Heritage Press – Penguin Island by Anatole France (1938/1947)

July 25, 2012 § 1 Comment

Penguin Island by Anatole France (1938)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Illustrations in water-colors by Sylvain Sauvage
Translated by A.W. Evans
Heritage Press Exclusive

Click images for a larger view.

Binding and Spine – Anatole France received quite a smattering of attention from the George Macy Company, way more than he receives today (a shame!). Penguin Island was the one work of France’s that Macy produced twice. I discuss France’s LEC and Heritage editions in my earlier Revolt of the Angels post.

Thanks to Django6924, I am able to share with you the original Heritage exclusive that predates the later LEC release. In 1938 Macy recruited Sylvain Sauvage [no stranger to the books of France, as he did two LEC’s of his before this one, At the Sign of the Queen Pedauque (1933) and The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard (1937)] to produce this lovely edition of what is probably France’s best known work. Sauvage has popped up here before for his amazing work on Zadig, and I’m happy to have him make a second appearance. I covered his career in the aforementioned post, so we’ll just jump into this book’s specifics. Early Heritage books tended to have production details, and this one is such a book, so I’ll plop that down for some minimal design details:

Since I initially wrote this post, fellow George Macy Devotee featherwate submitted to me information from Michael Bussacco’s book on the Heritage Press, which I will paste below:

I don’t have a Sandglass with my copy of the HP Penguin Island, but here are some of the technical details taken from Bussacco’s Sandglass Companion:

Type: Granjon was chosen for being both dignified and unobtrusive – (Sandglass: “dignity is required in the setting of a satiric novel”) – and its size is 14 pt. The paper, made by the Worthy Paper Company, resembles the paper used for the HP Romeo and Juliet and is guaranteed to last for at least two centuries!
Illustrations: Ten full-page water-colour pictures, reproduced to the exact size of Sauvage’s original paintings by Ralph M. Duenewald of New York, who was also responsible for printing Sauvage’s illustrations for the LEC Cyrano and Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard. BTW, “The navigation of Saint Mael” is on page 34, and “Then she went away…” on page 60.
One of the most interesting features of the book is its binding. First the bad news: it’s not leather. In the words of the Sandglass, the sheets are encased in “heavy boards over which the binder has worked a material from the factories of E.I Du Pont de Nemours Company. It is a material of which the surface is treated with pyroxolin. It will last longer than most book cloths, far longer than most cheap leathers, not quite so long as expensive leathers that are used in the binding of a hundred dollar books.
The material is dyed black. Its surface is treated with leather graining. This is just rank imitation. We would much prefer to use the original goatskin which this graining imitates!”. (Would have been too expensive.)
Not mentioned in the Sandglass is the origin of pyroxolin (or more properly, I think, pyroxylin, though there was a New Zealand racehorse called Pyroxolin in the 1890s). It has been around since 1868, when Albany printer and inventor John Wesley Hyatt gave the name to a blend of nitrocellulose and the plasticiser camphor (sap from the laurel tree) which produced a durable, colourful, and mouldable thermoplastic. It is still used today by specialist bookbinders and conservators. Riley, Dunn & Wilson, for example, make solander boxes with a covering of pyroxolin[sic]-impregnated light-fast, moisture- and vermin-resistant library buckram. As a non-scientist I find it slightly worrying that pyroxylin appears to be essentially the same thing as gun-cotton and the notoriously inflammable nitrate base used for early film stock. Not much point in having a 200 year guarantee for the paper if the binding is liable to sudden spontaneous combustion! Another reason to keep one’s books out of direct sunlight…

So, the book is bound in a material similar to gun cotton? That’s fascinating…and scary! Definitely keep it out of the sun or away from any other heat source! Anyway, the book’s front binding has a lovely embossing:

That’s all I can give you for now, but I’ll refresh this post when I find out more.

Title Page – A.W. Evans was the translator for Penguin Island, and there is no introduction whatsoever. Sauvage’s art is a great fit from what I can tell.

Chapter IV – As I do not own this, I do not know the specific page numbers. I’ll update this once I know. This is incredible art, that it is.

Example Illustration – More mastery. I think I need this.

Extra special thanks to Django6924 for the images and featherwate for the info from Bussacco!

Penguin Island by Anatole France (1947)
Sandglass Number 15K
Artwork: Drawings by Malcolm Cameron
Translated by A.W. Evans, Introduced by Carl Van Doren
Reprint of LEC #181, 17th Series, V. 7 in 1947.

Front Binding – For the second Heritage issuing of France’s seminal work, the Club reissued the later LEC Penguin Island. This was one of the winning entries for the LEC’s “Third Competition in Book Illustration”, which the Sandglass gets into the minor details of on Page 2 (Macy says he doesn’t want to bore people with it yet again, and then explains it all anyway :p ). Malcolm Cameron’s drawings won over the judges and netted him one of the five first prizes, and thus the LEC had its own Penguin Island to crow about. Cameron would do one other book for the George Macy Company, Jack and the Beanstalk, which was released in a set of Evergreen Tales in 1952. Cameron was actually an architect by trade, dabbling with his artwork as a side project. Upon winning, he gave up his old career (the Sandglass wondered if his netting the prize had anything to do with it) and committed to being an illustrator full time. Blog commenter Tom Lessup dug up some personal info on Cameron:

Malcom Cameron, printmaker, illustrator and architect
Born in Redlands, CA on Sept. 2, 1902, Attended the California Institute of Technology and Cornell University. He apprenticed in an architectural office in NYC in 1927-28 and then moved to Los Angeles. In 1945 he settled in Bonsall, CA and lived there until moving to Shaw Island, WA in 1962. He died there in March 8, 1975. Illustrated books such as “Penguin Island” by Anatole France and “Notre Dame de Paris” by Victor Hugo.
Exhibitions: Oakland Art Gallery, 1939; GGIE*, 1940. In: Library of Congress.
Source: Edan Hughes, “Artists in California, 1786-1940″
*Golden Gate International Exposition
Sometimes confused with Australian painter/printmaker of the same name, born 1934

Massive thanks for elaborating on Mr. Cameron’s career for us, Mr. Lessup. :)

Some production details, then. France’s text and Cameron’s drawings were reproduced through electroplates and photographs, respectively. The Photogravure and Color Company handled Cameron’s side of the equation. Joseph Blumenthal was the designer of this edition, who also had personally designed the font chosen for the work, Emerson. It is called that due to Blumenthal’s choice to use it to print Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essay on Nature. Designer buffs will want to peruse this Sandglass, as it goes into Mr. Blumenthal’s career in very extensive depth. The Stratford Press handled the printing of the text. The bindery is suspiciously absent.

Slipcase

Title Page – A.W. Evans’ translation made the leap from the Sauvage edition. Carl Van Doren supplies this printing with an Introduction. A lovely title page, this one. I like it more than the Sauvage edition.

Book 1: The Beginnings

Page 30 – Cameron’s linework is exquisite. France is doubly lucky to have two fine illustrators render his work so delightfully for one publishing house.

Personal Notes – I got this at Bookbuyers in Monterey as part of a trade-in, and I’m really happy to have it. I adored Revolt of the Angels, and I hope I will enjoy this as well. I’d like to own Sauvage’s edition as well, which would give me three versions of this work (I also have an early Dodd, Mead edition with Frank C. Pape’s artwork, and that is also exquisite!).

Sandglass:

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§ One Response to Heritage Press – Penguin Island by Anatole France (1938/1947)

  • Washburn says:

    After much debate on which version to get, I found a LEC edition signed copy (#141/1500) for $35 online…. in very good condition with SC and SG.
    Will post impressions ASA I receive it…

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