Limited Editions Club/Heritage Press: The Book of Ruth (1947)

The Book of Ruth (1947)
LEC #184/17th Series, V. 11 in 1947
Artwork: Illustrations by Arthur Szyk
Translation Prepared at Cambridge in 1611 for King James I, Introduced by Mary Ellen Chase
LEC #278 of 1500. Heritage Press reprint, see lower half of this post.

Click images for a larger view.

Front Binding – On occasion George Macy branched the Limited Editions Club’s limitation number beyond the typical 1500. Of course, the inverse also happened during the tight rationing of paper and dipping membership during World War II, but the increased limitation was a deliberate choice of the Club’s to really promote specific editions that Macy was particularly excited about. Examples of this include the LEC Shakespeare, the Evergreen Tales, The Wind in the Willows, and the two “Books” from the King James Bible, one of which is spotlighted here, The Book of Ruth.

This was a special pair of books that share several common elements: both designed by George Macy himself, both featuring an introduction by prominent New England educator, author and Bible scholar Mary Ellen Chase, and both starring the visual splendors of artist Arthur Szyk. 1946 marked a memorable debut from the talented Szyk, as The Book of Job, the first volume of the duo, came out in 1946 alongside the Heritage exclusive The Rubaiyat and one of two spotlights the Heritage Club issued of illustrators, Ink and Blood. This was a limited edition of 1000 copies, and is among the more coveted Heritage exclusives out there. The Canterbury Tales followed later in 1946, with the second in the duo, The Book of Ruth on its heels in the same series, coming out in 1947. He contributed to the first set of Evergreen Tales, illustrating “The Story of Joseph and His Brothers”, which came out 1949, and the final commission was an exquisite rendering of The Arabian Nights Entertainments in 1954. This was issued posthumously as he passed away in 1951. Szyk specialized in miniature paintings, calligraphy and illumination, and put these talents on display in all of his contributions to the George Macy Company. Historicana has a great site on his legacy if you’d like to learn more about his craft and technique.

Design Notes – As noted, George Macy stepped into the designer shoes for this edition, and the Quarto details the following:

One item of note: both Ruth and Job are bound in sheepskin leather, and it is a material that degrades more rapidly than other leathers. Thus, it has been difficult to come across these books in fine or near fine condition because of the leather. Mine I would say are very good +; as you can see above and below on the spine, there’s some pieces that have flaked off.

Spine

Slipcase

Title Page –  The Book of Ruth’s translation comes straight from the King James Bible, and Mary Ellen Chase provides the preface to the work.

Colophon – This is #1622 of 1950, and was signed by Szyk.

Page 12 – 13 – Words really can’t express Szyk’s talent, so I’ll just let these marvels vouch for themselves.

Page 42

Personal Notes – I wrote the below post (well, I deleted a lot of it as it wasn’t really informative) in 2011, and have wanted these books ever since, haha. Szyk’s LECs have eluded me until 2020, when I finally got the first set of Evergreen Tales, but those were all unsigned. However, devotee NYCFAddict gave me an opportunity and a half with several acquisitions, with these standing tall among the many books he sold me. I love them so much! And got a pretty great deal on them too. Expect The Book of Job exactly one year from now!

The Book of Ruth (1947)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Illustrations by Arthur Szyk
Translation Prepared at Cambridge in 1611 for King James I,
Introduced by Mary Ellen Chase
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #184/17th Series, V. 11 in 1947

Click images for a larger view.

Front Binding – While this is not as lavish a treatment as the LEC original is, I do have to say that the Heritage makes an admirable attempt at replicating the luxurious design with a lower budget. It even redoes the Szyk linework remarkably well on the cloth binding. This is a library copy I no longer have easy access to, so I can’t elaborate on its design particulars.

Title Page –  The reproductions of Szyk’s illustrations is also well handled. They aren’t quite as crisp or colorful, but they certainly are excellent.

Page 13

Page 42

Personal Notes – I checked this out from my old hometown library a decade ago! I’ve been wanting this ever since, haha. Luckily I have the LEC now!

Updated 9/13/21 ~ JF

2 thoughts on “Limited Editions Club/Heritage Press: The Book of Ruth (1947)”

  1. It is a very interesting book, incredible illustrations. I found a copy on the book shelf swap at the local supermarket. One I have is different slightly. Back cover is blank and front has another print of the first illustration. Be interesting to know why.

    1. Hi Matthew,

      Hm, sounds like you’ve found a different printing. The Heritage Press did release variant editions of their books depending on certain factors, so that’s probably why yours is a bit different. Could you tell me the publication info, i.e. New York, Norwalk, CT or Avon, CT? I may be able to go into more specifics for you.

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