The Adventures of Simplicius Simplicissimus by Johann Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen (1981)
LEC #514/45th Series V. 11 in 1981
Artwork: Wood engravings by Fritz Eichenberg
Translated and Introduced by John P. Spielman
LEC #1116 of 2000. LEC Exclusive.
Click images to see larger views.
Front Binding – It’s been a little while since we’ve covered a Shiff edition (The Secret Sharer way back in early 2020), so I think it’s high time to return to his tenure with one of my personal highlights: 1981’s The Adventures of Simplicius Simplicissimus by Johann Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen. Grimmelshausen penned the tale in his native Germany in 1669 to general acclaim, serving as Germany’s answer to Don Quixote and Robinson Crusoe. Witty, imaginative, and critical, Grimmelshausen’s work took nearly 300 years to receive a full English translation, which arrived in 1912. Two later stabs took place in the 1960s, but none ever delivered the full text until this edition emerged in 1981 with John Spielman’s handiwork rendering the sardonic text into English.
Grimmelshausen’s primary career was an estate agent and tavern keeper, ending up as mayor of the small town of Renchen thanks to his father-in-law’s influence. However, his passion was in writing, and spent many of his free hours primarily at his desk crafting stories. Beyond Simplicissimus, his best known work was The Vagabond Courasche, made contemporary by Bertolt Brecht’s drama Mother Courage. At the age of 54, in the middle of his return to serving in the military as he did in his youth, he passed away of unstated causes. This would be his only LEC, but it’s a stunning one!
The illustrator, meanwhile, needs little introduction at this point: it’s Fritz Eichenberg, legendary engraver and artist who had the longest run in the role in the LEC canon. Beginning his run in 1939 with Richard the Third for the LEC Shakespeare (however, he truly began working with George Macy in 1938 with the Heritage Crime and Punishment), this would be his third to last commission before his death in 1990. He was 82 when Shiff approached him for this task, and he delivered some of his most detailed and beautiful handiwork in Simplicissimus. A complete bibliography can be found here.
Design Notes – I got the letter with the announcement with this copy so I’ll let that speak for me:
Antonie Eichenberg is Fritz’s wife, by the by, and it’s absolutely delightful both collaborated on this book. Personally, the design is among my favorites in the Shiff period, with the classy embossed cover and 18 amazing full page wood engravings from Eichenberg. It’s also huge!
Closeup of Emboss
Title Page – John P. Spielman handled translation duties for this one, and provides an uncredited introduction as well. Shiff considers it essential to best understand the text!
Colophon – This is #1116 of 2000, and was signed by Eichenberg.
Examples of Eichenberg’s illustrations (right click and open in new tab for full size):
Personal Notes – This is another I bought from Devotee NYCFAddict a few years ago. This one is definitely among the ones I was really ecstatic to pick up, and seeing its glories made my hopes seem small in comparison, haha. Definitely among my favorites of the Shiff period.