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.

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

January 20, 2013 § 10 Comments

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!


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):

Heritage Press – Droll Stories by Honore de Balzac (1939)

January 20, 2013 § 8 Comments

Droll Stories by Honore de Balzac (1939)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Illustrations by Boris Artzybasheff
Introduced and Translated by Jacques Le Clercq
Heritage Press Exclusive: The LEC would issue their own Droll Stories as a 3 volume set with W.A. Dwiggins serving as designer and illustrator in 1932.

Click images for larger views.


Front Binding – Welcome to our first book post in 2013! The first book on the schedule is Droll Stories, a collection of bawdy tales by Honore de Balzac. The words are taken from the 1932 LEC printing of the same work, but the Heritage Press commissioned Boris Artzybasheff to supply his artistic touch for their edition. Artzybasheff was perhaps best known for his magazine commissions, including over 200 individual covers of TIME. He won both the Newbery (for Dhan Gopal Mukerji’s Gay Neck; he illustrated it) and Caldecott Honor (for Seven Simeons, in the very first year it was awarded!) awards, which may have provoked Macy to consider him for the job. However, this was the sole Artzybasheff issuing by the Club. Artzybasheff moved into commercial art in the 1940’s, doing fewer book illustrations. I don’t have the Sandglass, so perhaps the reasoning is supplied there. At any rate, I wish our dear artist did accomplish more for the George Macy Company, as I feel that he was quite talented at his craft.

As for Balzac, he is one of the French masters. He challenged the concept of vulgarity (quite so with this work), explored characterization and gave literature a new layer of realistic detail. Let’s tackle his LEC publications:

1932 – Droll Stories, illustrated by W.A. Dwiggins
1948 – Old Goriot, illustrated by Rene ben Sussan
1960 – Eugenie Grandet, illustrated by Rene ben Sussan

The Heritage Press seemed to follow suit, with Sussan’s two issuings seeing reprints, and Droll Stories being reissued with Artzybasheff’s art. Balzac was also borrowed to introduce Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma. FYI, Old Goriot is part of the Nonesuch Press French Author collaboration that produced several Heritage books, which Django6924 generously provided info on here.

I don’t have any design info, alas. I’ll update this when I do. The front and back are certainly not dynamic, barren as they are, but the spine is quite nice.






Title Page – Jacques Le Clercq was called upon to translate the tales, and he even offers an introduction. The title illustration gives you a taste of what’s to come. Now, the two selections I’ve picked to represent the book are very risque and are loaded with nudity. So, for those who would prefer not to look, I’ll make the rest of the entry a jump. « Read the rest of this entry »

Of Interest – The Illustrators of the LEC Shakespeare

April 29, 2012 Comments Off on Of Interest – The Illustrators of the LEC Shakespeare

While I’ve yet to cover most of the exquisite LEC Shakespeares, I’ve had a devil of a time trying to find a complete list of the illustrators for the 39 volume set. Well, I’m happy to present to you that very coveted list, in a typed form, so that it’ll be available to LEC collectors looking for books from their favorite illustrators. All of the books were designed by Bruce Rogers.

All’s Well that Ends Well – Drawings by Richard Floethe, printed in color by A. Colish

Antony and Cleopatra – Wood engravings by Enric-Cristobal Ricart, pulled by R.& R. Clark and hand-colored by Jean Saude

As You Like It – Watercolors by Sylvain Sauvage, hand-colored by Mourlot Freres

The Comedy of Errors – Wood engravings by John Austen, pulled and printed in 5 colors by R.& R. Clark

Coriolanus – Tempura paintings by C. Pal Molnar, lithographed in 15 colors by Mourlot Freres

Cymbeline – Lithographs by Yngve Berg, pulled by the Curwen Press

Hamlet – Dry-brush drawings by Edy Legrand, printed in collotype/black/gray by Georges Duval

Henry the Fourth Part I – Color lithographs by Barnett Freedman, pulled by the Curwen Press

Henry the Fourth Part II – Watercolors by Edward Bawden, hand-colored by Jean Saude and printed in collotype by Georges Duval

Henry the Fifth – Pencil drawings by Vera Willoughby, lithographed by Mourlot Freres

Henry the Sixth Part I – Lithographs by Graham Sutherland, pulled by the Curwen Press

Henry the Sixth Part II – Lithographs by Carlotta Petrina, pulled by George C. Miller

Henry the Sixth Part III – Colored line drawings by Jean Charlot, printed in 3 colors by A. Colish

Henry the Eighth – Wood engravings by Eric Gill, pulled by A. Colish

Julius Caesar – Wood engravings by Frans Masereel, pulled by A. Colish

King John – Line drawings in three colors plus gold by Valenti Angelo, printed by A. Colish

King Lear – Brush drawings by Boardman Robinson, printed in collotype in black/2 grays by Georges Duval

Love’s Labour Lost – Crayon and wash drawings by Mariette Lydis, printed in collotype in black/gray by Georges Duval

Macbeth – Color drawings by Gordon Craig, lithographed by Mourlot Freres

Measure for Measure – Color lithographs by Hugo Steiner-Prag, pulled by Mourlot Freres

The Merchant of Venice – Watercolors by Rene ben Sussan, printed by both Mourlot Freres and Georges Duval, hand-colored by Maurice Beaufume

The Merry Wives of Windsor – Color drawings by Gordon Ross, printed in collotype in black and sanguine by Georges Duval, then hand-colored (does not state by whom…Ross, maybe?)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Watercolors by Arthur Rackham, lithographed in 4 colors by Mourlot Freres, hand-colored by Maurice Beaufume

Much Ado About Nothing – Watercolors by Fritz Kredel, printed in collotype by Georges Duval and hand-colored by Jean Saude

Othello – Wood engravings by Robert Gibbings, pulled by A. Colish

Pericles, Prince of Tyre – Wood engravings by Stanislas Ostoja-Chrostowski, pulled by A. Colish

Richard the Second – Wood engravings by Agnes Miller Parker, pulled by A. Colish

Richard the Third – Lithographs by Fritz Eichenberg, pulled by George C. Miller

Romeo and Juliet – Color line drawings by Ervine Metzl, printed in 2 colors by A. Colish

The Taming of the Shrew – Line drawings by W.A. Dwiggins, printed in sanguine by A. Colish

The Tempest -Watercolors by Edward A. Wilson, printed by both Georges Duval (collotype) and Mourlot Freres (2 colors), hand-colored by Maurice Beaufume

Timon of Athens – Wood engravings by George Buday, pulled by A. Colish

Titus Andronicus – Watercolors by Nikolai Fyodorovitch Lapshin, lithographed by Mourlot Freres

Troilus and Cressida – Wood engravings by Demetrius Galanis, pulled in black/terra cotta by Dehon et Cie

Twelfth Night, or What You Will – Watercolors by Francesco Carnevali, lithographed by Mourlot Freres

The Two Gentlemen of Verona – Watercolors by Pierre Brissaud, printed in collotype (key gray) by Georges Duval and hand-colored (not stated, Brissaud, perhaps?)

The Winter’s Tale – Drawings by Albert Rutherson, hand-colored by Jean Saude and printed in key-black by the Curwen Press

Note that this set is completely unsigned, so that bit of novelty is lost. However, a set of Shakespeare’s poetry followed the release of the plays. They were deliberately matched to the binding style of the rest, and this one is signed by Rogers. Hope this list aids you somehow or another!

Heritage Illustrated Bookshelf – The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1939)

March 28, 2012 § 2 Comments

The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1939, Illustrated Bookshelf Edition)
No Sandglass, includes a “Monthly Magazine of the Junior Heritage Club”
Artwork: Illustrations by John Austen
No Introduction beyond a brief note on the author
Heritage Press Exclusive, printed as a standard Heritage title as well.

Click to see larger images.

Front Binding – Ah, our second Illustrated Bookshelf piece.  The first was Twain’s Tom Sawyer, and finally I can share the first “complete” one I own (in fact, at present it is the only one!), Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield.  Designed by John Fass, this book never saw a LEC edition, so Macy purists will have to settle for a Heritage edition.  Some quick production details: W.A. Dwiggins’ Caledonia font is what renders the text, done at a 12-point size.  Unfortunately, Macy fails to mention the publishing house who printed the work and the bindery who bound it (just my luck today it would seem, as Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard also left out that crucial information!).

John Austen was a very productive member of Macy’s artist pantheon, and there’s a nice essay on Austen by Austen in the Magazine you may want to peruse.  He calls joining the Limited Editions Club “the happiest period of my life”, and you can see the results in every book he had a hand in, including this one.  I’ve failed in my duties to elaborate on his career with my earlier posts spotlighting his work, Vanity Fair and The Faerie Queene, so I’ll do it now and save myself some grief.  Austen began his work for the LEC with Vanity Fair in 1930, and following that he rendered for the LEC The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens in 1933, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle by Tobias Smollett in 1935, The Frogs by Aristophanes in 1937, The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane by Alain Rene Le Sage in 1938, The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett in 1941, and The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser in 1953, which was published after his death and also featured the woodcuts of Agnes Miller Parker.  Several of these books were bound at Oxford University Press in similar slipcases, with dustjackets, in two volumes, and all had common design philosophies.  As far as I know, all of the above save The Frogs were published in this way.  Austen was also a player in the LEC Shakespeare, contributing his touch to The Comedy of Errors.  He also did several exclusive Heritage books, including this particular work, Dickens’ David Copperfield, and R.K. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone.  He was a busy man, no question.

As for Oliver Goldsmith, he is known for producing an absolute classic in drama (She Stoops to Conquer), novel (The Vicar of Wakefield), and poetry (“The Deserted Village”).  He was an Irishman, and was known to be a sweet yet envious man.  This was his first work printed by the Company, with She Stoops to Conquer to follow in 1964.  I have the Heritage She Stoops… for you to look forward to. :)

Slipcase – A little unusual for a Heritage slipcase to feature artwork and author/artist information, but apparently this was common for the Illustrated Bookshelf line.

Title Page – The paper used in this edition is interesting.  It has tiny speckles throughout that give it a sort of “recycled” feel, although I doubt much of that was going on in 1939!  Austen’s work is beautiful, as usual.  He has pen drawings at the beginning of each chapter along with these “portrait” pieces scattered throughout the text.

Page 1 – Example of the pen drawings.

Page 4

Personal Notes – I picked this up from my bookselling gig at a used book shop in my college town in Merced.  I think I paid $10 for it.  It has someone’s name written in pen in it, and it’s somewhat battered, but it was a complete book despite its flaws, and the Monthly Magazine seemed fascinating.  I’ve photographed it in its entirety below for you.

Monthly Magazine:

Heritage Press – Beowulf (1939?)

January 15, 2011 § 5 Comments

Beowulf (1939?)*
Sandglass Number 5K
Artwork: Drawings by Lynd Ward
Translated and introduced by William Ellery Leonard
Originally a Hertiage Press exclusive, later reprinted by the Limited Editions Club in 1952 (Book #225, 21st series V.

Click the images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Designed by John S. Fass, these boards were covered by a binder’s linen that was left intentionally rough, dyed several shades of brown.  The bold blue foil box that surrounds Beowulf‘s title was stamped into the linen, with the gold pressed into that.  The spine repeats the idea, albeit smaller.

Django2694 has this to say about the LEC edition, among some other comments:

I don’t have my Heritage edition at home–it’s packed in storage and I don’t remember whether it had a Sandglass. I can say that the Ward-illustrated Beowulf was an original Heritage Press publication, done in response, perhaps, to Rockwell Kent’s wonderful Beowulf for the Lakeside Press–which was the first to use Leonard’s translation. Kent’s work is justly famous, so I expect Macy felt he needed to go one better by having Ward do his illustrations in color. This original edition was in 1939, but from everything I have read or seen, that edition was exactly like yours–same binding, illustrations, production details–which was probably a later reissue.

The Monthly Letter for the later LEC mentions Kent’s work:

“”There are pundits who go so far as to say the Lynd Ward’s illustrations for Beowulf are as good as those truly remarkable lithographs which Rockwell Kent made for Beowulf in the year 1928.”

The designer of the LEC Beowulf was Eugene Ettenberg. It is a largish book–bigger than the Heritage Press edition–8.5″ x 12″–and it is set in 14 point Janson while the chapter heads are set in “an utterly new typeface imported from Amsterdam called Libra.” The quarter binding on the spine is blue linen and there is a design of a spear by Ward stamped in gold. The boards are covered in a handmade paper from Sweden featuring a wavy pattern of browns, beiges and blues. The Monthly Letter says Ward “revised” the original illustrations, drawing directly on the lithographic plates. In addition to the size increase, they are also much more delicate in color than the saturated blues and golds of the Heritage edition (but with none of the muddiness you see in the reproductions for the Easton press edition, as was pointed out by EP collector Lucas Trask in an informative side-by-side comparison:

In addition to these “revisions” Ward also adapted one of the illustrations for a two-page black & white spread for the title treatment, and numerous little designs–battleaxes, meadcups, etc–reproduced in brown and sprinkled throughout the text. I would not say that the LEC is inferior**–just subdued whereas the Heritage original is exuberant.

Title Page – Lynd Ward’s stunning artwork quickly lets readers know they are in for a treat.  The Heritage Press acquired the rights to reprint Professor William Ellery Leonard’s introduction and translation, which was at the time deemed “the most interesting” by Americans according to the Sandglass.  Leonard also has a preface before each section of the poem.  The text is Garamond, picked for its harmony with Ward’s work.  The paper was, as par the course, specially made for this book by the Collins Paper Company, who supplied a “soft yet tough rag paper” for Leonard’s words and Ward’s ink.

While on the subject of Ward, the Sandglass mentions three other books Ward had done for the Press by its publication – Les Miserables, Gargantua & Pantagruel, and The Innocent Voyage.  Curious that last one, as its publication date was 1944, five years after this book’s copyright page claims to have been printed.  I’m inclined to believe that I do not own a first printing of this book, or it was held for five years plus before its actual release, which is possible.  Ward’s first LEC book was not listed, oddly enough, which was The Cloister and the Hearth in 1932, but perhaps that’s omitted due to its position as an early LEC predating the Heritage Press and was not printed by them.  If you have any further info on this, I’d appreciate it.

Page 5 – Grendel is grotesquely rendered here – a poignant and powerful illustration.  In total, Ward did 16 full-page illustrations like this one, printed with a lithographic process in blue and brown inks.

Page 8 – Beowulf gets a glorious introduction, properly playing up his heroic nature.  Ward was a genius.

Page 1 – An example of Leonard’s introductions to each section, which Ward also contributed smaller black-and-white pieces for.

Personal Notes – I paid too much for this book. :p  Before I had a clue about the Heritage Press and its price scales, I dropped $30 for this at my friend’s old Page One Used Books (the same that I’ve swapped Brownings with), but considering how rarely I see it in other shops (i.e. once, last time I was in Berkeley), I suppose it’s all right that I forked out a fairly hefty sum…although it is lacking a slipcase.  It did introduce me to Lynd Ward, one of my favorite illustrators in the George Macy Company’s long list of artists.

My copy came with a second pamphlet that I’d be disinclined to believe came from the Heritage Press, looking at the original Beowulf manuscript and analyzing it some.  One of the neater bonuses I’ve gotten out of any book I have.


* = Due to the Sandglass listing books published after 1939, I’m not certain that I can rely on that as a publication date.  As I do not have any other year to work from, I’m arbitrarily using it as a placeholder until I know for certain what year this book was published.

** = Before Django supplied with me with info on the LEC, I commented that I had heard the LEC edition was inferior to the original Heritage edition.  I’ve dropped those comments (since he was nice enough to provide info on the LEC!), but that’s what he’s referring to here.

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