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

  • Daniel Polvere says:

    Glad to see you posting again with some frequency. I did not know prior to this post that MFK Fisher’s translation, intro and annotations were done for this limited edition. I am aware of several versions of her translation (I think Penguin has one out), perhaps with her notes etc. I wonder if any of our LEC experts can tell us if a deal was made between Macy and Fisher to allow other editions. Given all the work she did on this, it seems very possible.

    Despite the spine issue, I will now look for a copy.

    • WildcatJF says:

      Hi Daniel,

      The Monthly Letter for the book (which I will post in the near future) makes quite a ruckus out of Fisher performing the translation for the LEC; they even comment that it may have been the “best-paid-for translation in modern history”. As for the licensing of the translation, the Letter makes no point of addressing the notion (unsurprisingly) and I personally do not know the answer. I’ll pitch it over to the Devotees and see if they have any idea. Thanks for commenting!

      ~ Jerry

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