Limited Editions Club – Ferdinand and Isabella by William H. Prescott (1967)

July 4, 2014 § 1 Comment

Ferdinand and Isabella by William Hickling Prescott (1967)
LEC #399/36th Series V. 1 in 1967
Artwork: Illustrations by Lima de Freitas
Edited and with a preface by C. Harvey Gardiner
LEC #125 of 1500

Click images to see larger views.


Front Binding – My final LEC post from my latest set of purchases is the 1967 issuing of Ferdinand and Isabella, done by the thorough historian William Hickling Prescott. Coming from a fairly well-off family, Prescott went to Harvard and did well enough to earn honors, although his early career did not show a ton of promise. Unfortunately, Prescott was wounded in a food fight one day on campus; a hardened piece of bread crust struck him in the eye, and his vision slowly but surely waded into complete blindness as he grew older. However, he decided to not let that affect him from his burgeoning passion for history, and took advantage of the eyesight he currently had to read voraciously the many works that would eventually be cited in his own histories. His memory was eidetic, and he was able to catalog huge stashes of information into his brain — a feat that allowed him to write (or dictate, depending on his flaky vision) the histories he now is renowned for. Pretty amazing. Prescott had two LEC’s released: The History of the Conquest of Peru in 1957, with Everett Gee Jackson providing the artistic talent, and this one, issued in 1967. The Heritage Press issued his final major work, The History and Conquest of Mexico, recycling Miguel Covarrubias’ artwork from the LEC The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico by Bernal Diaz, in 1950.

Lima de Freitas came into the George Macy Company fold rather late, but left his mark in four LEC volumes in the 1960’s. He has a distinct, vibrant style that I quite like, particularly when the work is colored in. He began with the 1961 LEC Nostromo by Joseph Conrad, and followed that up with the LEC issuing of Christopher Columbus’ Journals in 1963. This book followed in 1967, and his last commission was Washington Irving’s The Alhambra in 1969. I’ve seen or own all but the last, and I can say without a doubt that de Freitas was a highlight in the post George period of the Macy Company’s artist stable.

Design Notes – The Garamond Press of Baltimore was responsible for the creation of this book. John Stone (the sole employee of the Yankee Typesetters) served as the typographical designer, and he picked Caledonia as his font. After setting up the pages, the Garamond Press set to printing the text, supervised by Irvin Silvers. The paper is a special ivory-colored type from the Curtis Paper Company. Russell-Rutter served as the bindery, and William “Frank” Fortney covered Prescott and de Freitas’ pages with a tan cowhide. The Catholic coat-of-arms of the two royal figures in question was embossed into the front, and a red skiver label was prepared with gold leaf to serve as the spine. The letter is silent about how de Freitas’ art was reproduced, so I’ll have to refrain from those particulars for now.






Title Page – C. Harvey Gardiner looked over Prescott’s work and made slight emendations (of which square brackets are used to distinguish Gardiner’s edits from Prescott’s), structural (long-winded sentences have been cut into shorter sentences, and some internal punctuation has been removed) and abridgments (Gardiner toned down some of Prescott’s indulgences, and modernized the work to trim back some of the less historical bits) to the work. Gardiner argues that the work is still Prescott’s, but with some tweaks to make him more accessible to the (then) modern reader. He explains all this in an editorial preface to the work.


Colophon – Lima de Freitas signs the book, and this happens to be #125. I think this is the earliest number I’ve picked up so far!

Examples of the Illustrations by de Freitas (right click and open in new tab for full size):

Personal Notes – The LEC came into my hands via Bookbuyers in Monterey. On occasion I’ve found a LEC there, and both times I’ve been able to pick it up for store credit. This did not have the letter, unfortunately, but I snag LEC’s in great condition where I can find them. This was marked at $30, but there was a slip from an earlier owner that informed me that they paid $97.50 for this book! Go bargains! I had the Heritage edition of this prior to owning this one, and I got that from my Oakhurst library acquisition of 50 titles. I still have it, but it’s buried in storage right now. When I fish it out, I’ll update this post to do a proper comparison.

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


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