Of Interest: Richard Ellis’ Career

January 1, 2017 Comments Off on Of Interest: Richard Ellis’ Career

Over at the Devotees forum, user featherwate compiled a nice little history and bibliography of renowned book designer Richard Ellis, who worked on several LEC and Heritage Press titles for George Macy. This reappears here with his permission and slight editing. Thanks Jack!

Richard ‘Dick’ Ellis (1894/5/6-1982 [1], book architect [2]
Over a career spanning 60 years, Richard Ellis (familiarly known as RWE), built up a reputation as one of America’s finest printers and book designers, whether working for himself or for such leading names as Random House, OUP and the George Macy companies. One of his earliest commissions came from the distinguished publisher, art entrepreneur and bibliophile Mitchell Kennerley, who asserted that “…he has the surest touch of any book designer and printer in America today [3].” This magic touch rarely failed RWE and nearly 140 fine items ranging from a massive Dante/Blake Inferno to Richard Aldington’s small but perfectly-formed Balls passed through his hands.
In 1950 George Macy remarked that Ellis “had not had his just share of praise and gratitude”, and he and his successors demonstrated their confidence in him with frequent commissions. The following list is as comprehensive as I can make it; any additions or corrections will be very welcome!

Asterisked titles indicate LEC volumes that were also issued under the Heritage imprint.
The LEC
As printer:

1930 Tartarin of Tarascon
As designer [4]:
1945 The Sir Roger De Coverley Papers*
1945 Wonderful Adventures Of Paul Bunyan*
1947 The Red and the Black*
1947 Two Years before the Mast*
1955 The Warden*
1957 The Picture of Dorian Gray*
1958 Barchester Towers* (“Printed by Peter Beilenson in Mount Vernon, New York from the typographic plans of Richard W. Ellis. Illustrations hand-colored in the studio of Richard W. Ellis, NY.”)
1961 The Rise of Silas Lapham
1963 The Ambassadors*
1964 Poor Richard’s Almanacs*
1966 Journey to the Center of the Earth*
1968 Journal of the Plague Year 1665*
1968 Heart of Darkness*
1971 Northanger Abbey*
1973 Candide (as well as designing the book, RWE also oversaw its printing)
1974 The Life of Washington
The Heritage originals
As printer:
1937 Green Mansions (The Sandglass [1A of June 1937] makes no mention of RWE and ascribes the printing to The Haddon Craftsmen. At the time, however, he was in the Craftsmen’s employ and directed both the printing and binding of the book, which had been designed by Frederic Warde)
As designer:
1940 The Travels of Lemuel Gulliver
1945 Robinson Crusoe
1948 The Book of Edward A. Wilson
1950 The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Notes:
[1] His birthday, December 7, isn’t in doubt but there is confusion over the year.
[2] In the 1925 New York Census RWE gave his occupation as ‘typographer’. Shortly afterwards he began to use ‘designer of books’ on his headed notepaper (Source: The Harbor Press Ephemera Collection). By 1940, however, he had acquired the confidence to enter his preferred description — ‘book architect’ — into the US Federal Census; surprisingly, perhaps, this neologism was accepted without comment (it wouldn’t have been in the UK!). But it seems not to have been taken up by others and appeareth not in the OED, the Urban Dictionary or, so far as I can tell, Webster’s. However, its derivative, ‘book architecture’ is a favorite buzzword of agencies offering to teach aspiring writers how to break into print.
[3] Mitchell Kennerley’s assertion was quoted on page 4 of the Monthly Letter for the 1973 LEC Candide
[4] It was said of him that in general: “Over the format, the typographic plan, and its execution Richard Ellis demanded complete jurisdiction; now and then he agreed to submit proofs, even more rarely to send trial pages…”. But I suspect that was earlier in his career, and not something he would have tried on too often with the Macys, who were effectively the saviors of his latter years.
Passim:
Earl Schenck Miers: “Richard Ellis, Printer.” The Journal of the Rutgers University Library, Volume 5 (December 1941)
Frank G. Harrington: “Praise Past Due, A Memoir of Richard Ellis”, Typographeum, 1991
Megan Benton: “Beauty and the Book: Fine Editions and Cultural Distinction in America”, Yale University Press, 2000

Limited Editions Club – An Iceland Fisherman by Pierre Loti (1931)

December 11, 2016 § 2 Comments

An Iceland Fisherman by Pierre Loti (1931)
LEC #21/2nd Series V. 9 in 1931
Artwork: Lithographs by Yngve Berg
Introduced and translated by Guy Endore

#504 of 1500. LEC Exclusive.

Click to see larger views.

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Front Binding – As chosen by the readers, the Limited Editions Club’s An Iceland Fisherman is our featured book this time. It’s been a little while since we’ve gone this far back in the Club’s history; this is from the second series of 1930-31, alongside Vanity Fair and Tartuffe. Unlike those two, this one would arguably be considered a more obscure selection by modern standards. Pierre Loti was the pen name of a French Navy officer named Julien Viaud, who first found literary success with this novel after thirteen years of writing novels for little to no fanfare. Those earlier works too became popular following the release of An Iceland Fisherman, and Loti received several accolades following this book, including the titles of the Legion of Honor and a seat on the French Academy. This would be the sole novel of Loti’s to get the LEC treatment, and the Heritage Press never reprinted this or any other work of his.

For their edition of Loti’s magnum opus, George Macy decided to not turn to France, Loti’s homeland, but to Sweden. Recruiting acclaimed Swedish artist Yngve Berg, designer Akke Kumlien, and publishing house P.A. Norstedt and Soner, the Royal Printing Office of Sweden, this book definitely has a flavor unique to its origin country. Macy doesn’t necessarily go into detail as to why Sweden was chosen for a French novel about an Icelandic Fisherman, but he does at least acknowledge that it is a bit of a curious choice in the Monthly Letter. Berg only illustrated one other book for Macy (Cymbeline in the LEC Shakespeare; thanks to commenter Eric for the reminder). Here, his soft pencil lithographs have a haunting quality that seem apropos for a book such as this. The binding is also very charming, with a simple but stunning grace with its colorful fish motif.

Design Notes – Berg and Kumlien share design duties on this volume, although Kumlien is the primary designer according to the colophon. Van Gelder Zonen of Holland provided handmade white linen rag paper, which was subsequently printed upon with the Cochin font via monotype machines. As noted above, P.A. Norstedt and Soner handled the printing duties of both text and lithograph, as well as the binding. The binding’s spine is white canvas with the author and title stamped in gold inside a green box, and the front and back covered with the aforementioned fish design by Berg.

I neglected to mention that Django6924 was the kind donor of the Monthly Letter. Shame on the blog founder/editor!

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Spine

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Title Page – Macy decried the lack of a good English translation of this novel, so he commissioned Guy Endore to render a new one for the Club. Endore also provides an Introduction unobserved here.

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Colophon – This is #504 of 1500, and signed by Berg.

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

Personal Notes – There is a slightly sad story attached to this book. If I can breach into the realm of the personal (in a section called Personal Notes!), this was purchased in San Francisco at Green Apple Books this past August or September. That by itself has no emotional attachment, but the trip in question was the last time my ex and I went out on a trip together in what was then perceived to be an attempt to do something fun and try to rejuvenate our marriage. That ultimately did not come to pass, but there is no “alas” or “unfortunately” terms to state. While at the time I wanted to try to repair and maintain our companionship, the subsequent months since this book’s purchase has highlighted how much that desire was falsified by my own insecurity and fear. Since our separation I have regained a lot of lost perspective and understanding on what exactly want in life, which for a very long while I had forgotten. So, while I do have regret about my marriage ending, it is not a bad thing in the slightest. Instead, it is an opportunity to learn, grow and rediscover, which is what I have been doing ever since.

LEC Monthly Letter

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Limited Editions Club: Quarto-Millenary (1959)

December 4, 2016 § 1 Comment

Quarto-Millenary: 250 Publications of the Limited Editions Club (1959)
Special Publication of the LEC.
Artwork: Reproductions of various LEC editions.
Introduced by Robert L. Dothard. Critique by Paul Beaujon, Paul A. Bennett, Edward Alden Jewell, James Laver, Thomas Craven and John T. Winterich. Commentary in the Bibliography by George Macy.
LEC #114 of 2250 (1500 for membership, 750 for distribution outside of the Club). LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

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Front Binding – Long time no see! As you may have gathered, my life was not in a place where I could devote much time to covering the publications of the George Macy Company and its handlers; to be brief, I recently separated from my wife amiably after discovering that we weren’t happy together any more. Don’t worry, though — I’m doing fine and am finally at a good point to pick up this project once again (good thing, too, as I’m getting backlogged!).

Our book today is the Quarto-Millenary, a thorough and wonderful resource for any collector interested in the Limited Editions Club under George Macy’s tenure. Issued in 1959 as a special publication, it finishes the dream of Macy to properly archive the history of his Club at a crucial point of its lifeline, and stops just short of the end of the 23rd series’ conclusion in 1955. Unfortunately, Macy passed away in 1956, leaving it unfinished; thankfully, publisher Robert L. Dothard explains how the book came to be in his Introduction. According to Dothard, Macy got the idea to cover the entirety of the LEC enterprise after the Shakespeare set issued its own record, Ten Years and William Shakespeare. He desired to mirror the format of that little book: a collection of critical commentary on literature, fine printing, and as illustrated tomes; next, he planned to provide several photographs of the work of the Club as an example of how he felt the art should be produced; next, the bibliography, complete with Macy’s thoughts and insights into most of the editions issued; and last, a proper index. As the 250th volume of the Club approached, he began in earnest this project. He wanted a comprehensive survey of his Club, done up as detailed above, with his personal selections for the pages to represent the Club’s artistic merits as fine press books, with the pages to be reprinted exactly as they originally were. The critique was called for from major essayists of the day, and the beginning of Macy’s detailed bibliography took form. He coined the title, and started the immense selection of the representations to be included…but alas, time ran out for Macy before he could get the project completely off the ground. Stalled, Helen Macy stepped in and recruited Dothard to take over the design and publication of the book. With the assistance of Max M. Stein, production manager for the LEC, and Yetta Arenstein, who assisted editing the Bibliography and Indexes, Dothard completed the monumental task of Macy’s dream archival record in 1959.

The book is formatted as such: Critique, provided by several key contributors (including John T. Winterich, who has written several forewords and possibly even some letters for the Club! We’ve seen him plenty over the years); Conspectus (the collection of images from the many books from the Club); Bibliography, and Indexes. It’s a lovely history of George’s era of the Club, arguably its finest in its long line, and is definitely worth checking out if you’re into Macy’s publications.

Design Notes – As noted, Dothard was the primary designer of the book, taking cues from Macy’s original plan but acting on his own to execute it. A. Colish and Clarke & Way handled the text composition and printing, while a multitude of illustration printers tackled the reprinted Conspectus: Crafton Graphic Company, W.S. Cowell Ltd., The Curwen Press, George C. Miller, Photogravure and Color Company, and Walter Fischer. The paper is an Archer white provided by the Curtis Paper Company, and the binding was done by Russell-Rutter’s Frank Fortney (by the way, 170 of the volumes featured were bound by Fortney, so no wonder his name pops up so often!).

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Spine

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Slipcase

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Title Page – A simple yet dainty design with a lot of color. Nice!

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Dedication – Helen Macy provides some generous words about her husband and the people responsible for the publication of this and future books.

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Colophon – This exceeded the usual 1500 publication limit by 750, more than likely to distribute to crucial repositories and libraries. This is #144 of the 1500 allotted to the membership.

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

Personal Notes – I got this from Carpe Diem Fine Books in Monterey a week or two back. I was astounded to see it; I was further shocked by the $75 price tag! That seemed so low to me that it was almost decided then and there to buy it. However, there was a 30% off sale (with the potential for it to go up to 50% if I could find five books!), so I did dig around in the hopes of seeing if I could pull off some sort of amazing purchase of five LECs to get the greater discount. I did not, so immediately I went back and grabbed this. The good news is that the other LEC I found, The Three Plays of Ibsen, ended up being essentially free thanks to the combined 30% discount, so I have double the reason to be merry about acquiring this lovely resource!

PS – Macy’s notes will likely be an Of Interest post in the future!

I’m not sure if this came with Monthly Letter — I will find out and report back with it if possible.

Limited Editions Club/Heritage Press: Tono-Bungay by H.G. Wells (1960)

September 5, 2016 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club/Heritage Press: Tono-Bungay by H.G. Wells (1960)

Limited Editions Club

Tono-Bungay by H.G. Wells (1960)
LEC #307/28th Series V. 4 in 1960
Artwork: Drawings by Lynton Lamb
Introduced by Norman H. Strouse

#660 of 1500. Heritage edition detailed below.

Click to see larger views.

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Front Binding – It’s yet another round of updating an older Heritage post with LEC information; this time, the perhaps surprising choice of H.G. Wells’ Tono-Bungay. I say surprising because Wells is now well-regarded for his contributions to science fiction, laying a lot of the initial groundwork for the genre today. However, the Limited Editions Club picked Tono-Bungay, a somewhat autobiographical novel that the Monthly Letter and Sandglass reveals that the author considered his finest work in fiction, as their first release of his. They followed up Tono-Bungay with two books of three of his better known works: The Time Machine & The War of the Worlds, with Joe Mugnaini’s art in 1964, and The Invisible Man, with Charles Mozley (who also did Shaw’s Man and Superman) providing the illustrations in 1967.

Tono-Bungay was Lynton Lamb’s second commission for the LEC, following his work on George Eliot’s Silas Marner in 1953. He would receive one more offer with the Club for Joseph Addison’s The Spectator in 1970. His drawings for this work come in two forms; black-and-white pieces (39) and full-color (15). Lamb was asked by the Club how he performed his full-color plates, which I’ll quote a piece of (you can read the rest in the Sandglass scans below on page 4):

I draw my basic design in black ink on a coloured paper which I also heighten with white. (The coloured paper I choose is one that is of a middle strength between light and dark; and for block making purposes I have used a middle blue, although once the blocks are made, this part of the design may be printed in another colour. The other colours are then drawn on separate sheets of tracing paper in black to give the necessary combination of overprinting.)

Design Notes – This was designed by Bert Clarke of Clarke and Way in New York (aka The Thistle Press), who also did the pub duties for both variants of the book. I will pause to highlight Clarke and Way, as they were Bert Clarke and David Way, who both used to be employed by the George Macy Company as part of the Heritage Press. They named their press after their mentor, one of the most distinguished members of the LEC/Heritage printing canon, Bruce Rogers.

The text is Caslon Old Style No. 337 (the Sandglass tackles the obvious gag of “is there 226 other Caslon fonts?” in its next sentence) while the block divisions and chapter headings are graced with Craw Clarendon typeface. The text was then printed by Clarke and Way for the LEC and by the New York Lithographing Company for the Heritage.

Unfortunately, I do not have the monthly letter to further elaborate on the LEC. I will see if my friends in the Devotees may be able to assist me.

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Spine

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Slipcase

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Title Page – Norman H. Strouse, the President of J. Walter Thompson Company in New York (at the time, the Sandglass gushes, “the most fabulous, amazing, tremendous, supercolossal advertising agency in the whole wide world”), delivers an Introduction.

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Colophon – This is copy 660 of 1500, and Lamb provides his signature.

Examples of the Illustrations by Lamb – I’m skipping the Gallery again so I don’t have to do it twice; it will hopefully make the comparisons easier to see.

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Page 16 – Lamb’s illustrations are a little subdued, which is appropriate for the text. Not my favorite, I must admit, but they work. The colors blend quite nicely, and the scenes are well depicted.

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Page 33

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Page 26 – I skipped the black and white linework last time; not so now!

Personal Notes – How weird that this too, like Herodotus’ volume, took five years to acquire since I originally posted about it! This also came from Liz, the very nice person who sent me a bunch of books gratis a few months back. Thanks again!

Heritage Press

Tono-Bungay by H.G. Wells (1960)
Sandglass Number VI: 26
Artwork: Drawings by Lynton Lamb
Introduced by Norman H. Strouse
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #307/28th Series V. 4 in 1960

Click to see larger views.

Front Binding – The design for the binding changed things up a little between editions; one of Lamb’s illustrations were utilized for a little extra decoration, and the spine was toned down a little (the bottle is still there, but it’s not as prominent a design element). Otherwise, the inside is essentially the same, right to the reprinting of Lamb’s artwork (in the same color scheme as the LEC no less!). After George Macy’s passing, several LECs had their color palette reduced or stripped out in their conversion to a Heritage, but that is not the case here.

Other design notes for the Heritage: it features Saturn-wove paper specifically made for the Press by the Crocker Burbank Company of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Lamb’s plates were made by John Swain & Company in London, sailed over to America on the Queen Mary, and printed by Clarke and Way. The boards are covered with “a staunch natural-finish cloth…a symphony of rose-reds.” The spine has the book’s title, Wells’ name and a bottle of the titular elixir stamped in gold, which were done by the ever-busy Russell-Rutter Company in New York. One of Lamb’s drawings adorns the front cover.

Title Page – No fancy colors here like the LEC.

Page 16 – The reprints of the LEC plates turned out well; there’s not a huge difference in quality. Perhaps Clarke and Way’s involvement here helped?

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Personal Notes – I haven’t read this novel, but I do think it’s a nice-looking book with quite a bit of charm. I got this copy from Page One Used Books, my good friend’s bookshop, before she retired (the same friend I traded Brownings with) for free for helping out with the store. Amazing how many HP books I got that way…it lacked a slipcase, but the condition was otherwise fantastic. I no longer have it (I have a LEC, naturally).

Sandglass:

Updated 9/5/2016 by JF

Limited Editions Club/Heritage Press: The Histories of Herodotus (1958)

June 26, 2016 § 4 Comments

The Histories of Herodotus (1958)
LEC #293/27th Series V. 2 in 1958
Artwork: Illustrated and Decorated by Edward Bawden
Introduced and translated from the Greek by Harry Carter
#660 of 1500. Heritage edition detailed below.

Before I begin this post proper, I need to take a moment and dedicate this post to longtime Devotee and frequent visitor to this site Don Floyd, who has seemingly passed away within the past six months since I or any of the other Devotee have heard from him. Another reason we believe he has passed on is that his collection — a nearly complete set of LECs, several of which he personally had rebound — has ended up on eBay. It’s truly tragic to see Don’s pride and joy not go to its intended home following his passing; he had plans to donate his collection to his alma mater.

That all being said, I will miss Don’s candor. He definitely had a strong opinion against Heritage Press books, and he was particularly ornery about certain topics, but he was a wonderful man to talk to and learn from. He provided information for me to utilize here on the blog more than once, and I can think of few individuals who were as devoted or passionate about George Macy and his publications as he was. Don Floyd will also be missed here as he was arguably my most frequent commenter. So rest in peace, Don; you will not be forgotten.

Click images for a larger view.

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Front Binding – After five long years, I can finally revisit and update you on the differences between the LEC and Heritage editions of The Histories of Herodotus, a title I have sought since I originally stumbled upon the Heritage books that originally comprised this post! And the circumstances of my coming upon this book is quite a story as well; perhaps not as notable or important as the histories contained within, but I hope intriguing! I’ll discuss that in the Personal Notes below.

Onto the book proper. The Limited Editions Club printed these very early classics in the history genre in 1958. Given George’s death in 1956, it’s probable he had some hand in the formation of this book more than his wife Helen, who carried the Club through the next decade. Herodotus is considered “the father of history” (a term given to him by Cicero), pioneering a new approach to writing historical works through the use of historiography, utilizing ethnographic and geographical information to serve as his support. Not everything he writes about in this book is infallible; Herodotus stated that he took what he got from his sources as credible, and there are a few spots where the text is shaky. However, taken as a whole Herodotus’ volumes are fairly accurate to the actual events known of the Greco-Persain Wars. This is the sole work of his that made it to modern times, and is thus the sole production from the LEC or the Heritage Press.

Edward Bawden makes a bold imprint on the LEC legacy with this book. His artistic flourishes for the title page and chapter openers are colorful, crisp dioramas twisting different motifs and symbols into delightful setpieces. He also supplied several line drawings that are sprinkled in the text. My frequent source Django6924 had this to say about Bawden when this was originally posted:

Bawden, born in 1903, and who was a famous English War Artist in WW II and did a tour in Abyssinia, did 102 pen and ink drawings to illustrate the text, and ten double-page color spreads to introduce each of the 9 books (plus one for the title page). …these are very exotic, combining elements of Attic and Persian art in a tapestry-like effect.

Bawden would also contribute to 1960’s Salammbo LEC, written by Gustave Flaubert.

Design Notes – Herodotus’ ancient Greek was translated by Harry Carter, who also served as one of the designers of the book. He also, according to Django6924:

In addition to his translating and editing tasks, Harry Carter compiled helpful marginal glosses which are on nearly every page of text, as compiling an Index which is a marvel of utility and fun: consider such Index items as “Arrows, messages shot with,” and “Beans, abhorred by the Egyptians.”

LEC legend Jan van Krimpen (who was the original lead designer until his death) and Bawden also had a hand in the design. Django6924 supplied these additional details:

The book’s designer was Jan van Krimpen of Joh. Enschedé en Zonen fame, whose printing company in the Netherlands did many great LEC and Heritage books, as well as many other fine books and postage stamps. He needed help from both the illustrator Edward Bawden and also the translator, Harry Carter, as he died in October, 1958 while working on the project. The text used is his Monotype Spectrum, the last face Krimpen ever designed.

van Krimpen may have died in this midst of his involvement with this book, but his legacy in the annals of the LEC and Heritage Press will not be forgotten, as this book will serve as a testimony of.

The paper was Wolvercoat paper from Oxford, England, printed up by van Krimpen’s printing house Joh. Enschedé en Zonen of Haarlem, Holland. J. Brandt and Zoon of Amsterdam served as the binding house for the LEC. As I don’t have a monthly letter at hand, this is as far as I can go into production details at present.

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Spine

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Slipcase

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Title Page – Bawden’s decorations are exquisite! Worth the price of admission for sure. Carter also provides an introduction to the text.

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Colophon – 1500 copies were produced. This is #660, and Bawden provides his signature.

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Book I Opener – I’m making an exception to my usual “gallery” template for this post to showcase these amazing works of Bawden’s.

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Book II Opener

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Page 5 – An example of the linework and text. You can see one of Carter’s annotations in the bottom right.

Personal Notes – So, five years after posting this, I finally got my hands on the LEC edition of this marvelous book. As I mentioned above, it’s an interesting story. I arrived to work Monday morning to find a message on my phone. It was from someone I had never met before (we’ll call her Liz) inquiring if I was the person who ran this very blog, and that she was seeking a good home for some LEC titles she couldn’t take with her when she moved. That was a bit of a shock! I reached out at my break and by the end of the call, I was going to receive 10 books from her to document and keep in my collection. A week or so later (after some frightening “tourism” the USPS decided to give my package, having it wander off to Cincinnati for an extended detour), the books arrived safe and sound. So I’m tickled to finally have this book (and the others!), and a big thank you to Liz for her generosity in sending them to me.

Heritage Press

The Histories of Herodotus (1958, 2 volumes)
Sandglass Number II & III: 24
Artwork: Illustrated and Decorated by Edward Bawden
Introduced and translated from the Greek by Harry Carter
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #293/27th Series V. 2 in 1958

Click images for a larger view.

Front Bindings – As you can see, the Heritage edition splits the sole LEC into two nice looking volumes with a fairly striking design on the boards. This is duplicated on the back as well. Here’s Django6924’s thoughts between the LEC and HP editions, as well as some insights into the creation of this set:

I have both the LEC edition and the Heritage Press edition, and this is one case where the Heritage is the clear winner. Why?

First of all, the LEC is a single chunky volume while the Heritage books are much more reader-friendly. The printing is identical–if you compare two pages side-by-side, they are indistinguishable, same size and same pagination. Secondly, as WildcatJF points out, the binding design is striking to say the least! I love the vertical title arrangement on the spines–a technique that is seldom used but which I prefer to the more usually found arrangement where you have to cock your head to the left or right to read the title. The LEC binding is subdued, a burgundy buckram (that has faded on my otherwise pristine copy two shades paler), with a small white title label and a white medallion on the front cover. Very high quality and elegant (I particularly like the beveled edges), but I really prefer the wilder Heritage design.

The Heritage Sandglass number (2 actually) are II & III: 24–the books were sent out in separate months, but only one Sandglass.

They were printed separately and tipped in to the text, which was printed by Kellogg & Bulkeley of Hartford, CT, on paper specially made for this edition the the Crocker, Burbank Paper Company of Fitchburg, MA.

The binding was done, as it usually was in this period, by Frank Fortney and his Russell-Rutter Company.

I like the simple class act of the LEC design a lot, but there’s a unity and flair to the Heritage volumes I think I prefer slightly more. The interiors are pretty similar in terms of quality, too. I’m sure higher production value was put into the papers, inks and materials, but the Heritage reprint does a pretty remarkable job holding up to the LEC. I’m not going to part with my LEC, but I can understand why someone would take the plunge on the Heritage over it!

Spines – I particularly like the spine design here, as Django6924 notes.

Title Page – Pretty similar to the LEC, with only the printing press swapped out. Sorry about the library card blocking the view, but it’s now at least visible in the LEC image above.

Book I Decoration – As you can see, the Heritage does an admirable (if not extraordinary) job replicating the images of the LEC. This was not a rush job, for sure.

Book II Decoration

Personal Notes – Checked out from my Mariposa Library, and one I believe I saw in stores only once (and I had LEC options for other books, so I went that direction instead). Now that I hold the LEC in my collection, I won’t be on the hunt for this set any longer.

Updated 6/26/2016 by JF

Trivia: The 10 Most Frequent Artists in the LEC

May 28, 2016 § 2 Comments

Hey, remember the trivia category? Well, I’m bringing it back. This time, let’s examine who George Macy and the subsequent owners of the Limited Editions Club commissioned the most over the Club’s long tenure!

10) Sylvain Sauvage (7)
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Sauvage illustrated several French classics for the LEC, including Cyrano de Bergerac, The History of Zadig (pictured), and two works of Anatole France, The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard and At the Sign of the Queen Pedauque. He also handled As You Like It in the LEC Shakespeare.

9) Rene ben Sussan (8)
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ben Sussan had two commissions of Honore de Balzac, rendering the worlds of Old Goriot   and Eugenie Grandet as part of his eight titles for the LEC. He also had a hand in English drama, providing art for Jonson’s Volpone, the Fox and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Pictured is The Chronicle of the Cid.

8) John Austen (8)
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Several British works were illustrated by Austen: Vanity Fair (pictured), The Comedy of Errors, The Faerie Queene, The Pickwick Club, and The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle. He also branched out a little with Aristophanes’ The Birds.

7) Agnes Miller Parker (8)
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The sole woman on our list, Parker’s exquisite woodcuts brought life to all of Thomas Hardy’s novels printed by the Club, as well as The Faerie Queene (pictured), Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard, Richard the Second, and The Poems of Shakespeare.

6) T.M. Cleland (8)
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A talented designer as well as artist, Cleland’s artistic gifts were displayed a little less frequently, but often enough to earn a place on our list. Some of his works include The Decameron, The History of Tom Jones, The Way of the World, She Stoops to Conquer and The Life and Times of Tristan Shandy, Gentleman. Pictured is Monsieur Beauclaire.

5) Valenti Angelo (12)
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The simplistic yet stylistic grace of Angelo graced a dozen books of the LEC, and several of them are masterworks of literature: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, The House of the Seven Gables, The Books of a Thousand Nights and a Night, Songs of the Portuguese,  and several religious texts, like The Koran, The Book of Proverbs and The Book of Psalms. Pictured is The Song of Roland.

4) Lynd Ward (13)
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Ward’s thirteen contributions mark him as one of the most prominent illustrators for Macy, and he didn’t even work on the LEC Shakespeare like the majority of the others on this list! Ward’s commissions ranged from non-fiction works such as Rights of Man and On Conciliation with America to fantastical works such as Beowulf and Idylls of the King to contemporary works like The Innocent Voyage (pictured) and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

3) Fritz Eichenberg (15)
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The gifted Eichenberg worked the longest stretch of any of our artists; his first commission was 1939’s Richard the Third for the LEC Shakespeare to 1986’s The Diary of a Country Priest. One of the few to work under late Club owner Sid Shiff, Eichenberg’s output left the LEC a lasting legacy that is difficult to ignore. Best known for his work on the Russian legends of literature, including Eugene Onegin, Crime and Punishment (pictured), Fathers and Sons, and Childhood, Boyhood, Youth.

2) Edward A. Wilson (17)

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Wilson was productive, to say the least; he even had his own Heritage volume detailing his artwork! Among the many classics he brought visual splendor to are Westward Ho! (pictured), Treasure Island, The Tempest, Robinson Crusoe, Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

1) Fritz Kredel (20)
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And finally we come to Fritz Kredel, the king of illustrating for the LEC with a massive twenty volumes! Many collections of fairy tales were conjured by Kredel, including both Andersen (pictured) and the Brothers Grimm. Two Shakespeares, two Trollopes, two Twains, Thackeray, Darwin, Austen, Plato and Heine were among the literary giants Kredel decorated for Macy, and his talent was certainly up to such a diverse palette of books.

Next time, we’ll explore the most frequent Heritage Press artists in terms of their exclusives. We’ll see how many of these artisans cross over!

Limited Editions Club: The Life of King Henry IV, Part I by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

May 28, 2016 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club: The Life of King Henry IV, Part I by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

The Life of King Henry IV, Part I by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Lithographs in color by Barnett Freedman. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #507 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

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Front Binding – Long time no see, friends — I apologize for the hiatus.

This post brings my blog its first glimpse into the fabled LEC Shakespeare; a 37 volume opus of book publishing that stands as some of the finest in the canon of the Limited Editions Club. I’ve covered the series loosely before, posting a list of the series and its illustrators some time ago. However, I didn’t expect to stumble upon the a part of the set any time soon; most of my book haunts prior to my move lacked any of the LEC Shakespeare, and I’ve only come across one other book before this one in my travels, and I didn’t have the money to purchase it then. And yet here we are, with a “complete” edition of Henry the Fourth, Part I.

The goal of the LEC Shakespeare was to celebrate the greatest author in the English language with a deluxe printing of all of the Bard’s plays and poems, designed by the masterful Bruce Rogers, printed by the leading experts in publishing, and featuring some of the finest artistic talents in book illustration decorating each volume in its own unique way. George Macy wanted this series to be the 20th century’s definitive publication of Shakespeare, and based on this admittedly limited exposure to the series, the goal was met. This edition of Henry IV Part I is a culmination of amazing design, artwork, and printing synergy.

Rogers’ is perhaps the LEC’s greatest designer, and this set is among his finest. The binding is a lovely recreation of Elizabethan era fabric and motifs. The font choice and layout is ideal for a book of this size. And the execution of these design plans were delightfully executed by printing house and bindery A. Colish.

However, the real standout of this book is the stunning reproduction of Barnett Freedman’s lithographs. Freedman hasn’t been my favorite artist in the Club’s canon, as noted in my earlier discussion of his work in Anna Karenina. Here, though? My goodness, the reprinting of his color lithographs is stunning. His auto-lithographs were pulled by the Curwen Press, and Freedman ignored the top and bottom margins, making his oblong prints stylistically stand out not only in craft but in composition. The colors were stone-specific, as is the case with the lithographic process, so once again marvel at the expertise of both artist and printer to make these separate components unite so successfully. The quality of these prints is literally beyond anything else I’ve seen of Freedman’s, and arguably above several other LEC volumes. It’s divine. The colors are crisp, luscious and deep; the artistry of Freedman’s linework nigh-perfect. And that may be the greatest strength of this set — the attention to printing detail is exceptional.

Before moving on, let us recap Shakespeare’s publication history with the Clubs here. Amazingly, I haven’t done that yet! William Shakespeare had 41 unique publications in the LEC, if I were to include the 37 plays in this series as individual works (again, the complete LEC Shakespeare is here). The other LECs include:
Hamlet, illustrated by Eric Gill, 1933.
Poems and Sonnets, 2 volumes, designed by Bruce Rogers, 1941 (these are designed to match the 1939-1940 plays).
The Life of Henry V. Illustrated by Fritz Kredel, modeled after the Olivier film, 1951.
Poems, illustrated by Agnes Miller Parker, 1967. (I have a Heritage copy on the blog)

The Heritage Press had five exclusive Shakespeare publications as well.

Romeo and Juliet, illustrated by Sylvain Sauvage, 1935. This is one of the “First Six” Heritage Press books, and some copies are a deluxe edition signed by Sauvage.
Sonnets, illustrated by Valenti Angelo, 1941.
The Complete Histories, Tragedies and Comedies of Shakespeare, illustrated by John Farleigh, Agnes Miller Parker and Edward Ardizzone (respectively), 1958.

If you want to know more about this particular set, you can’t go wrong with the extensive report of fellow enthusiast Chris at Books and Vines.

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Title Page – I don’t really know if my camera can do these illustrations justice. They really are gorgeous, but I don’t think I have the optimal lighting setup to convey this correctly. The text is taken from the First Folio and some Quarto insertions, and Herbert Farjeon served as editor.

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Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This volume came from the 507th set.

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

Personal Notes – This came from the Bookstore in Chico, CA. Only 38 more to go…but I’m happy to have this one. It is a little worn on the outside, but the inside is exquisite.

Shakespeare Commentary forthcoming

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