Heritage Press – Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1939*)

January 20, 2013 § 10 Comments

Walden or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau (1939, * = this edition was done after 1953)
Sandglass Number III:30
Artwork: Wood Engravings by Thomas A. Nason
Heritage Press Exclusive: The LEC would issue their own Walden with Edward Steichen’s Walden Pond photographs in 1936.

Click images for larger views.

Front Binding – Book #2 for today is the Heritage Walden. Thoreau’s seminal nature writings continue to inspire and influence people today, even if you find his personal reasoning and methods of living with nature a bit dubious. The Limited Editions Club had Edward Steichen’s Walden Pond photographs provide its visuals, but the Heritage Press went for a more natural approach, asking wood engraver Thomas A. Nason to supply their edition with woodcuts. Nason’s work is quite apropos, and he would see two future LEC commissions come his way. He did the Poems of William Cullen Bryant in 1947, and his last was a doozy; The Complete Poems of Robert Frost, a 2 volume issuing in 1950 that Frost, Nason and designer Bruce Rogers all signed, which automatically skyrockets it into the more coveted and expensive LEC’s out there.

Thoreau’s Walden LEC release in 1936 would be the last under George Macy; in fact, Helen and Jonathan Macy barely got the next one, Cape Cod, out under their tenure in 1968. Raymond J. Holden would render that one artistically. Cardevon Press recruited Holden again in 1975 for their A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers LEC in 1975. That’s all for Thoreau!

Designing info for you: Carl Purington Rollins was the original designer back for the original issuing. Clarke and Way printed the work on Crocker-Burbank paper. Bookman is the font of choice. That’s all the Sandglass provides!


Title Page – I happen to like Nason’s work a lot. The full-page engravings are loaded with little details that fit the world of Walden like a glove. There are many more small cuts, which are also excellent. A good fit! There is no preface or introduction to Thoreau’s text; it just starts right up!

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

Personal Notes – I’ve owned two separate copies of this book. The first I don’t fully recall how it sneaked into my inventory. It was ratty and beat up! If my memory serves, I believe I got it from Windows on the World Books & Art (RIP), my second bookselling gig, for a really low price or free. The one this post features is my second, much nicer copy. I snagged that at a library book sale. Haven’t read it yet.

Sandglass (right click and open in new tab for full size):


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§ 10 Responses to Heritage Press – Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1939*)

  • Jack says:

    Thanks for this, Jerry – it’s an attractive edition and as you say “A good fit!”. I much prefer it to the oversized ‘luxury’ Folio Society edition (2009) which I bought for reasons that now escape me. Like the LEC it was illustrated with photographs, in this case from the 1890s. I haven’t seen Edward Steichen’s photos for the LEC, but the Folio ones are so depressingly bleak I think I gave the book to a charity shop almost at once. Either that or I hid it somewhere!
    Folio published a less pretentious version back in the 1980s. Like this HP edition it is illustrated by a first-class wood engraver, Michael Renton. I like his work and have been thinking of picking up a copy. But from the pictures you’ve posted, I reckon Carl Purington Rollins and Thomas Nason win hands down.
    So that’s another HP for the must-have list!

    • Stephen LaPalme says:

      Hi Jack. I have a C.P. Rollins/ Thomas Nason copy of Walden from 1939, The Heritage press New York. I haven’t seen another. Were there many printed?

      • WildcatJF says:

        Hi Stephen,

        Just so you know, Jack was the previous commenter, and he doesn’t work here or anything, so he can’t answer your question. I don’t know the limitation of the original Walden printing, and with the number of reprints out there it’s very difficult to gauge Heritage print runs if they don’t explicitly tell you in the book itself. Sorry!

  • Deb Scott says:

    Hello, I recently acquired a 1968 copy of Cape Cod (Heritage Press New York) and am missing pages 33-48. They repeated pages 17-32 instead. I was curious if this was common? Any info on this type of misprinting would be appreciated. Deb

    • WildcatJF says:

      Hi Deb,

      I would imagine that misprinting and/or misbinding would be a rarity in the early days of the club, but the standards slipped when the Heritage Press transitioned to its new homes in Connecticut. 1968 was really close to the beginning of that period, which could explain that. I haven’t seen a book with that mishap myself, but I have stumbled upon a Huck Finn with Tom Sawyer boards before. That’s what I know; it may not be a bad idea to chat with my fellow collectors at the George Macy Devotees at Librarything!

  • Adam says:

    Just found this volume at an antique fair for a few bucks. I own the original issuing, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have this one too. Might make a nice gift.

    Interesting though, Heritage took out the original colophon which contains what I think is the most valuable and interesting fact about this edition: Thomas Nason made the wood engravings at Walden Pond. Now why would anyone leave that out?

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