Limited Editions Club – Of the Nature of Things by Lucretius (1957)

April 14, 2019 § Leave a comment

Of the Nature of Things by Titus Lucretius Carus (1957)
LEC #278/25th Series V. 11 in 1957
Artwork: Woodcuts by Paul Landacre
Translated by William Ellery Leonard. Introduction by Charles E. Bennett

#495 of 1500. Heritage Press reissued.

Click to see larger views.

Front Binding – Hello everyone! We’re back with a new post that isn’t a Shakespeare; in fact, we have several books on tap over the next few months to keep the blog quite busy! Today brings forth an intriguing book; the didactic poem that explores physics and the universe by Roman poet and philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus, Of the Nature of Things (De rerum natura). Easily Lucretius’ best known work, Of the Nature of Things is given a rather nice treatment by the Limited Editions Club. This would be the sole literary work either Club would issue, and the Heritage Press did choose to reprint it themselves.

In the six books Lucretius explores the known laws and principles of the world around him, positing theories and waxing upon the rules that govern the Earth and the cosmos..but in verse. I haven’t read it, but it sounds like a fascinating blend of science and the arts, and I look forward to giving it a chance soon.

Woodblock illustrator Paul Landacre performed the artistic duties on this book, the second commission he received (the first was for Ambrose Bierce’s Tales of Soldiers and Civilians in 1943). He is the perfect choice for this book, as his ethereal woodcuts give the atomic musings of the poetic words of Lucretius some visual splendor well deserving of the work. Landacre would come back for another scientific watermark, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1963, but he had passed away before the book was issued.

Design Notes – Unfortunately this book doesn’t have a Letter in Devotee storage for me to reference, but I can tell you that Ward Ritchie designed the book, which was subsequently printed by The Ward Ritchie Press by Anderson, Ritchie and Simon. Ward is renowned in the book publishing world for his excellence in the craft, but I believe this is the first edition we’ve seen of the press on the blog thus far. Landacre’s woodblock prints were taken directly from his engravings.

Spine

Title Page – The text is translated into English by William Ellery Leonard. This wasn’t the first time the LEC utilized his talents, as he also handled Beowulf. Charles E. Bennett stepped in to introduce the text.

Colophon – This is #495 of 1500, and was signed by Landacre.

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

Personal Notes – This is the first of a second set of five books generously donated to me by a fellow Devotee who is passing along duplicates for me to spotlight here on the blog. Words really cannot express how awesome and kind this individual is for helping me out like this! And this is a lovely addition to my library!

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Limited Editions Club – Snow-Bound by John Greenleaf Whittier (1930)

January 12, 2019 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club – Snow-Bound by John Greenleaf Whittier (1930)

Snow-Bound by John Greenleaf Whittier (1930)
LEC #4/1st Series V. 4 in 1930
Artwork: Vignette on the title page was done by Alice Hubbard Stevens. Otherwise unillustrated.
Foreword by George S. Bryan

#1441 of 1500. LEC Exclusive.

Click to see larger views.

Front Binding – Let’s take a brief respite from Shakespeare to cover what is currently the oldest LEC I own and on the blog as of today: Snow-Bound by John Greenleaf Whittier. This was the fourth volume issued by the Limited Edition Club way back in January of 1930, meaning it’s 89 years old this month! It was also the debut of Carl Purington Rollins to the halls of the Club, but we’ll discuss him momentarily.

Whittier was one of America’s most vocal abolitionists as well as a notable poet — Snow-Bound won him a fair amount of acclaim upon its publication in 1865, and his writings on anti-slavery remain in the discourse of U.S. History. Macy fancied his work quite a bit, given the very early publication of Snow-Bound by the Club. Sadly, the title did not earn much accolades from the readership according to the Quarto; he sadly recites a brief anecdote on how one member was so offended to pay $10 for “so slim a book”. Whittier would see a collection of his poetry released in 1945 by the LEC and Heritage Press, and unlike this edition would feature multiple illustrations, done by painter Raymond J. Holden.

Rollins was the printing maestro of Yale University Press, and his debut emphasizes his book design philosophy. Macy was obviously pleased by this edition based on his comments below. Rollins took the title literally with his design, making every component suggest the wintry powder Whittier espouses throughout his poem. The paper is textured and distinctly white, the font gives the impression of snow falling from the sky, and the ornamental letters hide little snowflake adornments within. And the binding of course swirls itself like a blizzard. It evokes the season quite well.

Design Notes – Here’s what the Quarto-Millenary has to say about the design:

Spine

Slipcase

Title Page – The title page doesn’t mention its introduction writer, George S. Bryan, who provides a brief foreword. The vignette was designed by Alice Hubbard Stevens, marking the debut of the first woman artist to the Limited Editions Club (and would, to my knowledge, not return for a second commission).

Colophon – This is #1441 of 1500, and was signed by Rollins.

Bibliography – Unlike most LECs, the earlier editions did include a bibliography of earlier titles. I believe volume 6 in the first series, Two Medieval Tales, does the same.

Example of the typeface:

Personal Notes – I purchased this from Old Capitol Books in Monterey on my recent vacation. It has actually been there since 2008, waiting for someone to give it a home. With my last visit, I decided to bring it to mine. It’s neat having a book from the first series after all this time, 10 years into collecting these!

Limited Editions Club: Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

January 6, 2019 § 2 Comments

Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Drawings by Gordon Craig. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #195 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Another LEC Shakespeare for you today, this time my personal favorite play: Macbeth. Having been in a production of the “Scottish Play”, it is one I personally enjoy on a level beyond the text. This is the first of the Bard’s tragedies we’ve covered from the series. It was likely performed in 1606 for the first time, and stands as the shortest of this subset of Shakespeare’s theater. It also have quite the mythology surrounding it, in particular never saying its name if you are involved in a production lest you wish to bestow the infamous “curse”. Curiously, my production was beset by some bizarre circumstances, including the sudden and severe illness of one actress and a technician breaking their ankle on stage during dress rehearsals. I’m not the superstitious type, but it was a weird coincidence…

Gordon Craig (aka Edward Gordon Craig) marks his debut to the Limited Editions Club and George Macy’s canon, but this would be his sole contribution. Among collectors today Craig’s artwork is not revered; I personally find his drawings satisfactory enough but they lack the pizazz of many of the other illustrators for this series. This was his second artistic rendering of Shakespeare, handling a publication of Hamlet before. He is far better known for his acting career, where among his acclaimed roles he was the title character for our play in question. For his work here he focused on the costuming (per Macy’s request) with his lithographic crayon drawings, which are quite nice from that perspective. He was also an accomplished wood-engraver, and I wonder how that approach might have been received.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text, while Craig’s illustrations were printed by Fernard Mourlot.

Title Page – As with the entire set, Herbert Farjeon handled editing duties for the set.

Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This is from the 195th set.

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

Personal Notes – Of the five LEC Shakespeare a fan of the blog provided me, I have to admit from a literary perspective this was the most exciting for me. I adore this work, and it’s nice to have the LEC edition of it, even if the art is not my favorite.

Limited Editions Club: The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

December 30, 2018 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club: The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Watercolors by Pierre Brissaud. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #897 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Our previous LEC Shakespeare editions have both been from the Bard’s histories — let’s mix it up a bit and highlight a comedic effort from the playwright, The Two Gentlemen of Verona. This is one of Shakespeare’s earlier efforts, originally composed in 1594 or so, and features some of his favorite methods of comedic effect, the act of hidden identity (Julia disguising herself as a male page to lead Proteus, whom she loves) and setting up the main characters to suddenly come at odds over a particular subject (in this case, the duke of Milan’s daughter Silvia), to ultimately have all of the odds and ends come to a close in a jolly manner. It may not be as highly revered as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it’s still a great piece of humorous theatre.

Its artist will not be a new face to you if you’ve followed our coverage of these books for some time, as it is Pierre Brissaud, appearing in his first Limited Editions Club release. Brissaud is one of my favorite illustrators in the Macy canon, and this book showcases his talent quite well with its exquisite reproductions of his watercolors of scenes of the play. The Newsletter makes an interesting comment about his upcoming commissions, which I find fascinating: Cyrano de Bergerac, of which I’ve discussed thoroughly in its own post, is mentioned here as his next project for release for the Heritage Press! This does seem to fit in with the details I’ve laid out in that post, but it’s still a bit of a surprise. However, this is not unexpected; George Macy happily had the Heritage Press publishing its own spins on classic works at this point of its history along with LEC reprints, so I guess I have more of a definitive answer for that particular publication history. Of course, that was delayed due to World War II’s genesis, but it was ultimately issued as both a LEC and Heritage title in 1954. Another title impacted by the War was his next project, Madame Bovary for the Nonesuch Press. That commission would go on to be a LEC and join the Heritage/Nonesuch French Romances series, but it was in the works already at this early phase. Brissaud’s bibliography is in my post for Cyrano de Bergerac.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text and illustrations, while Brissaud’s watercolors were reproduced via collotype plates by Georges Duval and then colored by Beaufumè of Paris.

Title Page – As with the entire set, Herbert Farjeon handled editing duties.

Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This is from the 897th set.

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

Personal Notes – This was one of five LEC Shakespeare volumes sent to me by a fan of the blog. As noted with King John I was taken aback by the kind offer and very thankful to have these added to my library, especially this one, given how much I love Brissaud’s work.

LEC Newsletter and Ephemera

A neat curio included in my copy is a secondary letter discussing the design of a box to hold the LEC Shakespeare; I’ve included it below.

Limited Editions Club – The Physiology of Taste by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1949)

December 27, 2018 § 2 Comments

The Physiology of Taste by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1949)
LEC #201/19th Series V. 5 in 1949
Artwork: Color drawings by Sylvain Sauvage
Translated, edited, preface by M.F.K. Fisher, with additional preface by the author

#1060 of 1500. Heritage Press edition available.

Click to see larger views.

Front Binding – Hello friends, we have returned with new posts! We will take a short break from Shakespeare to instead focus in on a vastly different work, The Physiology of Taste. Its author, lawyer and politician Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, published the work shortly before his death, and the extended essay tackles the topic of gastronomy (the study of food and culture). It popularized the concept of a low-carb diet, as well as extolling the virtues of food and drink. It has never been out of print since its original 1825 pub date, and in 1949 the Limited Editions Club commissioned a brand new translation by food critic M.F.K. Fisher, who commented how blessed she was to be able to perform this task. The Heritage Press would reissue this later on.

Brillat-Savarin only had this sole title printed by Macy, but its illustrator, Sylvain Sauvage, has had a far more diverse portfolio for the two George Macy Company publishing houses. I go over his bibliography in my post on Zadig, which shares one particular trait with this edition; it was published after Sauvage passed away. Here his drawings are colored simply, without the rich watercolors seen in Zadig or Cyrano de Bergerac. I suspect this may have to do with Sauvage’s death, but the colophon and Quarto-Millenary don’t address WHO exactly did the coloring for this book to begin with, so for now I’ll let the thought lie.

Design Notes – Here’s what the Quarto-Millenary has to say about the design:

The colophon notes Herbert Rau did the prints of the illustrations via rubber line-plates.

Spine – As you can see, the spine here is not doing super well. A common problem with certain LEC volumes with pigskin leather is that it has shown a high tendency to flake, and this copy is suffering such a fate. According to GMD member Glacierman:

The problem with pigskin is that unless it is used at full thickness, it is weak and prone to rapid wear. It appears to me that they probably split the hides used for this book resulting in a weak leather. I have several books bound in pigskin where it was used full thickness and the bindings on these are tough as nails.

Slipcase

Title Page – Fisher was heavily involved with this publication, translating the entire work, adding in several annotations, performing some editing, and writing a preface. A preface from the author is also included.

Colophon – This is #1060 of 1500, and was issued unsigned due to Sauvage’s passing.

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

Personal Notes – I purchased this from Old Capitol Books in Monterey on my recent vacation. While the spine is concerning, it is otherwise in excellent condition.

Of Interest: An Attempt to Completely Document the Limited Editions Club and Heritage Press

October 7, 2018 § 2 Comments

I meant to bring this to the blog earlier, so I apologize for the delay. George Macy Devotee SteveJohnson has taken it upon themselves to create a spreadsheet covering all of the LEC and Heritage Press publications, working from resources such as the Devotees forum, Bill Majure’s work, the official bibliographies, Michael Bussacio’s work on the Heritage Press, my blog, and others. It’s an astounding project and one I wish to support, so I am pleased to be able to give it a little more of a spotlight that it deserves. It’s a work in progress so expect it to update periodically.

Limited Editions Club: King John by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

October 7, 2018 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club: King John by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

King John by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Drawings by Valenti Angelo. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #245 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Hello friends, we’re back with a small series of posts continuing our look at the LEC Shakespeare. As I noted in my Henry the IV Part I post, this is a 37 volume achievement of publishing within the annals of the Limited Editions Club. I’ve also made a list of the series and its illustrators. If you want more background on the entire set, I recommend looking at both of those earlier posts; for today I’m going to focus in on this particular play, King John.

King John falls into the genre of histories, although it lacks the broad appeal of Shakespeare’s Henry the IV, Henry V and Richard III in terms of popularity and production in the modern day. It was hugely popular in the Victorian era, however. This is based on the life of John Lackland, the king of England from 1199 to 1216. It is written entirely in verse, a very uncommon trait in Shakespeare’s canon (Richard II is the only other).

Our illustrator this time is Valenti Angelo, whose artistic style works beautifully with the play itself. Much like Salome, Angelo hand illuminated each of his drawings with gold accents, and it really makes each example pop with an energy and vigor befitting the text.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text and illustrations, which Angelo subsequently added in illuminations in gold.

Title Page – As with the entire set, Herbert Farjeon handled editing duties for the set.

Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This is from the 245th set.

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

Personal Notes – This was one of five LEC Shakespeare volumes sent to me by a fan of the blog. This was an incredibly kind gesture and one I greatly appreciated. I am very happy to add more of this beautiful publication series to my collection, and look forward to sharing the rest with you soon!

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