Heritage Press – The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (1940)

June 1, 2013 § 1 Comment

The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (1940)
Sandglass Number 11L
Artwork: Woodcuts by Fritz Kredel
Introduced by Edward Hutton, translated by Anonymous in 1620
Also printed as a special two volume LEC in a limitation of 530 copies, signed by Kredel. The LEC first published The Decameron in 1930, #7 of Series 1, featuring the artwork of T.M. Cleland and the modern English translation of Francis Winwar.

Click images for larger views.


Front Binding – Ah, weekly updates! How droll.

Anyway, The Decameron is our next highlight of the Heritage Press. A little background on the book’s publishing history is in order! In the very first series of the Limited Editions Club, The Decameron was produced with T.M. Cleland’s design (no art this time) and a modern verse translation by Francis Winwar. When the Heritage Press got going, George Macy wanted to revisit The Decameron for that readership. Macy had released a limited run of The Decameron as a special offering to LEC members in 1940, on which this edition is based. He appointed Mr. Fritz Kredel, a man who needs little introduction on this blog by now (but in case you do, here’s a post with his extended tenure working for the Macys), to render period-appropriate decorations to serve as illustrations for this new work. However, despite having copyright over Winwar’s translation, Macy felt that the period-apropos work of Kredel clashed with the modernity of Winwar’s words. So, he went way back to the very first English translation of the text, done anonymously in 1620, to serve as a proper contrast to Kredel’s woodcuts. It also returns two chapters omitted from 1620 that were considered too “racy” back then with a simple modern English translation (no idea if it’s Winwar’s or not). Ultimately, 530 copies of the premium Kredel Decameron were issued to LEC members in 1940, making it the rarest limitation of any Macy-era LEC. There is no Heritage edition of the earlier Cleland/Winwar collaboration.

I’ve included a special bonus in the Sandglass section of the post; an official announcement issued in 1948 regarding the switch of some of the titles in the Heritage program. Now, one will notice rather quickly that 1940 is not the same year as 1948. I can’t explain the inner workings of the Company, but it would appear to me that the LEC edition shipped out in 1940, and that a potential Heritage edition may have been benched until 1948, as Macy sure is making it sound like The Decameron was not issued to the Heritage Press until then. Regardless, it’s a glimpse into the scheduling background that readers rarely get to see in the publishing world, and worth a look for those curious about Macy’s operations.

A final note on the author before we touch on the design; Giovanni Boccaccio published other works beyond The Decameron, but that was all the LEC or Heritage Press offered. Still, it’s always an honor (in my view) to get your work printed twice by the same high-end publishing house.

Design-wise, the design of the type was handled by Mr. Macy himself. Kredel was the designer of the boards. Cloister (main text) and Centaur (title page and other decorative uses) are the fonts. West Virginia Paper Company supplied the paper. That’s as far as the Sandglass and book goes in revealing design elements!




Title Page – A lovely title page that was supposed to reflect the era of the Italian Renaissance; Kredel hit it out of the park, I’d say. Edward Hutton has much to say on the work and the translation in his Introduction.

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

Personal Notes – I got this as part of my volunteering at Second Time Around Used Books in Merced. The condition is a little rough, and the slipcase is barely together, but the bonus euphemia and scarcity of this book (I’ve only seen this particular copy in a store) made me snag it. I look forward to reading it sometime.

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



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§ One Response to Heritage Press – The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (1940)

  • don Floyd (Leccol) says:

    The Decameron was published in 1940 as one of three special LECs: the Decameron, Wind in the Willows, and The Gapes of Wrath. These are all hard to get in any kind of shape. I have the Rackham illustrated Wind, and it will be rebound this fall. I had to give $500 for it in bad shape, but it will look great when rebound. The Decameron is bound in that nefarious of all leathers, sheepskin, and I have never seen a copy that didn’t have rubbing or worse. The Grapes of Wrath is the only Benton illustrated book I don’t have. It’s rawhide binding makes it as suspect as The Decameron. Have been looking for a copy for about a year with no luck.

    The 1930 Decameron, I have. This was the first book Cleland did for Macy and it is unillustrated. Cleland did the rules and layout. He proved to Macy he could illustrate when he did Tristram Shandy. Cleland claimed he was related to John Cleland who wrote the 18th century soft porn novel Fanny Hill, and that he would like to illustrate Fanny, but Macy would have none of that in 1930.

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