Heritage Illustrated Bookshelf – The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1939)

March 28, 2012 § 2 Comments

The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1939, Illustrated Bookshelf Edition)
No Sandglass, includes a “Monthly Magazine of the Junior Heritage Club”
Artwork: Illustrations by John Austen
No Introduction beyond a brief note on the author
Heritage Press Exclusive, printed as a standard Heritage title as well.

Click to see larger images.

Front Binding – Ah, our second Illustrated Bookshelf piece.  The first was Twain’s Tom Sawyer, and finally I can share the first “complete” one I own (in fact, at present it is the only one!), Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield.  Designed by John Fass, this book never saw a LEC edition, so Macy purists will have to settle for a Heritage edition.  Some quick production details: W.A. Dwiggins’ Caledonia font is what renders the text, done at a 12-point size.  Unfortunately, Macy fails to mention the publishing house who printed the work and the bindery who bound it (just my luck today it would seem, as Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard also left out that crucial information!).

John Austen was a very productive member of Macy’s artist pantheon, and there’s a nice essay on Austen by Austen in the Magazine you may want to peruse.  He calls joining the Limited Editions Club “the happiest period of my life”, and you can see the results in every book he had a hand in, including this one.  I’ve failed in my duties to elaborate on his career with my earlier posts spotlighting his work, Vanity Fair and The Faerie Queene, so I’ll do it now and save myself some grief.  Austen began his work for the LEC with Vanity Fair in 1930, and following that he rendered for the LEC The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens in 1933, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle by Tobias Smollett in 1935, The Frogs by Aristophanes in 1937, The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane by Alain Rene Le Sage in 1938, The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett in 1941, and The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser in 1953, which was published after his death and also featured the woodcuts of Agnes Miller Parker.  Several of these books were bound at Oxford University Press in similar slipcases, with dustjackets, in two volumes, and all had common design philosophies.  As far as I know, all of the above save The Frogs were published in this way.  Austen was also a player in the LEC Shakespeare, contributing his touch to The Comedy of Errors.  He also did several exclusive Heritage books, including this particular work, Dickens’ David Copperfield, and R.K. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone.  He was a busy man, no question.

As for Oliver Goldsmith, he is known for producing an absolute classic in drama (She Stoops to Conquer), novel (The Vicar of Wakefield), and poetry (“The Deserted Village”).  He was an Irishman, and was known to be a sweet yet envious man.  This was his first work printed by the Company, with She Stoops to Conquer to follow in 1964.  I have the Heritage She Stoops… for you to look forward to. :)

Slipcase – A little unusual for a Heritage slipcase to feature artwork and author/artist information, but apparently this was common for the Illustrated Bookshelf line.

Title Page – The paper used in this edition is interesting.  It has tiny speckles throughout that give it a sort of “recycled” feel, although I doubt much of that was going on in 1939!  Austen’s work is beautiful, as usual.  He has pen drawings at the beginning of each chapter along with these “portrait” pieces scattered throughout the text.

Page 1 – Example of the pen drawings.

Page 4

Personal Notes – I picked this up from my bookselling gig at a used book shop in my college town in Merced.  I think I paid $10 for it.  It has someone’s name written in pen in it, and it’s somewhat battered, but it was a complete book despite its flaws, and the Monthly Magazine seemed fascinating.  I’ve photographed it in its entirety below for you.

Monthly Magazine:

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§ 2 Responses to Heritage Illustrated Bookshelf – The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1939)

  • Skylar Duncan says:

    I have a 1939 copy of The Vicar of Wakefield with Austen illustration and a heavy board storage sleeve. It is from the Heritage Club. I this a collector’s item?

    • Wildcat-Lvl says:

      Well, I can’t quite answer that. The book is a Heritage Press exclusive, so there isn’t a LEC (Limited Editions Club) version that can trump it. If it is indeed from 1939, it may be, but Heritage Press books aren’t as well regarded as they ought to be in the used book market. I haven’t seen the original printing of it, myself, so I can’t say for certain if it’s special or not. I can tell you it’s a lovely book! I suggest looking it up on ABEBooks or Alibris to get an idea of what other sellers are considering its value at.

      Thanks for commenting!

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