to the George Macy Company, the artists at Walter Fischer Studios rendered each book’s illustrations into those colors by hand.

A quick run-down of the Heritage printing process: printed by Kellogg & Bulkley of Hartford, Connecticut, on specially made paper provided by Oxford Paper Company, bound by Frank Fortney of Russell-Rutter.  Colors were done by the Arrow Press based off of Herbert Rau’s rubber plates taken from the gravures Brissaud colored.

Signature Page –#403, signed by Brissaud.

Page 28 (LEC)/Page 26 (HP) – Note how colorful and rich the LEC edition is compared to the more subdued Heritage.  The addition of additional colors makes each scene in Saint-Simon’s life re-imagined by Brissaud flourish in its resurrection.  The Heritage is almost the afterimage of such glory.  The colors really do make the argument to go with a LEC edition for this particular biographical memoir.

Page 48 (LEC)

Page 3 (HP) – Compare with the LEC title page.

Genealogical Tree (LEC) – This is bound into the second volume of the LEC edition at the conclusion of its tale, while the Heritage is loosely lain into the book.

Personal Notes – I picked this up for $45, and it’s in splendid shape beyond the sunned spines.  Acquired from my favorite shop in its top secret locale. :p  The Heritage was purchased for $12 at the same store a year or two prior, if my memory’s correct.

I had a chance to discuss with the owners a bit of history relating to the member whose estate the shop bought this lot of LEC’s from.  #403 was based in Carmel, California, and had a lovely house that was more glass than anything else.  That explained why so many of the books seemed to have been sunned so heavily.  It would seem from my experience that #403 was with this collector from the mid-to-late 1950’s to the early 1980’s.  This and Three Men in a Boat make for eight books from this member’s collection now residing in mine.


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