Trivia: The 10 Most Frequent Artists in the LEC

May 28, 2016 § 2 Comments

Hey, remember the trivia category? Well, I’m bringing it back. This time, let’s examine who George Macy and the subsequent owners of the Limited Editions Club commissioned the most over the Club’s long tenure!

10) Sylvain Sauvage (7)
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Sauvage illustrated several French classics for the LEC, including Cyrano de Bergerac, The History of Zadig (pictured), and two works of Anatole France, The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard and At the Sign of the Queen Pedauque. He also handled As You Like It in the LEC Shakespeare.

9) Rene ben Sussan (8)
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ben Sussan had two commissions of Honore de Balzac, rendering the worlds of Old Goriot   and Eugenie Grandet as part of his eight titles for the LEC. He also had a hand in English drama, providing art for Jonson’s Volpone, the Fox and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Pictured is The Chronicle of the Cid.

8) John Austen (8)
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Several British works were illustrated by Austen: Vanity Fair (pictured), The Comedy of Errors, The Faerie Queene, The Pickwick Club, and The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle. He also branched out a little with Aristophanes’ The Birds.

7) Agnes Miller Parker (8)
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The sole woman on our list, Parker’s exquisite woodcuts brought life to all of Thomas Hardy’s novels printed by the Club, as well as The Faerie Queene (pictured), Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard, Richard the Second, and The Poems of Shakespeare.

6) T.M. Cleland (8)
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A talented designer as well as artist, Cleland’s artistic gifts were displayed a little less frequently, but often enough to earn a place on our list. Some of his works include The Decameron, The History of Tom Jones, The Way of the World, She Stoops to Conquer and The Life and Times of Tristan Shandy, Gentleman. Pictured is Monsieur Beauclaire.

5) Valenti Angelo (12)
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The simplistic yet stylistic grace of Angelo graced a dozen books of the LEC, and several of them are masterworks of literature: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, The House of the Seven Gables, The Books of a Thousand Nights and a Night, Songs of the Portuguese,  and several religious texts, like The Koran, The Book of Proverbs and The Book of Psalms. Pictured is The Song of Roland.

4) Lynd Ward (13)
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Ward’s thirteen contributions mark him as one of the most prominent illustrators for Macy, and he didn’t even work on the LEC Shakespeare like the majority of the others on this list! Ward’s commissions ranged from non-fiction works such as Rights of Man and On Conciliation with America to fantastical works such as Beowulf and Idylls of the King to contemporary works like The Innocent Voyage (pictured) and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

3) Fritz Eichenberg (15)
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The gifted Eichenberg worked the longest stretch of any of our artists; his first commission was 1939’s Richard the Third for the LEC Shakespeare to 1986’s The Diary of a Country Priest. One of the few to work under late Club owner Sid Shiff, Eichenberg’s output left the LEC a lasting legacy that is difficult to ignore. Best known for his work on the Russian legends of literature, including Eugene Onegin, Crime and Punishment (pictured), Fathers and Sons, and Childhood, Boyhood, Youth.

2) Edward A. Wilson (17)

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Wilson was productive, to say the least; he even had his own Heritage volume detailing his artwork! Among the many classics he brought visual splendor to are Westward Ho! (pictured), Treasure Island, The Tempest, Robinson Crusoe, Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

1) Fritz Kredel (20)
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And finally we come to Fritz Kredel, the king of illustrating for the LEC with a massive twenty volumes! Many collections of fairy tales were conjured by Kredel, including both Andersen (pictured) and the Brothers Grimm. Two Shakespeares, two Trollopes, two Twains, Thackeray, Darwin, Austen, Plato and Heine were among the literary giants Kredel decorated for Macy, and his talent was certainly up to such a diverse palette of books.

Next time, we’ll explore the most frequent Heritage Press artists in terms of their exclusives. We’ll see how many of these artisans cross over!

Limited Editions Club: The Life of King Henry IV, Part I by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

May 28, 2016 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club: The Life of King Henry IV, Part I by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

The Life of King Henry IV, Part I by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Lithographs in color by Barnett Freedman. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #507 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

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Front Binding – Long time no see, friends — I apologize for the hiatus.

This post brings my blog its first glimpse into the fabled LEC Shakespeare; a 37 volume opus of book publishing that stands as some of the finest in the canon of the Limited Editions Club. I’ve covered the series loosely before, posting a list of the series and its illustrators some time ago. However, I didn’t expect to stumble upon the a part of the set any time soon; most of my book haunts prior to my move lacked any of the LEC Shakespeare, and I’ve only come across one other book before this one in my travels, and I didn’t have the money to purchase it then. And yet here we are, with a “complete” edition of Henry the Fourth, Part I.

The goal of the LEC Shakespeare was to celebrate the greatest author in the English language with a deluxe printing of all of the Bard’s plays and poems, designed by the masterful Bruce Rogers, printed by the leading experts in publishing, and featuring some of the finest artistic talents in book illustration decorating each volume in its own unique way. George Macy wanted this series to be the 20th century’s definitive publication of Shakespeare, and based on this admittedly limited exposure to the series, the goal was met. This edition of Henry IV Part I is a culmination of amazing design, artwork, and printing synergy.

Rogers’ is perhaps the LEC’s greatest designer, and this set is among his finest. The binding is a lovely recreation of Elizabethan era fabric and motifs. The font choice and layout is ideal for a book of this size. And the execution of these design plans were delightfully executed by printing house and bindery A. Colish.

However, the real standout of this book is the stunning reproduction of Barnett Freedman’s lithographs. Freedman hasn’t been my favorite artist in the Club’s canon, as noted in my earlier discussion of his work in Anna Karenina. Here, though? My goodness, the reprinting of his color lithographs is stunning. His auto-lithographs were pulled by the Curwen Press, and Freedman ignored the top and bottom margins, making his oblong prints stylistically stand out not only in craft but in composition. The colors were stone-specific, as is the case with the lithographic process, so once again marvel at the expertise of both artist and printer to make these separate components unite so successfully. The quality of these prints is literally beyond anything else I’ve seen of Freedman’s, and arguably above several other LEC volumes. It’s divine. The colors are crisp, luscious and deep; the artistry of Freedman’s linework nigh-perfect. And that may be the greatest strength of this set — the attention to printing detail is exceptional.

Before moving on, let us recap Shakespeare’s publication history with the Clubs here. Amazingly, I haven’t done that yet! William Shakespeare had 41 unique publications in the LEC, if I were to include the 37 plays in this series as individual works (again, the complete LEC Shakespeare is here). The other LECs include:
Hamlet, illustrated by Eric Gill, 1933.
Poems and Sonnets, 2 volumes, designed by Bruce Rogers, 1941 (these are designed to match the 1939-1940 plays).
The Life of Henry V. Illustrated by Fritz Kredel, modeled after the Olivier film, 1951.
Poems, illustrated by Agnes Miller Parker, 1967. (I have a Heritage copy on the blog)

The Heritage Press had five exclusive Shakespeare publications as well.

Romeo and Juliet, illustrated by Sylvain Sauvage, 1935. This is one of the “First Six” Heritage Press books, and some copies are a deluxe edition signed by Sauvage.
Sonnets, illustrated by Valenti Angelo, 1941.
The Complete Histories, Tragedies and Comedies of Shakespeare, illustrated by John Farleigh, Agnes Miller Parker and Edward Ardizzone (respectively), 1958.

If you want to know more about this particular set, you can’t go wrong with the extensive report of fellow enthusiast Chris at Books and Vines.

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Title Page – I don’t really know if my camera can do these illustrations justice. They really are gorgeous, but I don’t think I have the optimal lighting setup to convey this correctly. The text is taken from the First Folio and some Quarto insertions, and Herbert Farjeon served as editor.

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Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This volume came from the 507th set.

Examples of Freedman’s Illustrations (right click and open in new tab for full size):

Personal Notes – This came from the Bookstore in Chico, CA. Only 38 more to go…but I’m happy to have this one. It is a little worn on the outside, but the inside is exquisite.

Shakespeare Commentary forthcoming

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