Heritage Press – Five Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens (1939)

December 24, 2012 Comments Off on Heritage Press – Five Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens (1939)

Five Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens (1939)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Illustrated by Reginald Birch
Introduced by John Winterich
Heritage Press Exclusive: Some of these stories were individual LEC titles (I’ll explain below).

Click images for larger views.

xmas-binding

Front Binding – Welcome to our second Heritage Dickens post, and a rather fitting one at that! This compiles A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life and The Haunted Man into one book. The Limited Editions Club released their own versions of The Chimes (1931 with Arthur Rackham doing the artistic honors), The Cricket on the Hearth (1933, featuring Hugh Thomson), and A Christmas Carol (1934, starring Gordon Ross). Obviously George Macy was a fan of the Christmas works of Dickens!

I failed to fully document the bibliography of Dickens last time, so I will do it now. The Limited Editions Club issued these works of the British master:

The Chimes (1931 with Arthur Rackham)
The Pickwick Papers (1933 with John Austen)
The Cricket on the Hearth (1933 with Hugh Thomson)
A Christmas Carol (1934 with Gordon Ross)
Great Expectations (1937 with Gordon Ross)
Dombey and Son (1957 with Henry C. Pitz)
Hard Times (1966 with Charles Raymond)
Short Stories (1971 with Edward Ardizzone)
American Notes (1975 with Raymond F. Houlihan)

The Heritage Press issued their own, mostly unique set of Dickens over their tenure, too. It exceeds the LEC output, including more of his popular works:

Barnaby Rudge – James Daugherty
Bleak House – Robert Ball
David Copperfield – John Austen
Five Christmas Novels – Reginald Birch
Great Expectations – Edward Ardizzone
Little Dorrit – Mimi Korach
Martin Chuzzlewit – Wray Manning
The Mystery of Edwin Drood – Everett Shinn
Nicholas Nickleby – Steven Spurrier
Oliver Twist – Barnett Freedman
The Old Curiosity Shop – William Sharp
Our Mutual Friend – Lynd Ward
The Pickwick Papers – Gordon Ross
A Tale of Two Cities – Rene ben Sussan
Dombey & Son – Henry C. Pitz (reprint of the LEC in 1957)
Hard Times – Charles Raymond (reprint of the LEC in 1966)

Whew! That’s a lot of books!

Reginald Birch has a bit of a tragic story to tell. He was a renowned illustrator in the late 1800’s, producing the artistic parts of many of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s stories like Little Lord Fauntleroy, as well as Louisa May Alcott’s Little Men. He hit a low point in his career that saw him enter poverty in the 20th century when his style fell out of favor. However, he experiences a surge of revived interest following his commission for Louis Untermeyer’s The Little Pirates in 1933. Perhaps Untermeyer was influential in his landing Birch’s sole job for the George Macy Company; Dickens’ five Christmas tales. He passed away in 1943, two years after his eyesight deteriorated and he could no longer do what he loved.

xmas-spine

Spine

xmas-title

Title Page – I will admit that Birch’s style, while appropriate, doesn’t do much for me. It seems sort of…well, barren of the dynamic energy so many of these books elude. May just be me, though. He did some color plates on top of smaller black and while pieces, which I’ll provide an example each of below. John Winterich provides a “How this Book Came to Be” preamble that usually goes along with the early Heritage titles.

Examples of the In-text Illustrations by Birch (right click and open in new tab for full size):

Personal Notes – This isn’t mine; Dickens so far hasn’t resonated with me enough to start collecting his works willy-nilly. :p I wouldn’t mind the LEC A Christmas Carol, as it is the sole tome of his I’ve read I’ve enjoyed thus far. Anyway! This is from my local library system, deliberately ordered to make this post! Merry Christmas to you, my good friends, and we’ll see you next year!

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