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

The Tempest by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Watercolors by Edward A. Wilson. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #897 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

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Front Binding – Let us return once more to the LEC Shakespeare series, with the last play I currently have in my collection, the fantastical comedy The Tempest. One of Shakespeare’s later plays in the canon, this one is a bit like Midsummer’s Night’s Dream in terms of featuring supernatural characters alongside its human cast, but this particular work goes more into the tragic side of things. It’s one I haven’t read or seen yet, so I should remedy that soon!

Edward A. Wilson was the illustrator for this play, and he did so quite wonderfully. This is perhaps his finest work thus far on the blog, but there are a couple contenders I have not covered yet. He was one of the most frequent artists called upon by the LEC (#2 overall for the LEC!) and Heritage Press, as this post covers. He studied under the legendary Howard Pyle, who was a masterful artist in his own right, and you can see some of that legacy here in The Tempest.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text, while Wilson’s watercolors were printed via collotype in gray ink by Georges Duval, with two colors printed from lithographic stones by Fernand Mourlot. Watercolors were then applied by stencil by the atelier Beaufume.

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

Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, as we’ve discussed before, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This is from the 897th set.

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

Personal Notes – This is the final LEC Shakespeare I received from a very kind fan of the blog who had some duplicates and was generous enough to pass them along to me to cover. It’s taken a little over a year, but the set is finished at last and I am very thankful to have these in my collection.

Limited Editions Club: The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Drawings by Gordon Ross. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #1505 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

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Front Binding – After some interlude we once more are back to the LEC Shakespeare, this time with one of the comedies, The Merry Wives of Windsor, starring the comedic Falstaff from Henry IV after the request of Queen Elizabeth for the knight’s tale to continue into one of budding love. Shakespeare obliged, and according to accounts at the time the Queen was so enthused with the prospect that she “commanded it to be finished in fourteen days; and was afterwards…very well pleased with the representation,” per the LEC newsletter for this edition. As the letter notes, Falstaff arguably had such a moment in Henry IV, when he departs Doll Tearsheet’s side to help Henry’s cause, but that’s neither here nor there — we have this delightful comedy to enjoy regardless of Falstaff’s whimsies.

For this play, George Macy tapped the artistic talents of Gordon Ross, who has not been seen on this blog for quite some time, although it is not for lack of effort or interest! Ross relished the opportunity to illustrate Windsor, especially enjoying drawing Falstaff’s horse and working to improve the look of the stout man from “gross toper sunk in a tavern chair” into the more dynamic and able character Shakespeare wrote. Personally, I think he succeeded! My very old Pickwick Papers post goes into his bibliography for Macy.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text, while Ross’s illustrations were printed in collotype in black and sanguine by Georges Duval, then hand-colored for the title page (sadly, I do not know who did it).

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

Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, as we’ve discussed before, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This is from the 1505th set.

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

Personal Notes – As with the rest of the LEC Shakespeare covered over the past year or so (Henry IV Part 1 notwithstanding), this was sent to me by a very nice fan of the blog who has been beyond kind in sharing his duplicates with me to document. I cherish these books and am beyond appreciative.

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

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)

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.

Heritage Press – Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1939*)

Walden or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau (1939, * = this edition was done after 1953)
Sandglass Number III:30
Artwork: Wood Engravings by Thomas A. Nason
Heritage Press Exclusive: The LEC would issue their own Walden with Edward Steichen’s Walden Pond photographs in 1936.

Click images for larger views.

Front Binding – Book #2 for today is the Heritage Walden. Thoreau’s seminal nature writings continue to inspire and influence people today, even if you find his personal reasoning and methods of living with nature a bit dubious. The Limited Editions Club had Edward Steichen’s Walden Pond photographs provide its visuals, but the Heritage Press went for a more natural approach, asking wood engraver Thomas A. Nason to supply their edition with woodcuts. Nason’s work is quite apropos, and he would see two future LEC commissions come his way. He did the Poems of William Cullen Bryant in 1947, and his last was a doozy; The Complete Poems of Robert Frost, a 2 volume issuing in 1950 that Frost, Nason and designer Bruce Rogers all signed, which automatically skyrockets it into the more coveted and expensive LEC’s out there.

Thoreau’s Walden LEC release in 1936 would be the last under George Macy; in fact, Helen and Jonathan Macy barely got the next one, Cape Cod, out under their tenure in 1968. Raymond J. Holden would render that one artistically. Cardevon Press recruited Holden again in 1975 for their A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers LEC in 1975. That’s all for Thoreau!

Designing info for you: Carl Purington Rollins was the original designer back for the original issuing. Clarke and Way printed the work on Crocker-Burbank paper. Bookman is the font of choice. That’s all the Sandglass provides!

Slipcase

Title Page – I happen to like Nason’s work a lot. The full-page engravings are loaded with little details that fit the world of Walden like a glove. There are many more small cuts, which are also excellent. A good fit! There is no preface or introduction to Thoreau’s text; it just starts right up!

Examples of the In-text Illustrations by Nason (right click and open in new tab for full size):

Personal Notes – I’ve owned two separate copies of this book. The first I don’t fully recall how it sneaked into my inventory. It was ratty and beat up! If my memory serves, I believe I got it from Windows on the World Books & Art (RIP), my second bookselling gig, for a really low price or free. The one this post features is my second, much nicer copy. I snagged that at a library book sale. Haven’t read it yet.

Sandglass (right click and open in new tab for full size):