Limited Editions Club – The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1933, 1961 [Heritage])

April 22, 2012 § 7 Comments

Welcome to our first comparison post of two differing versions of a work. Here we will discuss the original LEC Brothers Karamazov done in 1933 to a later Heritage reprint of the 1949 LEC. Both have the same translation, but feature distinctly different design and artistic traits unique to their editions. For this post I will focus on the 1933 LEC first, and then move onto the Heritage. Let’s start, shall we?

Note – I have just added the Monthly Letter to the King-illustrated Karamazov, but I have not updated the text to reflect the knowledge within. That will come.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1933, 3 volumes)
LEC #50/5th Series V. 2 in 1933
Artwork – Portrait Illustrations by Alexander King
Translated by Constance Garnett, Introduced by Avrahm Yarmolinsky
LEC #919 of 1500

Click images for larger views.

Front Binding (1933 LEC) – Since all three are unique (and lovely!) in their bindings, I snapped each one individually. I like the green/orange/blue shades and the crazy rib-like boards. D.B. Updike of the Merrymount Press handled printing duties (and potentially design duties as well, but I’m not sure of that). That’s unfortunately all I can tell you about the book’s creation.

Luckily, I do have plenty to tell you about the author’s history with the LEC (since I forgot to do so in my prior Dostoevsky posts on Crime and Punishment and The House of the Dead!). Fyodor Dostoevsky is the giant of giants in Russian literature, and with very good reason. The George Macy Company thought of him highly, and lavishly produced several editions of his works over their tenure, with future owners Cardevon and Sid Shiff joining in the fun as well. This set was the beginning of the long-lasting relationship in 1933, with the Heritage Crime and Punishment following in 1938 with Fritz Eichenberg’s woodcuts. The LEC would reprint that in 1948 as a 2-volume set. A revisit to The Brothers Karamazov followed in 1949, again featuring Eichenberg’s art, this time in stone lithographs. It’s clear that the Club caught Dostoevsky/Eichenberg fever from there, because all but one of the remaining publications unite the two again and again: 1956’s The Idiot, 1959’s The Possessed, 1974’s A Raw Youth (under Cardevon), and Sid Shiff’s concluding production of The House of the Dead in 1982. The only other case Eichenberg was not involved was the short story combo The Gambler and Notes from Underground, released in 1967 and starring Alexande Alexeieff as its illustrator. No wonder Eichenberg seems to be known in our circles as “the Russian illustrator”; He also did art for the works of Tolstoy (Resurrection, War and Peace), Pushkin (Eugene Onegin) and Turgenev (Father and Sons).

But enough with Eichenberg for the time being. His time will come in the second half of this monster of a post. Let’s focus on Alexander King, who is making his debut on our blog with this post. King deserves notoriety as being the very first illustrator for the Club, giving the 1929 Travels of Lemuel Gulliver his artistic flair. He next gave Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones his talent on 1931, with this set following that in 1933. Alas, that would be the end of the Macy connection. King was far more than an illustrator, though; he became a media sensation on The Tonight Show in later years, as well as writing several books, both fiction and non. He was a bohemian who got deep into drug addiction, multiple marriages and had several health problems, but he managed to leave his mark in the entertainment world. It’s fitting that he helped launch the decadent press that we love so well in a way.

Spines

Title Page – Constance Garnett is often the go-to for Russian translation for the Club, and this is a shining example of that practice (if not the first instance of that practice!). Avrahm Yarmolinsky is the introductory presenter here, an act he would do again for Eugene Onegin. The later 1949 printing reuses both Garnett and Yarmolinsky’s respective talents, which makes it all the more curious why they reprinted it. Well, Eichenberg’s work is spectacular in that, which is good enough for me!

Signature Page – Copy #919, with King’s signature.

Page 1 – King’s style is more cartoonish than Eichenberg’s, but it works. His portraits elude an intriguing sense of characterization, that they do.

Page 82

Page 129 – I like the exaggerated eyes.

Personal Notes – Checked out from my UC library. Wouldn’t mind owning it!

Monthly Letter:

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1961)
Sandglass Number: III: 33R
Artwork: Lithographs by Fritz Eichenberg
Translated by Constance Garnett, Introduced by Avrahm Yarmolinsky
Reprint of LEC #197, 19th Series, V. 1 in 1949

Front Binding – Another splendid binding. Apparently The Brothers Karamazov has that effect on book designers. Here we get a great illustration of Dostoevsky done by Eichenberg; note the crucified foot to the right of his head. Both sides feature this stunning rendition of the author. Thanks to a Sandglass, I can tell you some design info on this one. The text is set in Original Old Style font, composed by E.L. Hildreth & Company. Printing was handled by the Duenewald Printing Corporation of New York on paper supplied by Finch, Pruyn and Company. Binding was by Russell-Rutter (man, that shop could have stayed alive just because of Macy’s interactions with them).

So, now I can blab about Fritz Eichenberg all I want. I noticed that I have utterly failed to list out every book he had a hand in for George Macy and the subsequent owners of the LEC, and I’d like to rectify that now. It all began with the Heritage Press. The 1938 Crime and Punishment set Eichenberg off on a long and storied career few other illustrators can match. He next performed his craft in the massive LEC Shakespeare set, rendering the grotesque Richard the Third. Eugene Onegin was next in 1943. The LEC Crime and Punishment followed in 1948, although I don’t think he did anything new for that re-release. The Brothers Karamazov came out in 1949. Fathers and Sons was next in 1951, and Hawthorne’s King Midas and the Golden Touch, released as part of a greater set of Evergreen Tales, went out in 1952. Goethe’s The Story of Reynard the Fox was shipped in 1954. A third Dostoevsky novel, The Idiot, was released in 1956, with another, The Possessed, coming out in 1959. Tolstoy’s Resurrection was unveiled in 1963. A second Tolstoy collaboration came under Cardevon’s ownership, with 1972’s Childhood, Boyhood, Youth. Dostoevsky’s A Raw Youth continued the chain in 1974. While Eichenberg did not illustrate the book’s pages, he did contribute a print to Villon’s Lyrical Poems in 1979. 1981 saw Eichenberg tackle Grimmelshausen’s The Adventures of Simplicissimus for Sid Shiff. 1982 saw the final Dostoevsky work the Club printed, with Eichenberg naturally attached, in The House of the Dead. The last LEC Eichenberg made illustrations for was Georges’ The Diary of a Country Priest in 1986. Almost a fifty year run! And I haven’t even touched on his two other Heritage exclusives, War and Peace and Gulliver’s Travels. In total, Eichenberg provided his incredible artwork for 15 LEC’s and 3 Heritage Press books, plus a bonus LEC print for the Villon (those numbers include Crime and Punishment in both their tallies, mainly because I’m not sure if Eichenberg did any further work for the LEC edition). Impressive, isn’t it?

Spine

Slipcase

Title Page – A little more snazzy than the 1933 edition, if I may say so.

Page 8 – The Sandglass lavishes most of its attention onto Eichenberg, in particular his creation of the stone lithographs for this novel. Definitely check it out, as a summary does not do the praise justice. These definitely are among his most breathtaking illustrations.

Page 14 – If there was ever any doubt of Eichenberg’s talent, may this spectacular piece wash it away. Among my favorites of his.

Personal Notes – This came in the massive lot I recently obtained from the Oakhurst Library. This was one of the books I got for free. Yes, you read that right. And it’s one I’ve coveted for years, and now it is mine, complete and in marvelous condition. :)

Sandglass

Well, that was a lot of information! I look forward to the next time I get the chance to do a comparison like this. Either way you go for this book, I think you’ll be rewarded handsomely. :)

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§ 7 Responses to Limited Editions Club – The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1933, 1961 [Heritage])

  • don floyd says:

    I used to watch Alexander King on the old Jack Paar tonight show in 1960. At that time, I didn’t know about the Limited Editions Club or The Heritage Club. King was a talented raconteur and Paar, realizing this, gave him a lot of TV time, unintrrupted as much as was possible. King who had been seriously ill with a variety of complaints, had a live-in nurse whom he later married. They left NY after the wedding, King and his new bride who was several decades younger than King, on an extended world cruise. One night on his show, Paat announced King’s death from a heart attack while still on his cruise. We can only hope that King died happy with his new young bride.

    I have all the LECs and Heritage Press books illustrated by Eichenberg with Crime and Punishment being my favorite.. The illustration of Raskolnikov outside Lizaveta’s door hiding the ax murder weapon behind his back sets the tone of the book.

    I have the Heritage Press Brothers Karamazov and Gulliver’s Travels illustrated by Eichenberg. Also, I have the King LECs which I am going to rebind next year.

    I have all the Russians produced by the LEC with the exception of the Russian Anna Karenina printed in Moscow. Would like to get it someday to round out my collection of LEC Russian authors.

    • Wildcat-Lvl says:

      Hi Don,

      Thanks for sharing a bit more on King’s time on The Tonight Show. I agree with you on Crime and Punishment being the finest of Eichenberg’s output, although this and Eugene Onegin sure do give it a run for its money. Someday I may have more of the Russian LEC’s…

      Just a reminder, please don’t use my blog as a place to sell your books. Thanks!

  • kainzow06 says:

    You need to come back and write more posts!!!
    I’m a huge fan already!

    • WildcatJF says:

      Thank you for the compliments! Unfortunately, I am drowning in schoolwork as anticipated. Don’t worry, though; there’s much more to come when the time presents itself. :)

  • kainzow06 says:

    I bought a Heritage Press edition of the Brothers Karamazov online.(the one published in 1949)
    How do I tell if the book has ‘loose bindings’?
    Thanks!

    • WildcatJF says:

      Loose bindings to me means that the book’s cover feels flimsy in terms of its attachment, like a good jolt would be enough to separate them from the boards. If a book “wiggles” considerably when you hold it, the binding would be loose in my opinion.

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