Limited Editions Club: Travels in Arabia Deserta by Charles M. Doughty (1953)

Travels in Arabia Deserta by Charles M. Doughty (1953)
LEC #231/21st Series V. 11 in 1953
Artwork: Illustrations by Edy Legrand
Introduced by T.E. Lawrence, edited by Edward Garnett
LEC #801 of 1500. Heritage Press reissued.

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Front Binding – Hello! This month brings not tales of terror but instead the memoirs of Charles Doughty and his time in the Arabic countries, Travels in Arabia Deserta. Doughty was an Englishman who was seemingly down on his luck and decided to travel to Damascus to try his hands at adventuring. The resulting journey, taking place over several years in the 1870s and put to pen in 1888, initially was issued to little fanfare. However, noted author and adventurer T.E. Lawrence discovered the book after it had been edited by Edward Garnett in 1908, bringing it the fame it never saw upon its first publication. Lawrence’s praise gave Doughty’s travel biography a new life, shining a light on his time with the Bedouin people and his positive impact on the people of the region. This is the sole work of Doughty the LEC would produce, and the Heritage Press did reissue this one.

In 1953, George Macy brought the Lawrence approved and Garnett edited edition to LEC subscribers under his own design, featuring the artistic chops of Edy Legrand, who himself was on a pilgrimage to the Arabian Peninsula and produced sketches of sights he observed, creating an epic travelogue of two different individuals through their own preferred tools of the trade — Doughty in word and Legrand in art. Check out The Nibelungenlied for his complete Macy bibliography.

This binding is distinct in that it “folds” over like a journal, and spotlight a beautiful series of Legrand illustrations and decor that pop. Jeanyee Wong returns to handle the calligraphic designs appearing here and the decadent map on the title page, following her work in All Men are Brothers. To my knowledge, it was not issued with a slipcase.

Design Notes – Macy, as noted above, served as the designer:

Spine

Back Cover

Title Page – I really adore the map motif Wong produced for the title page! As I observed above, T.E. Lawrence provides an introduction (I am not sure if this is entirely new for the LEC or reused from the 1920 reprint Lawrence pushed to publication), and Garnett’s abridgement and prefatory note were used over the original Doughty produced in 1888.

Colophon – This is #801 of 1500, and was issued unsigned. Legrand was out and about for a stretch in the 1950s, and did not sign several of the LECs he was involved with during this time frame.

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

Personal Notes – I ordered this book from Moe’s Books as I’ve always found this to be a fascinating binding (having seen a copy before when I was unable to procure it), and I love Legrand’s work, so adding another of his to my collection was a no-brainer.

Limited Editions Club/Heritage Press: The Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France (1953)

The Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France (1953)
LEC #239/22nd Series, V. 7
Sandglass Number I:19
Artwork: Etchings by Pierre Watrin
Introduced by Desmond MacCarthy, and translated by Mrs. Wilfrid Jackson
#1431 of 1500
Heritage Press reprinted this edition, both compared below.

Click images to see larger views.

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Front Binding – Today brings an older post back from 2011, The Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France. Having come across the LEC edition, it’s time to finally compare the Heritage against it to see how they stack up. One thing you’ll notice is that the LEC (right) is slightly larger than the Heritage edition (left). It’s not a huge difference, but it is enough of one that it does impact the interior of the Heritage reprint, which we’ll get to.

Let’s discuss the author for a moment. Anatole France, the satirical French author who you see all too little reprinting of these days, is the subject of today’s post. The Revolt of the Angels was the last one printed by the Limited Editions Club, following At the Sign of the Queen Pedauque (1933), The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard (1937), Penguin Island (1947), and Crainquebille (1949). The first two were illustrated by Sylvain Sauvage (who would also do a special Penguin Island for the Heritage Press, among several others), while Malcolm Cameron and Bernard Lamotte supplied illustrations for the last two, respectively. The Heritage Press also did another of his works, The Gods are a-Thrist for the Heritage French Romances line. Django6924 has this to add about France’s popularity within the Macy Companies:

It is interesting that the Macy companies gave so much attention to Anatole France, who, though a Nobel Prize winner, was certainly not in the upper echelon. Five of his novels found representation in the LEC and one additional Heritage Press only edition of The Gods are a-thirst. This puts him ahead of Thomas Hardy, one of the better represented English novelists (Conrad eventually pulled ahead of France, but a majority of his works were printed after Macy’s tenure–during the time George Macy was in charge, only Dickens was better represented among novelists.)

This particular book has a bit of interesting history to it, as the Club was wanting to publish a fine edition, but were not receiving sample illustrations that they felt matched the book’s spirit. In fact, they go on record saying that they were “disappointed with these sample drawings”. While in Paris, France’s (the author, not the country) original publisher, Calmann-Levy, was about to unleash their own collector’s edition of Revolt, with etchings done by Sauvage protege Pierre Watrin. Watrin’s work fit the Club’s imagining of their book so perfectly that they gained reprinting rights for the art, and had them reproduced via gravures.

This was Watrin’s only work for the LEC, which was, as mentioned above, not unique to it. Blog commenter and fellow Macy Devotee featherwate had plenty to say about Watrin’s career following this book:

What the Sandglass doesn’t reveal is that during the seven years that elapsed between Watrin’s etchings appearing in the Calmann-Levy limited edition of the Revolt (1946) and their re-appearance in the LEC/HP editions of 1953, the artist himself seems to have largely abandoned serious book illustration to become an animation artist (and later director). He worked on one of the most famous of French cartoon features, Le Roi et L’Oiseau [English title: The King and the Mocking Bird], which began production in 1948 and was finally completed in – wait for it! – 1980; the delay was caused by studio bankruptcy and arguments over rights. The best-known of his other films is The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (1976), which he co-directed with Asterix’s creators Goscinny and Uderzo.

It was an interesting change of career for someone who was a star pupil of Sylvain Sauvage and according to the Sandglass had in only eight years established a high reputation as an illustrator and theatre designer. I have to say that most of the few illustrations of his I have found reproduced on the internet are pretty mundane compared to his etchings for Revolt: bread-and-butter pictures in children’s books and strip-cartoon histories of various French provinces (and let’s not overlook Space Mission Health Hygéa 7, a bizarre-sounding medical guide for teenagers[?] issued by the French government).

At http://www.flickr.com/photos/62235807@N02/ I’ve posted a still from Le Roi; the film is in colour but this b&w portrait hanging on a wall seems to have the same graphic wit as Watrin’s etchings for Revolt. I like to think of it as his work.

And I’m sure that’s more than you ever wanted to know about the life and work of Pierre Watrin!

Design Notes – Saul and Lillian Marks handled design and publishing duties for the LEC edition via their Plantin Press, while Ferris Printing Company produced the Heritage edition. Django6924 had this to say about the Marks:

The Revolt of the Angels was another production from Saul and Lillian Mark’s Plantin Press in Los Angeles…In the Monthly Letter on another of the several books from Plantin, Macy wrote that the presswork “was the finest since John Henry Nash went to his reward.” This was the ultimate in praise, as Macy felt that for quality, Nash was unmatched by any printer alive.

The LEC edition has the following particulars (per the Quatro-Millenary:

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The LEC’s silk-finish cloth appears to be of sterner stuff than the binding material for the Heritage; the boards are covered in a “silky material of a midnight-blue color” according to the Sandglass, but the ink that stained it is incredibly sensitive to fading in the sun, as I’ve seen at least five different copies all afflicted with a grayed, dull spine. Shame, too, as it’s otherwise a nice book. Both feature a sword adorned with angel wings stamped into the front boards in silver leaf, shared with the spine.

The Heritage had its gravures handled by the Photogravure and Color Company in New York, like its LEC forebear. Paper was supplied by the International Paper Company. Russell-Rutter handled the binding of this version.

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Spines – The Heritage is on top, and demonstrates how badly the fabric tends to sun for this edition. In contrast, the LEC is a vibrant blue.

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Slipcase

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Title Page – Mrs. Wilfrid Jackson, who spent much of her time translating the works of France it would seem from a quick Googling, seems the right person for the job translating this work. Desmond MacCarthy serves up an Introduction.

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Colophon – This LEC is #1431 of 1500. Watrin did not provide his signature, probably due to the several year gap in releases and the fact Macy did not commission him specifically to do this book.

There isn’t much difference between the production quality of the two editions internally beyond two key things: the paper in the LEC feels higher quality between your fingers, and the text is slightly compressed in the Heritage. An example of this can be seen below:

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Page 23 – The top is the Heritage, the bottom is the LEC. The Heritage’s font is a tad denser, while the LEC has a thinner crispness to it. The illustrations are well copied, considering the same company handled both editions on that front (and both were photogravures in the first place).

As for the art, the LEC was wise to gain the rights to reprinting Watrin’s work, as he has a distinct style that seems to work well.

Page 30 (Heritage) – There’s some in-text art as well.

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Page 83 (Heritage top, LEC bottom)

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Page 103 (LEC)

Personal Notes – This is one of the most common Heritage Press books I’ve seen, as least where I used to live. Two of my old bookshop gigs had one, I bought this documented one at a local library sale…it’s sort of bizarre how often I used to see this. I also have spotted it in the Bay Area a lot.

Compared to France’s other books (which are rarer for me to find), Revolt seems to follow me around. :p I bought the copy I have now at Second Time Around in Merced (the last shop I worked at), which had a slipcase and was generally a nicer condition. Since the initial writing of this post I’ve gotten the LEC of this one as well as the aforementioned Gods Are A-Thrist, and snagging the rest of France’s LEC and Heritage output is high on my list to acquire!

I also happen to have a delightful Penguin Island and The Revolt of the Angels printing by Dodd, Mead in the late 1920’s that is illustrated wonderfully by Frank C. Pape. He did a series of France’s work for that publisher following France’s Nobel Prize win. Unfortunately, Pape never collaborated with the George Macy Company.

Another interesting thing that happened with this book for me is the inclusion of a second Sandglass, for the Heritage Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, a book I have never laid eyes on (and not for lack of trying!). It is some relief to know that if I ever do stumble upon one I won’t need it to have a Sandglass inside it as a determining factor (although I’d probably buy it on the spot considering how scarce it is). Curiously, the second copy I bought had a Sandglass for Washington Irving’s History of New York if I remember correctly. So, look inside copies of Revolt for unexpected Sandglasses!

Sandglass:

Updated 8/18/2019 JF

Heritage Press: The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1953, Coronation Edition)

The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1953)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Illustrations by Agnes Miller Parker, decorations by John Austen
Specifically published by the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, introduced by John Hayward
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #234/22nd Series, V. 2 in 1953

Click images for a larger view.

Front Binding – An artistic tour de force lies within these boards, as two of the greats in the history of the Limited Editions Club unite for this special Coronation edition of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen.  Agnes Miller Parker, whose work has been featured on the blog twice before (for the Poetry of Shakespeare and Hardy’s Return of the Native…but there’s plenty more to come!), combines her wood-carving talents with the fine drawing abilities of John Austen.  Austen’s other works will be spotlighted soon on the blog, as I have come into possession of his very first commission for the Limited Editions Club, Vanity Fair, and he also applied his touch to Aristophanes’ The Frogs, among plenty of others. I think the two work well together, but you can judge for yourself momentarily.

Alas, this library copy is not in the greatest shape, so it’s got a few issues.  I do like the color choice of a creme board with aqua green adornments on top, with the pink spine giving it a little class.  However, this is a library copy, and Sandglasses are notoriously difficult to uncover within these well-read books, so I’m in the dark as to who put this beauty together.  Any help would be great!

Title Page – Parker gets the left side to herself to showcase her excellence, while Austen embellishes the actual title page with his decorations.  The work is introduced by John Hayward.

Introduction Page 1 – Austen did smaller pieces meant to decorate the text, while Parker offers full page woodcut prints.  Here’s two examples of Austen’s contributions.

Illustrations Contents

Page 18 – And here’s Parker’s.  Another follows.  Just incredible.

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Personal Notes – The list of my desired books continues to grow.  *sigh*  This was another I checked out through the library system.

Any and all info on this book’s design process would be very useful!  If you have a Sandglass or LEC Newsletter, please drop me a line here or through the comments at my thread about this blog at the George Macy Devotees @ LibraryThing!  Thanks!