Limited Editions Club: Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (1935)

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (1935)
LEC #65/6th Series V. 6 in 1935
Artwork: Illustrations by John Tenniel re-engraved by Frederic Warde
Introduced by Carl Van Doren
LEC #278 of 1500. Heritage Press reissued.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Well. This is something I never thought I’d be publishing on the blog as a part of my personal collection! From the Macy period, there’s many a book that command high prices in order to procure — most infamous is the Henri Matisse Ulysses (especially if you examine one of the James Joyce signature copies!), Pablo Picasso’s Lysistrata, and Robert Frost’s poems (which he signed) — but among those lie the two editions of Lewis Carroll’s popular and surreal “Alice” novels. Both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (issued in the 3rd series in 1932) and our featured book provided the members an option to have the “original Alice” herself, Alice Hargreaves (Liddell), sign the colophon. While my copy of Through the Looking Glass ended up being unsigned (which was not entirely unsurprising given the price I paid for it), it did come with the best kind of ephemera — the letter from the Club asking if you wanted to have Hargreaves sign the book:

Considering the quadrupling of the price of what I paid for an unsigned copy ($400 before discounts) for one with Alice’s signature I’ve seen on average, a $2 fee seems like a pittance! Sadly I did not get the mentioned letter from Alice’s son Captain C.L. Hargreaves.

Macy did write out the process of acquiring Hargreaves’ participation in this project in the Quarto:

Lewis Carroll, best known for these novels in the world of literature, ended his LEC career here, but given the prestige that surround these editions now, one might say they are among the finest reprints of his work ever done. The Heritage Press did reprints of these as well, both for the regular membership and the Illustrated Bookshelf series.

John Tenniel would also end his two book run here with this edition, following Alice. The unfortunate thing is that Tenniel had long since passed away by the time Macy got this project up and running, never seeing how incredibly well his original illustrations came out within these pages. During his lifetime, printers routinely botched the printing of them, which must have been disheartening. Frederic Warde, the designer of both books, took it upon himself to entirely re-engrave all of Tenniel’s iconic drawings in metal, rendering his delightful and imaginative art with a newfound clarity and sharpness missing in earlier reproductions.

Design Notes – As noted, Warde was the designer of this book following his success from Alice. From the Quarto:

 

Spine

Slipcase – In a curious twist of fate, this book was nestled inside Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland‘s slipcase! Sadly, that item was not available, so I’ll likely be stuck with this slipcase for TtLG.

Title Page – Seeing Tenniel’s illustrations in their originally intended vibrancy is a gift all in itself. Unobserved here is the introduction by Carl Van Doren, a fairly frequent guest to the LEC and judge of the Macy-associated Readers Club.

Colophon – This is #278 of 1500, and as you can see, this was not signed by Hargreaves. I don’t know if the member declined or lost out in the lottery…

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

Personal Notes – Two months ago I was looking at Powells.com for some good LEC deals as I had just gotten a 30% off coupon in my email, and alongside wishlist items like the two Sylvain Sauvage-illustrated Anatole France LECs and another of the first series (Two Medieval Tales) sat Through the Looking Glass at a far more reasonable price than I’ve ever seen before. It was still expensive, mind, but within the realms of me affording it without breaking the bank — and that was before the discount! Imagine my elation when I added it to my cart and saw over $100 vanish! Haha. While it’s not signed by either Hargreaves or Warde, I’m okay with that. The letter and illustrations kinda makes up for it! Definitely a favorite now that I have it.