Heritage Press: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1950)

December 29, 2016 Comments Off on Heritage Press: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1950)

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1950)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Illustrations by Pierre Brissaud put into woodblocks by Theo Schmied
Introduced by Jacques de Lacretelle, translated by J. Lewis May
Reprint of LEC #206, 19th Series, V. 10; part of the Nonesuch Press/Heritage Press Great French Writers collaboration. The LEC issued this work earlier in 1938 with Guntar Bohmer’s illustrations.

Click images for larger views.


Front Binding – To end 2016, we’ll post about the leading vote for the Heritage Reader’s Pick, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. This book has a bit of history, being that it was part of the Heritage Great French Romances series. One of the original ten books planned in 1938, this volume ended up being issued in 1950 as a Limited Editions Club title before launching as the ninth item in the aforementioned series in 1951 (the copyright date still lists 1950). Since my friend Django6924 did such a lovely job detailing the entire series, I’ll repost his comments about this particular book:

It isn’t until February, 1951 that Madame Bovary appears. I foolishly gave away my Heritage/Nonesuch edition when I acquired the LEC version which came out in April, 1950, so the information which follows comes from the LEC Monthly Letter. As you remember, Pierre Brissaud had elected to do Bovary and was “nearing completion” when the series was announced in 1940. The Monthly Letter continues:

“But by the time M. Brissaud finished his illustrations, the Nazis had marched into Paris and the Nonesuch Press had lost contact, with M. Brissaud on the one hand, and with us on the other. It was to us, at the headquarters of the Limited Editions Club in New York, that the Brissaud illustrations for Madame Bovary found their way; and it was we who, immediately after the war was over, found ourselves in Paris with those illustrations under our arm and the mission to have those illustrations reproduced in Paris, not for the Limited Editions Club, but for the Nonesuch Press.”

The Monthly Letter then goes on to say that discovering that the atelier of Théo Schmied had reopened in Paris, and M. Schmied had indicated his interest in printing the Brissaud illustrations through multiple wood engravings, that it was decided Bovary with the Brissaud illustrations reproduced through multiple wood engravings in color would be issued first as an LEC book, and it was. This was despite the fact that Madame Bovary had been previously issued by the LEC in 1938, with illustrations by Gunther Boehmer (I’ve never seen a copy of this edition). The Monthly Letter then adds a reassuring note:

“Now once this edition…is distributed to members of this Club, it will be followed by an unlimited edition (in which the illustrations will be reproduced in monochrome) to be included in that series called The Ten Great French Romances, for distribution by the Nonesuch Press in London, and for the Nonesuch Press, by the Heritage Club in New York.”

Meynell’s typographic plan was used for the LEC editon, and of course, for the unlimited edition, which, if memory serves me, had “Heritage” on the bright green buckram spine, with green fleurs-de-lys patterned boards, which indicates it was a later printing as the 1950 edition had “Nonesuch” on the spine, which was lavender. As I remember, my Heritage edition had the illustrations reproduced in color–not monochrome.

This is the Nonesuch version of the book, given the lavender coloration. And the illustrations are indeed in monochrome. I’ll have to see if I can find a Heritage edition to compare.

This is Flaubert’s first appearance on the blog, although he had a fairly prolific run with Macy. This book is actually the second printing of Madame Bovary; 1938 saw the release of a LEC exclusive with Guther Bohmer’s artwork. The Temptation of Saint Anthony followed in 1943 with Warren Chappell’s artistic touch. Next came Brissaud’s 1950 spin on Bovary. Salammbo was issued in 1960 starring the talents of Edward Bawden. And lastly, the Cardevon Press issued Three Tales in 1978 with the art of May Neama.

Brissaud, meanwhile, is on his second-to-last commission we have covered on the blog. We’ve hit all his other contributions save his Shakespeare, The Two Gentleman of Verona. World War II wrecked havoc on Brissaud, as Django observes above, and really cut his potential for Macy. Thankfully he was really really good on the books he did illustrate!

I don’t have a Sandglass, so Django’s notes will have to suffice for now.


Title Page – Jacques de Lacertelle provides an introduction, and J. Lewis May did the translation from French to English. As you can see, Brissaud’s work is different than his other contributions; Theo Schmied desired to convert Brissaud’s linework into woodblock, and Macy agreed to the endeavor. Personally, I prefer the watercolors and light touch of Brissaud’s style in contrast to the woodcuts, but maybe it looks better in color.

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

Personal Notes – This was another title Liz sent me earlier this year.


Heritage Press – Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey (1950)

July 4, 2012 § 2 Comments

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey (1950)
Sandglass Number unknown
Artwork: Stone lithographs by Zhenya Gay
Introduced by William Bolitho
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #14/2nd Series V. 2 in 1930

Click the picture to see larger images.

Front Binding – Twenty years following its LEC release, the Heritage Press reprinted Thomas De Quincey’s most well-known work, the autobiographical Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. I have read this particular edition, and it’s pretty interesting stuff. De Quincey’s tone through most of the book is delightfully dark, save the chapter on the pleasure of opium, which is a drastic switch into euphoria that makes it stand out. Didn’t like this side of his personality as much as the rest of the book, but it’s a good read.

What’s really nice about this book is that it was the first of two commissions of Zhenya Gay for the George Macy Company, and my god, her work continues to impress. Her later spin on Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol is splendid, too, but I think there’s some art in here that exceeds most anything else I’ve seen in the LEC and Heritage lineup. Exceptional lithographic work.

De Quincey only saw this of his literary canon as a LEC/Heritage edition, and Gay only had two books to her credit, so this is an awfully short introduction. It gets worse when I say I have no Sandglass, so I’ll have to keep its production credits in the dark for now. The boards have this funky green bubbly effect to them that is quite appropriate to the material, methinks.

Slipcase – Identical to the boards. Mine had a bloody price sticker on it that did not want to be removed. :(

Title Page – William Bolitho adds some introductory comments to De Quincey’s text. This is a lovely, lovely book all the way through, with wonderful design and the aforementioned stunners from Gay.

Page 2 – Wonderful use of black and white differentiation.

Page 18 – Now this is what I call the perfect illustration. I would frame this and put it in my library. Intensity that is mostly unrivaled in any medium in my opinion.

Personal Notes – I got this at Bookbuyers’ in Monterey as part of a massive trade-in. I would adore owning the LEC.

If you like what you see, fellow LEC collector busywine has a post at his blog, Books and Vines, on the LEC of this work, loaded with images, and does some comparisons to the Heritage, too.

If you have the Sandglass, I’d love to add that information to the post. Please drop me a line in the comments here or through my thread at Librarything. Thanks!

Heritage Press – Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (unstated, 1950)

December 28, 2010 Comments Off on Heritage Press – Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (unstated, 1950)

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (unstated, 1950)*
Sandglass Number 11N
Artwork: Illustrations by Rockwell Kent
Introduced by Walt Whitman, and is a complete, unabridged Deathbed edition of his work.
Exclusive to the Heritage Press, with a limited 1000 copy print run bound in Moroccan leather and signed by Rockwell Kent.  This entry is on the standard edition. The Limited Editions Club did two other editions of Leaves of Grass I will cover below.

Click the images for a larger view.

Front Binding – A very nice shade of green for the boards and a distinctive gold inlay that both conveys the title and author initials in one fell swoop. I imagine that the leather version must look quite lovely. The book was designed by Rockwell Kent and William A. Kittredge. I’ll let Django6924 share additional insights with you:

The Sandglass in my copy (which is very interesting as it opens with a sombre section describing the anxieties of the times what with the threat of Communism and the fresh memories of WW II), mentions that the co-designer of the book, William A. Kittredge, had already “met his reward in heaven,” which makes me believe the book may have been produced some time before the 1950 date. (A quick Google search revealed Mr. Kittredge passed away in 1945.)

The book was designed by Kent himself in collaboration with typographer Kittredge of The Lakeside Press. It is set in Bodoni and the grass-green linen binding, the cloth originally made for window shades, was chosen by Kent who also designed the monogram on the front board–the initials “WW” drawn to resemble blades of grass. A great book.

Wikipedia mentions 1936 as a year for an edition of Leaves of Grass on Kent’s page, so perhaps we can point to that as a pub date? It is conceivable, as the Heritage Press began that year.

Speaking of Mr. Kent, I’m a little surprised to see his input so limited to the George Macy Company. Beyond this lovely edition, he also supplied his talent to Samuel Butler’s Erewhon for the LEC in 1934, but that’s where the contributions cease. Perhaps Kent’s shift in political ideals and becoming president of a Communist organization for the International Workers Order in the 1940’s had something to do with it. Macy was very much an American patriot, and I imagine Kent’s decision to be so radical ended up severing their ties for good. Django6924 had this to add about this topic:

I expect, as mentioned in Jerry’s blog, that Macy and Kent weren’t on the best of terms. In his pre-LEC/Heritage Press days, Macy had partnered in a small publishing company that produced newer writings, often of a mildly erotic nature, but also mysteries, adventures such as the inimitable Cursed Be the Treasure, and books about the early movie stars such as Valentino and Fairbanks.

One of the mildly erotic works was American Esoterica, a collection of short works which had probably been written for periodical publication but rejected because of concerns over charges of pruriency. This book was illustrated by Kent. Kent did Leaves of Grass for the Heritage press in the mid 30s and Erewhon for the LEC in 1934, then nothing after that. Was it his involvement with the Stalinist Soviet Union and Communism that caused the riff? Macy definitely was a patriot, but one should keep in mind that the LEC subscribers were, on the whole, much more conservative than Macy himself, and may have voiced a dislike of having their books illustrated by Kent. Macy frequently complimented Kent’s work in the Monthly Letters–his work on Moby Dick and especially on Candide–so Macy didn’t let his political views color his critical appreciation. Or was it just that Kent was probably the highest paid commercial artist in America, and may have been outside Macy’s budget?

Leaves of Grass is a curiously popular book in the Macy library. Not only is there this fine edition, but there’s TWO unique Limited Editions Club versions, issued in 1929 (the second book the Club ever put out!) and 1942. The ’29 “First Edition” printing featured Frederic Warde’s typographic touch and an introduction by Carolyn Wells, while the later ’42 has the photographs of Edward Weston and Mark Van Doren’s words providing a preface. I do not know if the 1942 edition is the First Edition or Deathbed edition of Whitman’s work, but I’ll update this when I find out. Whitman’s Song of the Open Road would also become a LEC in the Shiff years, in 1990 to be precise, with Aaron Siskind giving it some photogravure magic. Not too bad for someone known for one major work! Whitman deserves the attention!

Spine – Declaring Kent’s involvement and that the book is complete and unabridged made my heart flutter upon spotting it. It’s great that the Heritage Press went with the Deathbed edition, as there are many lovely poems Whitman composed well after the first printing of his opus. I love how they reused the classy inlay on the spine multiple times, too.

Title Page – The lone colored illustration Kent did in this book is reserved for here, likely representing “Song of Myself”, Whitman’s most famous poem. The inlay from the front is again used here, but with four years buried within the dirt. I’m not quite sure what they picked those particular years beyond being important ones in American history (Django points out that yes, that was the intent: “The four dates buried in the earth on the title page are 1492 (Columbus landed), 1607 (the founding of Jamestown), 1776 (of course), and 1861, the outbreak of the War Between the States.”

I think Kent was a fine choice to be the illustrator, as you’ll see below.

Page 104

Page 230

Personal Notes – The poetry of Walt Whitman hit me like a brick when I first discovered him, and he quickly became my favorite poet. Ever since I became enraptured with these books, I wanted Leaves of Grass. It took me 6 years to find this, my lone acquisition one time I went to a library book sale in Oakhurst in September 2010 (where I got my first massive haul before, as they’ve been my biggest supplier!). And my delight at it being unabridged and with Rockwell Kent of all people doing the art…I was ecstatic. I collect Whitman books no matter the press, but FINALLY grabbing a Heritage Press edition made my day and then some.

Whitman has a beautiful way of stating things with his poems, some of which have floored me with their straightforward grace. I recommend him if you want some thoughtful, inspiring, different poetry.

* = The book has no year stated on its copyright page, but Django was able to help me narrow down the likely publication year of this printing to 1950. Here’s what he had to say about it:

Mine also has an inked stamp–possibly put in by the original owner–with a date of May 2, 1950. This coincides nicely with the information in Bussacco’s Checklist that it was the next-to-last book in Series N which ran from June 1949–May 1950. The Checklist is less helpful when it comes to determining if this edition is a reprint of the FIRST Heritage Press Leaves of Grass which was the 2nd book in Series A, which ran from June 1937–May 1938.

Judging by the Wikipedia page for Kent, I think we can confirm that Leaves of Grass in Series A to be the same as this one, but as the first printing.  Thanks so much for all the info, Django!

Updated 7/13/2012 JF

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