Of Interest: Illinois Gear & Machine Co. Heritage Press Volumes

December 31, 2018 Comments Off on Of Interest: Illinois Gear & Machine Co. Heritage Press Volumes

It was brought to my attention that the Heritage Press created several exclusive variants of their volumes for the Illinois Gear & Machine Co. As my good friend Django6924 explains:

The Illinois Gear books were a special lot done produced over several years for that Chicago Company to give as gifts. This was on a different business plan than the leather-bound editions of books such as the HP David Copperfield, Leaves of Grass, Life on the Mississippi, etc., which were offered to Club members during the regular series. The Illinois Gear books look very much to be forerunners of the Easton Press editions, with silk moiré end papers and elaborate gilt tooling on the leather binding. Mine has the tipped-in, slip sheeted presentation page (but no name handwritten in the “Especially For” blank), and is the letterpress-printed Tales of the Gold Rush by Bret Harte. The copyright date is 1944, the date of the original, and that may be when the pages were actually printed as the paper and printing look to be much earlier than what was typical by the 1969 date on the presentation page.

The leather binding on my copy is very durable pebble-grained leather. It is much superior to the leather used on my HP Rubaiyat, Song of Songs, and David Copperfield, which were offered to Heritage Club members at a price premium during the regular subscription series. Although I don’t care for the pasted-in silk moiré endpapers, the book is very handsome and still looks new.

Michael Bussacco had produced a list of known titles released in this subset of publications, which GMD user astronauteric expanded upon in this thread. Here’s a typed version of the entire list:

1954 The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon by Washington Irving
1955 Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
1956 The Romance of Leonardo Da Vinci
1957 Life of Rembrandt
1958 This is the Hour: A Novel about Goya
1959 Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
1960 The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
1961 Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace
1962 The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
1963 Kim by Rudyard Kipling
1964 The Spy by James Fenimore Cooper
1965 The Ambassadors by Henry James
1966 Stories of O. Henry
1967 Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana
1968 The Mill and the Floss by George Eliot
1969 Tales of the Gold Rush by Bret Harte
1970 Cape Cod by Henry David Thoreau
1971 The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

1972 would be the year (thereabouts) MBI bought the Heritage Press from Jonathan Macy, so it is fitting that these editions would end following that transaction.

The notable differences are the bindings, of course, which are rather nice leather-bound covers with exquisite design work. Slipcases were also included, and feature an additional title page with the company’s name and a space for a particular client/customer name to be added.

I do not own any of these nor have I come across one in my travels, but there are a few links to samples in the above link. If I do see one at a reasonable price I’ll be sure to pick it up and catalog it here!


Limited Editions Club: The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

December 30, 2018 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club: The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Watercolors by Pierre Brissaud. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #897 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Our previous LEC Shakespeare editions have both been from the Bard’s histories — let’s mix it up a bit and highlight a comedic effort from the playwright, The Two Gentlemen of Verona. This is one of Shakespeare’s earlier efforts, originally composed in 1594 or so, and features some of his favorite methods of comedic effect, the act of hidden identity (Julia disguising herself as a male page to lead Proteus, whom she loves) and setting up the main characters to suddenly come at odds over a particular subject (in this case, the duke of Milan’s daughter Silvia), to ultimately have all of the odds and ends come to a close in a jolly manner. It may not be as highly revered as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it’s still a great piece of humorous theatre.

Its artist will not be a new face to you if you’ve followed our coverage of these books for some time, as it is Pierre Brissaud, appearing in his first Limited Editions Club release. Brissaud is one of my favorite illustrators in the Macy canon, and this book showcases his talent quite well with its exquisite reproductions of his watercolors of scenes of the play. The Newsletter makes an interesting comment about his upcoming commissions, which I find fascinating: Cyrano de Bergerac, of which I’ve discussed thoroughly in its own post, is mentioned here as his next project for release for the Heritage Press! This does seem to fit in with the details I’ve laid out in that post, but it’s still a bit of a surprise. However, this is not unexpected; George Macy happily had the Heritage Press publishing its own spins on classic works at this point of its history along with LEC reprints, so I guess I have more of a definitive answer for that particular publication history. Of course, that was delayed due to World War II’s genesis, but it was ultimately issued as both a LEC and Heritage title in 1954. Another title impacted by the War was his next project, Madame Bovary for the Nonesuch Press. That commission would go on to be a LEC and join the Heritage/Nonesuch French Romances series, but it was in the works already at this early phase. Brissaud’s bibliography is in my post for Cyrano de Bergerac.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text and illustrations, while Brissaud’s watercolors were reproduced via collotype plates by Georges Duval and then colored by Beaufumè of Paris.

Title Page – As with the entire set, Herbert Farjeon handled editing duties.

Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This is from the 897th set.

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

Personal Notes – This was one of five LEC Shakespeare volumes sent to me by a fan of the blog. As noted with King John I was taken aback by the kind offer and very thankful to have these added to my library, especially this one, given how much I love Brissaud’s work.

LEC Newsletter and Ephemera

A neat curio included in my copy is a secondary letter discussing the design of a box to hold the LEC Shakespeare; I’ve included it below.

Limited Editions Club – The Physiology of Taste by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1949)

December 27, 2018 § 2 Comments

The Physiology of Taste by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1949)
LEC #201/19th Series V. 5 in 1949
Artwork: Color drawings by Sylvain Sauvage
Translated, edited, preface by M.F.K. Fisher, with additional preface by the author

#1060 of 1500. Heritage Press edition available.

Click to see larger views.

Front Binding – Hello friends, we have returned with new posts! We will take a short break from Shakespeare to instead focus in on a vastly different work, The Physiology of Taste. Its author, lawyer and politician Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, published the work shortly before his death, and the extended essay tackles the topic of gastronomy (the study of food and culture). It popularized the concept of a low-carb diet, as well as extolling the virtues of food and drink. It has never been out of print since its original 1825 pub date, and in 1949 the Limited Editions Club commissioned a brand new translation by food critic M.F.K. Fisher, who commented how blessed she was to be able to perform this task. The Heritage Press would reissue this later on.

Brillat-Savarin only had this sole title printed by Macy, but its illustrator, Sylvain Sauvage, has had a far more diverse portfolio for the two George Macy Company publishing houses. I go over his bibliography in my post on Zadig, which shares one particular trait with this edition; it was published after Sauvage passed away. Here his drawings are colored simply, without the rich watercolors seen in Zadig or Cyrano de Bergerac. I suspect this may have to do with Sauvage’s death, but the colophon and Quarto-Millenary don’t address WHO exactly did the coloring for this book to begin with, so for now I’ll let the thought lie.

Design Notes – Here’s what the Quarto-Millenary has to say about the design:

The colophon notes Herbert Rau did the prints of the illustrations via rubber line-plates.

Spine – As you can see, the spine here is not doing super well. A common problem with certain LEC volumes with pigskin leather is that it has shown a high tendency to flake, and this copy is suffering such a fate. According to GMD member Glacierman:

The problem with pigskin is that unless it is used at full thickness, it is weak and prone to rapid wear. It appears to me that they probably split the hides used for this book resulting in a weak leather. I have several books bound in pigskin where it was used full thickness and the bindings on these are tough as nails.


Title Page – Fisher was heavily involved with this publication, translating the entire work, adding in several annotations, performing some editing, and writing a preface. A preface from the author is also included.

Colophon – This is #1060 of 1500, and was issued unsigned due to Sauvage’s passing.

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

Personal Notes – I purchased this from Old Capitol Books in Monterey on my recent vacation. While the spine is concerning, it is otherwise in excellent condition.

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