Heritage Press – Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1938)

July 23, 2012 § 2 Comments

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1938, two volumes)
Sandglass Number III & IV: 25
Artwork: Illustrations by Lynd Ward
Translated by Lascelles Wraxall, Introduced by Andre Maurois
Reprint of LEC #108, 10th Series, V. 2 in 1938 in five volumes.

Click images for a larger view.

Front Bindings – Les Miserables is arguably Victor Hugo’s most enduring work. In his native France he was celebrated for his dramas and poetry on top of his literature output, even considered France’s grandest poet! However, outside of France his novels are what he is remembered for. Along with The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Les Miserables made Hugo an international literary icon. George Macy seemed to think highly of Hugo, as these two seminal works were printed rather early on in the LEC timeline. Hunchback was actually printed twice before Macy’s passing in 1956, both times as Notre-Dame de Paris. The first was in 1930, the first book in the second series, with Frans Masereel doing the artistic honors. This book is sort of infamous in the Macy canon, as Bill Majure explains:

Originally issued European style, bound in paper wraps. But when many subscribers complained about the paper bindings, the publisher rebound most copies in hardcover.

The second was less notorious when it was released in 1955, and Bernard Lamotte did the artistic honors. Les Miserables was a five volume LEC in 1938, and I’ll be sharing the two volume Heritage reprint with you shortly. After Macy’s death, Helen Macy commissioned The Toilers of the Sea in 1960, with Tranquillo Marangoni doing the artwork. Cardevon would revisit Les Miserables in 1977, plucking The Battle of Waterloo from its pages for a standalone title with Edouard Detaille’s art. Not many people had two major works done twice in the LEC, so Hugo is a bit special in that regard.

Les Miserables was rendered artistically by Lynd Ward, one of the more productive contributors to the Limited Editions Club and the Heritage Press. His LEC output is as follows:

Reade, Charles, The Cloister and the Hearth, 1932.
Hugo, Victor, Les Miserables, 1938.
Dumas, Alexandre, The Count of Monte Cristo, 1941.
Hemingway, Ernest, For Whom the Bell Tolls, 1942.
Erasmus, Desiderius, In Praise of Folly, 1943.
Hughes, Richard, The Innocent Voyage, 1944.
Beowulf, 1952.
Tennyson, Alfred Lord, Idylls of the King, 1952.
Conrad, Joseph, Lord Jim, 1959.
Paine, Thomas, Rights of Man, 1961.
Stevenson, Robert Louis, The Master of Ballantrae, 1965.
Jefferson, Thomas, Writings of, 1967.
Burke, Edmund, On Conciliation with America and Other Papers on the American Revolution, 1975.

He also did Gargantua and Pantagruel (1942) and Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend (1957) for the Heritage Press. For this particular book, he did over 500 individual illustrations! Most of them are rather small, but I’ve included some of the larger ones to marvel over. The book was designed by Peter Beilenson (Django6924 confirms Beilenson also handled the LEC. He was the designer/owner of the Peter Pauper Press, for those curious about such things. Thanks Robert!). Granjon is the font of choice here. There’s a good chunk of the third page in the Sandglass devoted to the history of Garamond, a related font to the one chosen. Duenewald Printing Corporation handled the printing duties, putting their ink upon specially made paper supplied by Crocker-Burbank. Arnold Bank was responsible for the binding design of the spines (or backstrip, as the Sandglass refers to them). Russell-Rutter was the bindery.

My edition of the work has seen some sun strip away the first volume’s red blaze, rendering it into more of a dull pink. The blue on Volume 2 is still strong, though. You’ll see the sad state of my Volume 1 below.


Slipcase – Both books are in black slipcases.

Title Page – Lascelles Wraxall (not the most common name) did the honors of translation, which his friend Hugo readily ratified. Andre Maurois, well-known biographer of the time (probably best known for Disraeli), supplies a new introduction.

Fantine – Ward’s smaller sketches are nice and all, but these book dividers are among his finest work. It’s easy to see why he was commissioned so often.


Personal Notes – This was part of my early haul from the Oakhurst Library in 2008 or so. I paid $2 per book! Ah, I love that library. Half if not more of my collection has come from there, and I’ve gotten some insane deals. :)



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§ 2 Responses to Heritage Press – Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1938)

  • Barbara says:

    was there not a third volume? i have 1 and 2 but it seems like there should be a 3rd.

    • Wildcat-Lvl says:

      Hi Barbara,

      I’m away from my set but I’ll check when I get home. I believe there are five volumes in two books for this, with I – III in the first book and IV – V in the second. Of course, the Heritage Press did do more than one reprinting, so it’s possible they did do a three volume set…

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