Heritage Press – The Travels of Marco Polo (1934)

November 26, 2014 Comments Off on Heritage Press – The Travels of Marco Polo (1934)

The Travels of Marco Polo (1934)
Sandglass Number 10N (missing from my book, but see notes below)
Artwork: Illustrations by Nikolai Fyodorovitch Lapshin
Introduced, Revised and Edited by Manuel Komroff, translated by William Marsden
Reprint of LEC #56, 5th Series, V. 8, in 1934 in 2 volumes.

Click images for larger views.


Front Binding – It’s been a little while since I gushed openly about a Heritage edition. Typically, the Limited Editions Club is where the truly stellar and remarkable books come from, with the Heritage re-releases, while still quite nice and attractive, are usually not of the same pedigree as their LEC cousins. Here, however, I will argue that this early Heritage printing of Marco Polo’s Travels is indeed the grander of the two printing houses. I LOVE the exquisite and appropriate binding; a luscious blending of purple and orange colors on what feels like rice paper (I lack a Sandglass, so I’m making generalizations). The bold choice of an orange spine with red text further makes this a stand-out. The LEC edition, in contrast, is covered in black cloth with a rather simple, elegant design that lacks the dynamism of this version.

Anyway, this amazing little book has some story to go behind it. You see, this is the winner of the very first Limited Editions Club illustration contest! Macy, Carl Purington Rollins and Frederic Warde served as judges, and after reviewing over 400 individual entries for 30 different titles requested by members, Nikolai Fyodorovitch Lapshin walked away with the $2500 prize and the right to have his brushed illustrations grace the Club’s edition of Marco Polo. This was the only time Polo’s journals were committed to print by the George Macy Company, and Lapshin only reappeared in the Macy canon to illustrate one of the many LEC Shakespeare titles, Titus Andronicus. Lapshin was a professor in graphic arts for Stalin University, and while he had never illustrated for books before, Macy felt he did a smashing job with his debut. He and the other judges felt that his work felt like it belonged to a book, and that it belonged to Polo’s remarkable travels. I happen to agree, in case my initial paragraph was not clear in how much I adore this book.

Design Notes – The Sandglass for this edition was not part of my good fortune of finding this gem, but since the initial posting of this book I’ve been graced with some information. Django6924 passed along this:

I don’t have this HP edition but perhaps you would like to include this from Michael Bussacco’s Sandglass Companion, Sandglass 10N, March 1950. The paper is from the Hamilton Paper Mill; the pages were reproduced (via photolithograpy) from copies of the original LEC, by the Duenewald Printing Corporation.

For the binding we arranged for a special making of linen, in a soft finish, to be done for us by the Western Shade Cloth Company…done in a “Chinese Orange” color….for the boards which cover the sides, we purchased a most-unusual, made-by-hand, obviously made-before-the-war, Oriental lamp-shade covering material of an unusual tensile strength and eye-filling Oriental colorings.

You are very close in surmising it is rice paper, Jerry; I’m sure it is probably mulberry paper, which feels a lot like rice paper, but is much stronger, also used to make tapa cloth. My mother had lampshades when I was a child that had very similar paper to the illustration on your site. I have a few sheets I intend to use someday to rebind one of my books.

The illustrations in the HP version have an interesting story themselves; per the Sandglass:

…Professor Lapshin’s illustrations could not be reproduced photographically from the printed reproductions.We decided to shoot the works, and had the illustrations redrawn….Luckily, Fritz Kredel entertains a great admiration for those illustrations by Professor Lapshin; and…agreed to push aside some of his own work, and to redraw the Lapshin pictures so that we would have actual drawings from which to make our reproductions.

From the samples I’ve seen in your HP, he did an excellent job. However, the illustrations in the HP seem to be monochrome, albeit in different hues for each illustration, whereas the originals are in multiple, vivid colors for each illustration. They were reproduced originally by offset lithography, and it is some of the finest use of that medium I have ever seen. Each illustration actually looks like an original watercolor, and considering how the numerous illustrations are scattered throughout, and integrated with the text, you begin to realize what an astonishing achievement it was for the time (and perhaps the reason Macy cheaped out somewhat on the binding).

I’ve included an example of the LEC’s illustrations (courtesy of parchment) in the Examples gallery below.




Title Page –  Macy chose William Marsden’s translation as his edition’s base, with the revision/editing of that original performed by Manuel Komroff, who further wrote an rather lengthy introduction on Polo’s life and adventures in the Middle East and Asia.

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

Personal Notes – I have had this book twice. The first was a lackluster Connecticut issuing I received as part of my 50 book lot a few years ago. I had seen a nicer edition than that, so I sold it off in the hopes of stumbling upon these earlier, quite beautiful editions. My patience was rewarded earlier this year at Half Price Books, where this amazing edition sat among its shelves for $5. And I was all over it. The LEC illustrations are pretty astounding, but I think I prefer the monochrome ones a bit more (and of course, the binding!), so I’m in no hurry to replace this.

Sandglass currently unavailable.

Updated 12/17/2014 by JF


Heritage Press: Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes (1951)

November 14, 2014 Comments Off on Heritage Press: Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes (1951)

Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes (1951)
Sandglass Number VI:16
Artwork: Illustrations by Edy Legrand
Translated by John Ormsby, Introduced by Irwin Edman
Reprint of LEC #209, 20th Series, V. 1, in 1951 in 2 volumes.

Click images for larger views.


Front Binding – The Spanish classic to end all of their classics, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s Don Quixote, is today’s subject. The Limited Editions Club seemingly liked this work more than many others, as this is the second time the Club dipped into that well. The first, LEC exclusive issuing came out early on in the LEC lifespan, 1933. This edition was illustrated by Enric-Cristobal Ricart, and was distributed in two volumes. In 1945, long time George Macy Comapny alum Edy Legrand (see The Nibelungenlied for his complete Macy bibliography) expressed his interest in illustrating a second Don Quixote to Macy. Macy relates in the Sandglass that Legrand, although a Frenchman of birth, had adopted Spain as his second nationality, and wished to challenge himself at the proposition of rendering the greatest Spanish literary work. After reviewing some early sketches, Macy agreed, and Legrand went to work, creating 200 individual illustrations as a first draft; his final submission was 48 full page pen/dry brush drawings, five years later. The LEC published their edition in 2 volumes in 1951, which featured colored versions of the art seen here. Cervantes did not receive any other LEC or Heritage offerings.

The year is unstated here, but GMD member featherwate passed along this info about its publication:

Jerry, it was the selection for November 1951, coming between The Marriage of Cupid and Psyche illustrated by Edmund Dulac and Gray’s Elegy (Agnes Miller Parker). In fact, illustrator-wise this was one heckuva series (Series 16 June 1951 to May 1952). As well as Dulac and AMP it included among others Fritz Eichenberg (Crime & Punishment and the Olivier Henry V*), Hugo Steiner-Prag (Tales of Hoffman), Valenti Angelo (Sonnets from the Portuguese) and Edward A. Wilson (Jekyll and Hyde) – quite an array!
As for George Macy saying he read the Rabelais 25 years before, I guess he was just rounding up to a neat figure. As he does in the Quixote Sandglass where he refers to it as a book of “nearly eight hundred pages”. I think it’s actually 682!
Never mind the length – it’s the quality that matters!

Design Notes – The exact designer of this edition is not stated in the Sandglass. The LEC Monthly Letter for this edition, however, illuminates the likely designer to be Victor Oliva, printer of the original 1933 LEC edition of Quixote. Why do I posit that? Well, Macy says that this book features the “self-same text” from the 1933 edition. Spain was apparently not an option for this edition, which is a bit of a shame (the 1933 edition was, FYI), but Macy felt Mexico was a solid alternative. The text selection was Bodoni, decorated with custom initials. This was originally set and printed at the Imprenta Nuevo Mundo for the LEC issuing, and the Heritage copyright page states that it was done there as well. Legrand’s artwork was reproduced by Paris’ Georges Duval, who then sent the prints to the Meriden Gravure Company for the Heritage run. The binding is also an international affair — bright yellow cloth from England, marbled papers for the boards from France. The bindery is absent here, alas, but the LEC was done by the standards at Russell-Rutter; it’s safe to suppose they had their hands in this edition, too.


Slipcase – The paper for this slipcase from Italy.


Title Page – Irwin Edman wrote up a short introduction, with John Ormsby serving as both translator and preface writer. He did his translation in 1885, but the Club felt his was the most scholarly choice for their readers. There’s quite a bit of talk about Samuel Putnam in the Sandglass, whose translation of Quixote was just released (and its publishers urged Macy to consider it for his second LEC edition!), but the ultimate decision was to pass on it due to an earlier transaction with Putnam. In 1928, Macy acquired a three volume work of Rabelais that Putnam translated, and found that the work did not hold up a decade later. Thus, the decision to go with Ormsby. Victor Oliva contributed additional notes.

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

Personal Notes – I’ve spent YEARS looking for a good copy of Quixote. I’ve not had the greatest luck, as the two copies I saw before this one were in horrendous condition and curiously overpriced. Luckily, I came across this one last year in Dublin, CA at Half Price Books, which was complete and in very good condition save a prior owner’s nom de plume on the front endpaper. The price was right at about $10, too, so I snagged it and am happy to finally have my own copy! I’ll have to read it some day!

* = featherwate made a slight error here; Fritz Kredel was the illustrator of Henry V, not Fritz Eichenberg. It happens!

Sandglass (right click and select Open in New Tab to see full size):

Heritage Press – The Chronicle of the Cid, translated by Robert Southey (1958)

November 7, 2014 Comments Off on Heritage Press – The Chronicle of the Cid, translated by Robert Southey (1958)

The Chronicle of the Cid, translated by Robert Southey (1958)
Sandglass Number VI:23
Artwork: Illustrations by René Ben Sussan
Introduced by V.S. Pritchett
Reprint of LEC #289, 26th Series, V. 10, in 1958.

Click images for larger views.


Front Binding – First of all, it’s nice to return to writing about these books. The last few months have been remarkably hectic, stressful and harried. While there are some things I still need to do for my future, I desperately needed an outlet to write. Sharing the beautiful titles George Macy and his family produced is a fine way to accomplish that.

Anyway, let’s focus in on The Chronicle of the Cid, our selection for today. The Cid (pronounced “Sid” in English; “Theed” in Spanish) is essentially the Spanish equivalent of King Arthur in terms of hero and myth. The Spanish legend was rendered into the English language by Robert Southey, a productive (if not exactly prodigious in terms of the modern English pantheon) poet and essayist, which he finished in 1808, some 700 years after the death of The Cid (aka Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar). This was the sole work Southey had produced by the George Macy Company and its subsequent presses.

We get to introduce René Ben Sussan to the blog readership today, a man who certainly devoted a fair amount of his artistic time to George Macy’s books. Here is a biography of the commissions Ben Sussan took on for the presses:

The School of Scandal, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 1934 (LEC)
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens, 1938 (Heritage only, part of the Heritage Dickens series)
Old Goriot, Honore de Balzac, 1948 (LEC, was part of the Heritage/Nonesuch French Romances series, and that edition came out in 1949)
Volpone, or the Fox, Ben Jonson, 1952 (LEC)
The Rivals, Richard Brinslet Sheridan, 1953 (LEC)
The Chronicle of the Cid, Robert Southey, 1958 (LEC/Heritage)
Eugenie Grandet, Honore de Balzac, 1960 (LEC/Heritage)
The Memoirs of Casanova, 1972 (LEC)

Of note is the two-for-one issue of The Rivals and The School for Scandal for the Heritage Press. One seller lists a Sandglass of VI:18, which GMD member featherwate passed along some info on:

Sandglass VI:18 is from November 1953, and says:
“a most unusual book, a book in which Sheridan’s two great comedies are printed together, the text and the illustrations being borrowed from that edition of The School for Scandal which The Limited Editions Club published in 1934, and from that edition of The Rivals which The Limited Editions Club distributed to its lucky members only last year.”

Only last year should mean 1952, but according to Bill Majure’s guide, the LEC Rivals did not come out until September 1953 – only two months before the two-in-one HP volume. Maybe it had been intended to come out in 1952, but had been delayed. 1953 was an unusual year: it saw LEC members receiving three plays (the first two of them illustrated by ben Sussan!) in the space of five months: Volpone in July, The Rivals in September and Cyrano in November. That sounds as if there had had to be some last-minute reshuffling of the LEC Twenty-third Series. If anyone has the Prospectus for that series it might provider [sp] a clue…

Ben Sussan has a rather distinctive style that, for me at least, can clash with my perceptions of artistic aesthetic. However, I feel that with The Cid his gouache drawings fit in quite nicely with the text. The color choices, linework and blending of medieval and modern sensibilities are wonderfully executed, and out of the books I’ve seen of his art, this is the pinnacle.

Design Notes – Ben Sussan also designed the book, utilizing frequent Macy designer Jan van Krimpen’s Romulus Bold as the primary font. This was set at the Enschedé, a printing house in Holland, and the Heritage edition was taken from vinylite moulds of the LEC text by New York’s Ferris Printing Company. The Warren Paper Company of Maine supplied the paper. Ben Sussan’s work was reprinted by Kellogg & Bulkeley of Connecticut, and the books were bound by the ever-present Russell-Rutter Company, who seemingly bound 90% or so of the Heritage Press catalog. The binding features Ben Sussan’s lovely Moorish pattern that sold me on this book before I even opened it.




Title Page – V.S. Pritchett was called upon to write up an introduction.

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

Personal Notes – I purchased this from Bookbuyers in Monterey a few years ago on store credit, if memory serves. The distinctive binding, as I mentioned before, caught my eye. I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, but the Sandglass does a splendid job of making it sound intriguing!

Sandglass (right click and select Open in New Tab to see full size):

Updated 11/14/2014 by JF

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