Limited Editons Club: The Aeneid by Virgil (1944)

April 29, 2012 § 6 Comments

The Aeneid by Virgil (1944)
LEC #163/15th Series V. 11
Sandglass Number 5H

Artwork: Illustrated by Carlotta Petrina
Translated and introduced by John Dryden
#890 of 1100

Click images to see larger views. LEC on the top, Heritage on the bottom.

Front Binding – Thanks to my UC Library, I can now properly compare Virgil’s Aeneid. This replaces the original post I made in 2011, but it’ll retain all of that information (and more, I hope). There is a stark difference in design on these two. The LEC goes for a much more refined approach, with lovely cloth boards with decadent wheat-like patterns and a cross-stitch. The teal-colored leather spine seals the deal. The Heritage, however, manages to outdo this fancy binding. Embossed with one of Carlotta Petrina’s illustrations, I was amazed when I first gazed upon this book.  This was the origin of my passion for these books, you see. It is the very first Heritage Press book I ever owned.  I’ll save further thoughts from my ownership of this book for later; let’s focus on the book itself.  Both were designed by Robert L. Dothard of the Hildreth Press, who also happened to design The Innocent Voyage I posted earlier.  I’ll let Django6924 explain the rest:

The text is set in a linotype face–14 point Old Style, on a laid, toned paper that the Sandglass mentions was difficult to acquire during the war rationing situation. The cover was unusual in that instead of the usual “blind-stamoing,” which impresses a design into the cover, this cover features one of Ms. Petrina’s designs embossed as a sort of bas-relief. This is one of those occasions where the design of the Heritage Press edition is far superior (as a design) to the rather staid LEC version.

The Connecticut Heritage is much more subdued than the New York. If I can remember I’ll snap a shot of its boards for comparative purposes before I sell it off.

Since I didn’t do it last time, let’s briefly touch upon author and artist. Virgil (or Publius Vergilius Maro) was one of Rome’s greatest poets, composing three known major works in his lifetime: The Aeneid, The Georgics, and The Eclogues. All three saw LEC releases. Georgics was done in 1952, and features the work of engraver Bruno Bramante and  printer Giovanni Mardersteig. The last, Eclogues, was published in 1960 with painter Marcel Vertes rendering it.

Carlotta Petrina doesn’t seem to have a heap of accessible info online, but I’ll dictate her career for the George Macy Company as best I can. She began in 1932 with South Wind, and if my memory serves, she actually chatted with author Norman Douglas before getting to work. Those are rather nice illustrations in the LEC, but the one I’ve covered on the blog so far lack the original crispness and clarity. In 1936 she won accolades for her interpretation of John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Regained. These were not reprinted as a Heritage edition, instead using William Blake’s paintings. She joined 38 other artists to help create the LEC Shakespeare, her part being Henry the Sixth Part II. The Aeneid was the final commission for the LEC, and to my knowledge she did not do any exclusives for the Heritage Press.

Title Page – No real different here beyond the publisher info. It proudly proclaims John Dryden’s translation and Virgil’s name in red.  Otherwise, a fairly humdrum title page.  What I found interesting is that the copyright page says that the Heritage version explicitly required the use of this book from the Limited Editions Club, which considering their relatedness, strikes me as a little odd now.

Signature Page – What I find most curious about this book is the limitation. Normally 1500 LEC editions were released in Macy’s time owning the Club, yet here it says they made 1100 copies. Perhaps wartime forced the Club to dial back a bit on this edition? I’ll ask my LEC compatriots and see if they know. Anyway, this is #890 and is signed by Petrina in red.

Book I Art – Petrina’s art headlines each book of the epic poem.  I find it fairly captivating stuff. The two are nigh identical, despite the photos suggesting that the LEC is lighter. I think the difference of sunlight is what’s making that happen. The quality in both is quite high, so your choice boils down to binding style preference and if Petrina’s signature means something to you.

Book V Art

Book VIII Art

Personal Notes – My very first book from the Heritage Press came from my local library in Mariposa, probably in 2007 or so.  I think they asked $10, which for the incredible artistry I felt was more than deserving.  I didn’t know about Sandglasses or much anything else about the Press back then, but considering I’ve (still) not seen the NY Heritage elsewhere, I think I made a smart choice.  I’ve yet to read it, though. As I mentioned with The Ring and the Book, epic poems don’t tend to be up my alley (Beowulf seems to be the exception so far), but I’m sure I’ll give it a go one day. The LEC came from my UC Library, and although I do like the art a lot, I’m not too sure I want that edition more than several others.

Happen to have a LEC Newsletter? I could use its information to further flesh out this post! Leave me a note in the comments or at my thread at Librarything. Thanks!


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§ 6 Responses to Limited Editons Club: The Aeneid by Virgil (1944)

  • don floyd says:

    I’ll opt for the cloth-bound Aeneid since I no longer collect Heritage Press books. Using exotic materials became a hallmark of many LECs, notably Carmen, Kenilworth, O Henry stories, Northanger Abbey, and The Alhambra. These sumptuous bindings gave a hint of what was to come, and to my mind, far outweighed most covers which used illustrations.

  • Kris Eldron says:

    Dear Wildcat
    “The Connecticut Heritage is much more subdued than the New York.”
    Does “Connecticut” actually appear on the title page instead of New York? I have to do my book buying over the internet so I need to know the right questions to ask dealers!
    Thanks for all the hard work you put into this wonderfully informative site!

    • Wildcat-Lvl says:

      When I get home this evening I will check. I may take some binding shots of the lot I have to help collectors out in telling the difference.

      There’s two ways to tell off of the top of my head, though. Oftentimes a Connecticut reprint will omit the printing location if they don’t say Avon or Norwalk, Connecticut. So you can ask if the title page says “New York” and if they say “no”, then you should be safe. The Connecticut Aeneid I have does not look like the NY printing at all. Its binding is of a different color (tan), the awesome embossing is not applied, and it overall looks pretty average in terms of HP books go.

  • Kris Eldron says:

    Thanks, Wildcat – I think you’ve answered my question! I want to avoid Connecticut printings wherever possible, so provided a dealer confirms the book has an embossed black binding and New York on the title page it should be a safe bet.
    While it would be nice to have an LEC with Carlotta Petrina’s signature, I agree with you and Django6924: the Heritage binding is the decider with this book!
    Best wishes.
    BTW, I don’t know much about Carlotta herself – other than her being a damned fine artist – but she was born in New York (1901) and ended her days in Brownsville Texas in 1997, apparently still at work. Brownsville has a cultural centre/museum named after her, housing a lot of her paintings. Or possibly once housing them – there seems to be some doubt if a handful of strange rambling videos on YouTube are anything to go by. Sadly it seems to be in dire need of funds:
    A brief search of the NYT archives reveals that she was quite a celebrity in her day: for example, in November 1931 the paper listed her among the more notable passengers arriving home from a trip to Europe, where she had been on Capri working on ‘a series of paintings to be used in illustrating a new edition of Norman Douglas’s novel, “South Wind”. All paid for by George Macy, presumably! The following year there was a well-received exhibition of her South Wind drawings. Another example of Macy putting together the right artist with the right book (even if he though the printer let them both down).

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