Heritage Press – Droll Stories by Honore de Balzac (1939)
January 20, 2013 § 8 Comments
Droll Stories by Honore de Balzac (1939)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Illustrations by Boris Artzybasheff
Introduced and Translated by Jacques Le Clercq
Heritage Press Exclusive: The LEC would issue their own Droll Stories as a 3 volume set with W.A. Dwiggins serving as designer and illustrator in 1932.
Click images for larger views.
Front Binding – Welcome to our first book post in 2013! The first book on the schedule is Droll Stories, a collection of bawdy tales by Honore de Balzac. The words are taken from the 1932 LEC printing of the same work, but the Heritage Press commissioned Boris Artzybasheff to supply his artistic touch for their edition. Artzybasheff was perhaps best known for his magazine commissions, including over 200 individual covers of TIME. He won both the Newbery (for Dhan Gopal Mukerji’s Gay Neck; he illustrated it) and Caldecott Honor (for Seven Simeons, in the very first year it was awarded!) awards, which may have provoked Macy to consider him for the job. However, this was the sole Artzybasheff issuing by the Club. Artzybasheff moved into commercial art in the 1940’s, doing fewer book illustrations. I don’t have the Sandglass, so perhaps the reasoning is supplied there. At any rate, I wish our dear artist did accomplish more for the George Macy Company, as I feel that he was quite talented at his craft.
As for Balzac, he is one of the French masters. He challenged the concept of vulgarity (quite so with this work), explored characterization and gave literature a new layer of realistic detail. Let’s tackle his LEC publications:
1932 – Droll Stories, illustrated by W.A. Dwiggins
1948 – Old Goriot, illustrated by Rene ben Sussan
1960 – Eugenie Grandet, illustrated by Rene ben Sussan
The Heritage Press seemed to follow suit, with Sussan’s two issuings seeing reprints, and Droll Stories being reissued with Artzybasheff’s art. Balzac was also borrowed to introduce Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma. FYI, Old Goriot is part of the Nonesuch Press French Author collaboration that produced several Heritage books, which Django6924 generously provided info on here.
I don’t have any design info, alas. I’ll update this when I do. The front and back are certainly not dynamic, barren as they are, but the spine is quite nice.
Title Page – Jacques Le Clercq was called upon to translate the tales, and he even offers an introduction. The title illustration gives you a taste of what’s to come. Now, the two selections I’ve picked to represent the book are very risque and are loaded with nudity. So, for those who would prefer not to look, I’ll make the rest of the entry a jump.
Example Illustrations by Artzybasheff (right click and select Open in New Tab to see full-size):
Personal Notes – I was given this by my good friend Lois, who I’ve mentioned many times on this blog (if not by name; she sold me Beowulf, traded me The Ring and the Book for my Poems of Browning, etc.). It’s in very good condition, and I really happen to like Artzybasheff’s whimsical artwork. I’ve read a tale or two, and it’s certainly vulgar for its time. It didn’t really resonate, though, but I’ll give it another chance someday.
If you have the Sandglass, I’d love to add that information to the post. Please drop me a line in the comments here or through my thread at Librarything. Thanks!
Updated 6/5/2014 by JF