Limited Editions Club: The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad (1985)

The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad (1985)
LEC #535/47th Series V. 10 in 1983-1985
Artwork: Etchings by Bruce Chandler
Introduced by Ian Watt
LEC #1315 of 1500. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Happy 2020, dear readers! It’s hard to believe this blog will be hitting its 10th anniversary in December. I’ve been collecting LECs and Heritage Press titles for a little longer than that, but I can say that the passion for tracking down and documenting these books has been part and parcel of running the Imagery, and I want to thank everyone I’ve met along the way who has provided information, comments, or even books on this journey. A more elaborate anniversary post will come much later in the year.

So, let’s get down to brass tacks and discuss the SECOND Sidney Shiff-era book I’ve covered in these ten years: Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Sharer. Shiff’s ownership began in 1978, and he transitioned the Limited Editions Club from Cardevon’s higher subscription count and slightly downgraded publications compared to the Macy family over the 1980s into Livres d’Artiste editions with highly renowned artists and mostly contemporary works of fiction, poetry and prose, with hugely reduced subscription counts and far more exquisite materials utilized for his books. Looking at the bibliography, you can observe the books produced in each series to slowly reduce in count and increase in the years covered over the 80s, with the 1990s dissolving the series idea altogether and entire years going by with no books being issued. Because of all of these factors, it can be difficult to come across Shiff’s titles in the LEC due to their lower limitations and inflated pricing. Thus, why I’ve infrequently covered his tenure of the Club. In fact, the very last time I did was in December 2010 with the 1982 edition of The House of the Dead!

Conrad, however, was not an infrequent author in the LEC — eight books in total were issued by the Club beginning with Lord Jim in 1959, starring the talents of Lynd Ward; next came Nostromo, featuring Lima de Freitas’ illustrations and issued in 1961; next was The N***** of the Narcissus* in 1965 with art from Millard Sheets; Heart of Darkness, perhaps Conrad’s most resounding novel, came next in 1969 with Robert Shore serving as artist; a collection of three shorter stories, Youth, Typhoon, and The End of the Tether, would come in 1972 with Shore returning as its visualizer; Shore would go to bat one more time with 1975’s issuing of An Outcast of the Islands; next was The Secret Sharer in 1985, followed up with a second attempt at Heart of Darkness in 1992, with modernist painter Sean Scully’s abstractions serving as its decor. An interesting fact about Conrad is his name — he was born Joseph Theodor Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski, which was shortened to Joseph Conrad after joining the English Merchant Navy once he had departed his native Poland. His days in the Navy took him to Colombia, Haiti, Australia and what is now Congo (the inspiration for Heart of Darkness), eventually settling in Kent in the UK and beginning his author career.

For this book, Shiff recruited Bruce Chandler to do some etchings — three total are included, and they’re pretty smashing, I have to say. Chandler also contributed to Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman LEC, which was issued in 1984. His three etchings diversify in technique and execution, and were even printed at different print shops: the first, a surface roll mostly of blue inks, was printed at the Heron Press, Chandler’s own printery; the second, featuring aquatint, line etching, roulette and burnishing, was done at Water Street Press by Maureen Kane; with the third, a drypoint printed with a roll of a sand color, handled by R.E. Townsend.

Design Notes – Ben Shiff and Bruce Chandler served as co-designers for this book. As one might surmise, Ben is indeed the son of Sid Shiff, and the two did collaborate on several books in the 1980s. Darrell Hyder served as the printer, placing the text on 100% cotton mould-made letterpress paper supplied by Cartiere Enrico Magnani, based in Pescia, Italy. The font is 13 point Monotype Van Dikck, created by the Mackenzie-Harris Corporation of San Francisco. The prints were printed on hand-made printmaking paper from the same shop. General Bookbindery handled the bindery details, with the cover and casing-in done by Denis Gouey (his first for the LEC). The binding is handwoven silk from Thailand with an inlay of goat leather from Nigerian Oasis, with the title stamped in gold. The box was created by Jovonis Bookbindery.

The design of this book reminds me a lot of journals I came across in my museum collections job; a elegantly simple but classy binding in blue, with the title gold stamped placed top center on a goat leather strip, and nothing at all on the spine. Really does feel like a piece of history taken from a ship’s library, and I kind of love it.



Title Page – The title is printed in blue, which my photograph doesn’t express super well, so my apologies. Ian Watt provides an introduction.

Colophon – This is #1315 of 1500, and Chandler signed the colophon.

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

Personal Notes – As seems to be usual as of late, this is yet another wonderful donation from a blog fan who continues to amaze me with their kindness. My everlasting thanks.

*- Note: I refuse to utilize the full spelling of the word “n*****” on this blog. As a person who is of European ancestry keenly aware of the horrific and racist history of the term due to my academic discipline in anthropology, I feel it is wildly inappropriate for me, as someone who is white and likely descended from people who may have owned slaves at some point, to type it out given its ramifications, even though it is a title of a written work and does not reflect my opinion or perspective in any way by retyping it. It is a principal I deeply carry out of respect for anyone of African heritage who may come to my blog to feel that this is a safe space for them to peruse. I hope you understand my reasoning for choosing to censor.