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

Limited Editions Club/Heritage Press: Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes (1933/1950)

Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes (1933)
LEC #48, 4th Series, V. 12
Artwork: Illustrations by Enric-Cristobal Ricart
Translated and introduced by John Ormsby
LEC did a second edition of this work in 1950; see below for this edition.
#1384 of 1500

Click images for larger views.

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The Spanish classic to end all of their classics, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s Don Quixote, is today’s subject once again now that I have ALL of the variants. The original post focused on the second LEC and its Heritage reprint, but I want to add in the 1933 exclusive for comparative purposes.

The Limited Editions Club seemingly liked this work more than others, as this is the first time the Club dipped into that well with this 1933 LEC exclusive that featured the illustration talents of Enric-Cristobal Ricart, and was distributed in two volumes. As you’ll see below, Edy Legrand stepped into the artist role in 1950 for a second treatment. Cervantes is best known for this mighty novel, one of the earliest and most famous in all of literature. Don Quixote’s misadventures are legendary and even coined the term “quixotic”, an adjective meaning “exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical.” Which is pretty much what the good Don is tragically all about. The LEC did not touch his other work, but two incredible productions of his iconic fiction is certainly a testament to its quality.

This edition is all about Spain, which is fitting given its author’s Spanish roots. It was designed, printed and illustrated in Spain on Spanish paper; only the binding was handled in the United States. The art for this edition was by wood engraver Enric-Cristobal Ricart, a well regarded artist in his home country. Ricart would make one more stop in the annals of the George Macy Company with his contribution to the LEC Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra a few years later. He is also known as Enric Cristòfol Ricart, which seems the more popular search term online. He passed away in 1960.

Design Notes: From the Quarto-Millenary:

quixote 33

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Slipcase

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Spines

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As noted, John Ormsby serves as the translator and also introduces this edition.

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Colophon – This is #1384 of 1500 with Ricart’s signature.

Examples of the Illustrations by Ricart (right click and open in new tab for full size):

Personal Notes – Not too long after acquiring the later LEC, I was offered the opportunity to purchase the original edition from a Devotee, NYCFAddict (who I got quite the haul from last year!). This is a really nice copy; many of the sheets to protect the pages from the illustrations bleeding are still inside!

Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes (1950)
LEC #209, 20th Series, V. 1
Artwork: Illustrations by Edy Legrand
Translated by John Ormsby, Introduced by Irwin Edman
Heritage Press reprinted this in 1951; see below for this edition.
#893 of 1500

Click images for larger views.

In 1945, long time George Macy Company alum Edy Legrand (see The Nibelungenlied for his complete Macy bibliography) expressed his interest in illustrating a second Don Quixote to Macy. Macy relates in the Sandglass for the Heritage edition that Legrand, although a Frenchman of birth, had adopted Spain as his second nationality, and wished to challenge himself at the proposition of rendering the greatest Spanish literary work. After reviewing some early sketches, Macy agreed, and Legrand went to work, creating 200 individual illustrations as a first draft; his final submission was 48 full page pen/dry brush drawings, submitted five years later. This would be the last time Cervantes would be printed by the LEC or Heritage Press.

Legrand’s drawings feature color in the LEC edition; as you’ll see below, the Heritage went grayscale with their reproductions.

Design Notes: From the Quarto-Millenary:

A curio: Macy says that this edition of Quixote features the “self-same text” from the 1933 publication, which is true — translator John Ormsby served as the translator for both, although Ormsby introduced the original printing, which he does not perform here (a preface is included to his translation here). However, Harry Block did reinvent the typography and formatting, so it is not a mirror image of the earlier 1933 book…not to mention the switch from Ricart to Legrand on the illustration front.

Cervantes’ native Spain was apparently not an option for this edition (the 1933 edition was at Oliva de Vilanova in Barcelona), which is a bit of a shame, but Macy felt Mexico was a solid enough alternative.  The Heritage had the prints sent to the Meriden Gravure Company.

Slipcase

Spines

As noted, Ormsby returned as the translator for the text, but a new introduction was written by Irwin Edman for this edition. Legrand’s striking portrait of its protagonist greets the reader upon opening. Ormsby did his translation in 1885, but the Club felt his was the most scholarly choice for their readers. There’s quite a bit of talk about Samuel Putnam in the Sandglass, whose translation of Quixote was just released (and its publishers urged Macy to consider it for his second LEC edition!), but the ultimate decision was to pass on it due to an earlier transaction with Putnam. In 1928, Macy acquired a three volume work of Rabelais that Putnam translated, and found that the work did not hold up a decade later. Thus, the decision to continue with Ormsby.

Colophon – This is #893 of 1500. Legrand’s signature is notably absent here — there was a run of books where he was unable to provide his signature. This may have been due to his choice to live in Morocco for an extended period during the 1940s and 50s, likely to escape the chaos of Europe in the midst of war. Twenty Years After may be the first LEC he did actually sign, which was issued in 1958.

Examples of the Illustrations by Legrand (right click and open in new tab for full size):

Personal Notes – I’d spent YEARS looking for a good copy of Quixote. The Heritage below I picked up about five years ago, but the LEC recently came into my possession courtesy of my book benefactor sharing it with me to document here and give a good home. I’m very happy to have this one in my collection!

Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes (1951)
Sandglass Number VI:16
Artwork: Illustrations by Edy Legrand
Translated by John Ormsby, Introduced by Irwin Edman
Reprint of LEC #209, 20th Series, V. 1, in 1951 in 2 volumes.

quixotehp-binding

Front Binding – Now for the Heritage edition, which is very nicely presented as well.

The year is unstated here, but GMD member featherwate passed along this info about its publication:

Jerry, it was the selection for November 1951, coming between The Marriage of Cupid and Psyche illustrated by Edmund Dulac and Gray’s Elegy (Agnes Miller Parker). In fact, illustrator-wise this was one heckuva series (Series 16 June 1951 to May 1952). As well as Dulac and AMP it included among others Fritz Eichenberg (Crime & Punishment), Hugo Steiner-Prag (Tales of Hoffman), Valenti Angelo (Sonnets from the Portuguese) and Edward A. Wilson (Jekyll and Hyde) – quite an array!

As for George Macy saying he read the Rabelais 25 years before, I guess he was just rounding up to a neat figure. As he does in the Quixote Sandglass where he refers to it as a book of “nearly eight hundred pages”. I think it’s actually 682! Never mind the length – it’s the quality that matters!

Of course, the nearly eight hundred pages likely refers to the LEC page count; the reduction to a single volume likely trimmed a fair amount of extra pages.

Design Notes – As noted above, this was originally set and printed at the Imprenta Nuevo Mundo for the LEC issuing, and the Heritage copyright page states that it was done there for its printing. Legrand’s artwork was reproduced by Paris’ Georges Duval, who then sent the prints to the Meriden Gravure Company for the Heritage run. The binding is also an international affair — bright yellow cloth from England, marbled papers for the boards from France. The bindery is absent here, alas, but the LEC was done by the standards at Russell-Rutter; it’s safe to suppose they had their hands in this edition, too.

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Slipcase – The paper for this slipcase is from Italy.

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Title Page – Pretty close to the LEC edition!

Examples of the Illustrations by Legrand (right click and open in new tab for full size):

Personal Notes – Before this copy came into my life, I’d not had the greatest luck acquiring this book. The two copies I saw before this one were in horrendous condition and curiously overpriced. Luckily, I came across this one around 2013 in Dublin, CA at Half Price Books, which was complete and in very good condition save a prior owner’s nom de plume on the front endpaper. The price was right at about $10, too, so I snagged it. Of course, with the LEC now in my possession, I will be passing this along.

Sandglass (right click and select Open in New Tab to see full size):

Updated 7/17/2021 ~ JF

George Macy Imagery Video Series #9 – LEC First Series #3…but with a twist!

Welcome to the ninth video for the George Macy Imagery Video Series, where I share some books from the first series of the Limited Editions Club alongside Heritage Press exclusive variants that did their own thing with the same piece of literature. Covered in this episode are Leaves of Grass and The Decameron!

Links Referenced:
Leaves of Grass – https://georgemacyimagery.wordpress.c…
The Decameron – https://georgemacyimagery.wordpress.c…

George Macy Imagery Video Series #8 – The Heritage Press First Series #1

Welcome to the eighth video for the George Macy Imagery Video Series, where I share some books from the first series of the Heritage Press. Covered in this episode are The Song of Songs which is Solomon’s and The Story of Manon Lescaut!

Links Referenced:
The Song of Songs: https://georgemacyimagery.wordpress.com/2019/07/14/heritage-press-the-song-of-songs-which-is-solomons-1935/
Manon Lescaut: https://georgemacyimagery.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/heritage-press-the-story-of-manon-lescaut-by-the-abbe-prevost-1935/
Vathek: https://georgemacyimagery.wordpress.com/2021/05/29/limited-editions-club-vathek-by-william-beckford-1945/
The Kasidah: https://georgemacyimagery.wordpress.com/2020/12/28/limited-editions-club-the-kasidah-of-haji-abdu-el-yezdi-by-richard-f-burton-1937/
The Booklover’s Tour of the World: https://georgemacyimagery.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/of-interest-the-lecs-booklovers-journey-around-the-world-project/

Video Series #5 – Notable Women Illustrators for the George Macy Company

For the fifth video for the George Macy Imagery Video Series, I share some books illustrated by women for Women’s History Month. Covered in this episode are The Ballad of Reading Gaol (Heritage) illustrated by Zhenya Gay, South Wind (LEC) illustrated by Carlotta Petrina, Jude the Obscure (LEC) illustrated by Agnes Miller Parker, and The Adventures of Hajji Baba in Ispahan (LEC) illustrated by Honore Guilbeau!

There’s a lot of books referred in this video, so here is a medley of links:

The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde/Zhenya Gay
The Aeneid by Virgil/Carlotta Petrina
George Macy Imagery Video Series #1 – The Aeneid
South Wind by Norman Douglas/Carlotta Petrina (Conn.)
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy/Agnes Miller Parker
Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard by Thomas Gray/Agnes Miller Parker
The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser/John Austen/Agnes Miller Parker
The Shaving of Shagpat by George Meredith/Honore Guilbeau