Limited Editions Club: The Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1945)

The Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1945)
LEC #168/16th Series V. 4 in 1945
Artwork: Watercolors by Richard and Doris Beer
Introduced by Louis Untermeyer
LEC #321 of 1500. LEC Exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – This month introduces the blog to a new series of Limited Editions Club titles: The American Poets. We’ve covered one of the Heritage reprints of these editions (Edgar Allan Poe, to be precise), but this will be the first time we will get to feature the original LEC publication. The others in this series include the poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, John Greenleaf Whittier, Emily Dickinson, and the aforementioned Poe, paired with illustrators that could couple their creative lyrics with visual flourishes as grand as the written words. Each was bound in a black sheepskin leather with matching embossing and gold stamped text to the material, although a few of the series’ 1500 copies are in variant colors depending on dye availability as most were produced during or shortly after World War II.

Ralph Waldo Emerson isn’t a stranger to the blog, although it has been some time (11 years!) since he last made his presence felt with the Heritage edition of his essays. This is the second and final LEC of his writings, but I feel both editions capture Emerson’s powerful, intelligent spirit in their own respective ways.

The art, meanwhile, is new to us — Richard and Doris Beer, a husband and wife team of watercolorists, tackled this project with a graceful and color-rich approach that doesn’t go heavy on the details but allows the viewer to mentally travel to the locations they depict. While it’s not the grandiose detail of Eichenberg, Parker or Legrand, the Beer duo deliver a beautiful commission that sadly stands alone as they never returned to the LEC canon.

Design Notes – A.G. Hoffman and Robert L. Dothard split the design duties on this edition. Dothard has made an appearance here a few times with The Innocent Voyage, The Aeneid, and the Quarto-Millenary, but I believe this is Hoffman’s first book we’ve covered. Here’s what the Quarto has to say:

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Title Page – Louis Untermeyer — who has appeared more on this blog than some authors or illustrators have! — was the editor in charge of this series and provides an introduction along with some commentary.

Colophon – This is #321 of 1500, and was signed by the Beers.

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

Personal Notes – I purchased this from an online bookseller who shared some interesting background on the original owner; they happened to have lived in the same city I do presently and had an impact on its local history! I happened to acquire three books from the same collector at this time so it’s a neat little bonus that I can remember about them all, haha. The only other time I got a remote sense of a collector is of #403 who lived in Carmel, CA, and I have multiple volumes from them (and they had a house full of windows, which is why many of those are sun-faded!).

Limited Editions Club: Vathek by William Beckford (1945)

Vathek: An Arabian Tale by William Beckford
LEC #166/16th Series V. 2 in 1945
Artwork: Decorations and illuminations by Valenti Angelo
Introduction, translation and notes by Herbert Grimsditch
LEC #557 of 1500. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

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Front Binding – We return to the delightfully beautiful book design of Valenti Angelo once again this month with the third of his subseries of fully decorated miniature editions of literary works set in the Middle East. As I noted in The Kasidah post late last year, the first was The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in 1935; The Kasidah was next in 1937, this lovely book in 1945, and The Book of Psalms in 1960. As I wrote then, these all had unique leather bindings with some intricate embossing of an Angelo design, a chemise along with a slipcase, and stunning interiors with decorated pages with hand illuminated illustrations done individually by the master himself

The author, William Beckford, was driven by the Asian cultural zeitgeist hitting Europe in the late 1700s, where many were influenced, inspired and intrigued by the myths, traditions and societies of Asia, especially the Middle East. He happened to also be a huge fan of French writer Voltaire, and decided to pen a tale combining the newfound interest of Asian societies with the supernatural of the blossoming Gothic fraction of fiction. Originally written in French and issued without his name (with the English publisher claiming it was translated from an Arabic work, a falsified claim). Vathek went on to inspire many notable authors of the 1800s, such as Edgar Allan Poe, John Keats, Lord Byron and Robert Southey, among others. Beckford is perhaps better known for his art collection and his involvement with building Fonthill Abbey than for his writing, but this particular work is notable as being both hugely successful and a key piece of the Gothic novel genesis that would flourish in the 1800s. This is the sole edition the LEC issued of his work, and the Heritage Press did not reprint it.

Design Notes – Angelo was the designer, as I mentioned earlier. Per the QM:

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Title Pages – Like The Kasidah, this features two title pages; one that serves as a more descriptive one, with Angelo, the LEC and the year featured; the following is a far more simple and decorative feast for the eyes. Unstated is translator Herbert Grimsditch’s introduction and notes.

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Colophon – This is #557 of 1500, and was signed by Angelo.

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

Personal Notes – This was another book in the lot I bought from NYCFAddict, a fellow Devotee. These intensely decorated pages continue to wow me, haha. Sadly the chemise was broken prior to his acquiring of it, but otherwise it’s in lovely shape. This one is less stiff to open than The Kasidah, so I guess this owner partook of its pages a little more often, haha.

Heritage Press: Salome by Oscar Wilde (1945)

Salome by Oscar Wilde (1945)
Sandglass Number 3NN
Artwork: Decorated and hand-illuminated by Valenti Angelo.
Translated from the French by Lord Alfred Douglas, and introduced by Holbrook Jackson
Heritage Press Exclusive – The LEC put out a 2-volume set for Salome in 1938 that is discussed below.

Click on the images to see full-size.

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Front Binding – I’ve gotten a new copy of this book so I’ve updated the binding to showcase what a non-faded edition looks like. Even before opening this book you can tell it’s something special. Its charming boards (this design is on both sides) make for a strong impression. Illustrator Valenti Angelo was also responsible for the design of the book.  As for how the binding was made, I’ll let Django6924 explain:

The black cloth binding was purchased by the Macy companies before WW II and had sat in warehouses until its use in Salome. It was made by Interlaken Mills in Arkwright, RI, a specialist in making cloth for book covers. Salome was issued in October, 1945.

Oscar Wilde seemed to be a favorite for the George Macy Company. The Ballad of Reading Gaol came first in 1937, followed by the LEC Salome. This edition for the Heritage Press followed in 1945. The Picture of Dorian Gray was released in 1957, followed by his Short Stories in 1968. Two of his plays, The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Wintermere’s Fan, were the last, released in 1973. That covers the majority of his popular literary output.

Valenti Angelo was one of the more productive of Macy’s artists, producing eleven Limited Editions Club books and three unique Heritage Press books, which is very impressive. He was busy elsewhere, too, as I’ve seen his name attached to quite a few books outside of the Macy sphere. So far, our blog features The Sonnets of Shakespeare, A Thousand Nights and a Night, The Song of Roland, Selections from the Koran and this particular book, but there’s plenty more to come. He has a simplistic yet charming style that well suits the books he works on.

Since I’ve omitted it before, here’s a complete chronology of Angelo’s work. For the LEC, it began with A Thousand Nights and a Night in 1934, where he did 1001 illustrations! Next was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables in 1935. The LEC Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam followed in 1935 (quite different than Arthur Szyk’s spin, I imagine). The Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yazdi was released in 1937. 1938 brought The Song of Roland. Vathek: An Arabian Tale was mailed out in 1945. The lovely Sonnets of the Portuguese came next in 1948. The stunning Koran was released ten years later in 1958. The Book of Psalms came out in 1960, followed up by The Book of Proverbs in 1963. The last was another Hawthorne work, Twice-Told Tales, published in 1966. The editions Angelo exclusively did for the Heritage Press include Salome, The Sonnets of Shakespeare (1941), and The Song of Songs (1935), the latter of which was one of the six titles in the 1st Series of the Press and features a limited set of copies with Angelo’s signature.

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Title Page – If this doesn’t floor you, I don’t know what book would. Gorgeously decorated yellow pages that have been specially cut (the top is uncut, giving each page added thickness), and EVERY single page in this book has an amazing border similar to this, all done by Angelo. Salome herself is boldly colored in a way that suits the page background, too. The gold was hand-illuminated by Angelo himself in early printings. The text is Garamond Bold, and works with the pages perfectly. A masterwork.

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Personal Notes – I had heard of the beauty of Salome from Django6924 before owning it, and my ex-wife managed to uncover the first copy I owned at an antique mall in Merced. I was eager to see why Django thought of it so highly, and I was certainly not disappointed. This is among the most stunning books the Heritage Press put out, without question. I paid $8 (half off that day!) for it. That’s way more than I would usually fork out for a sun-faded HP book with no Sandglass or slipcase, but this was an exception well worth making. Since then I have acquired a complete edition from Bookbuyers in Monterey (which is where the binding photos now come from for this post).

Despite its exquisiteness, though, I found the play itself to be a little too repetitive for my liking. My loss, perhaps?

Django6924 was able to fill in a lot of the missing gaps, so enjoy his explanation behind the creation of this majestic book:

The Sandglass gives much biographical information about Mr. Angelo, but what will be of particular interest here is that he got his start in the book business illustrating books for the Grabhorn Press in San Francisco, and did indeed illustrate a Salome for them years before–an exceedingly rare edition, obviously, as I have never seen a copy of it online or in any bookstore.

Also interesting is the considerable space given in the Sandglass to the LEC Salome, which was, in fact, two books–the one illustrated by (Andre) Derain (most unusually on black paper) and printed in French (which is how Wilde wrote it). The second Salome (housed in the same slipcase), featured Lord Alfred Douglas’ translation into English–the version by which the play is most familiar to we English-speaking types. This volume is illustrated with the well-known drawings Aubrey Beardsley had made for the English publication of his translation.

The Introduction by Holbrook Jackson was used in both LEC and Heritage Press editions.

The Sandglass goes on to point out that this Salome resulted from the success of the similar hand-illuminated Heritage Press Song of Songs, that was one of the first 6 books issued by the Heritage Press. That book, too, is a treasure, especially if you find one of the earlier editions bound in red leather.

Thanks, Django!

Sandglass (courtesy of Django6924):

Updated 7/30/2017 – JF