Limited Editions Club: Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs (1954)

Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs (1954)
LEC #248/23rd Series V.4  in 1954
Artwork: Lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton
Introduced by Brooks Atkinson
LEC #1440 of 1500. Reprinted by the Heritage Press (Connecticut).

Click images to see larger views.

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Front Binding – Occasionally we come across a book that inspired something that exceeded the source material in nearly every aspect; Green Grows the Lilacs is a casebook example. While a superb play in its own right, the 1931 text became the basis of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical smash Oklahoma! in 1943, which went on to eclipse the work of Lynn Riggs’ original for decades to come. Thankfully, George Macy didn’t forget, and delivered perhaps one of the most excellent ways of acquiring Riggs’ words in this 1954 issuing from the Limited Editions Club.

This would be one of the “modern” editions the LEC would issue, seeing as Riggs’ theatrics was published during the LEC’s early days in 1931. Unfortunately, he would pass away the same year as this was published (three months before its issuing, as a matter of fact), so he likely never had the opportunity to see the final product. Over his 54 years he produced 21 plays, multiple short stories, poetry, and even a television script, but Green… became his best-known work that secured him a spot in Oklahoma’s Hall of Fame after its 64 performances on Broadway. This would be Riggs’ sole LEC, but the Easton Press reissued the book as a Heritage Press edition during their use of the rights they purchased from the George Macy Company.

Unlike Riggs, the illustrator for this edition was not a one-and-done individual; it was in fact the famous American muralist and painter Thomas Hart Benton, one of the seminal artists of early 20th century Regionalist movement and descendant of the Senator who bared his name (who was the father of Jessie Benton Fremont, a political activist and writer who likely wrote her husband John C. Fremont’s exploits along with her own work). This would serve as Benton’s final contribution for the Limited Editions Club following a very successful run of three Mark Twain classics (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1939, which Macy commented that “Benton was born for the purpose of illustrating Tom Sawyer” in the QM; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn came next in 1942; and last came Life on the Mississippi in 1944) and The Grapes of Wrath in 1940 that was issued as a special publication. A pretty rapid-fire salvo of editions! Tom and Huck stand as two of the titans of LEC publications and tend to command a pretty penny to acquire, in no small part due to Benton.

Design Notes – Macy decided to keep the production of this book, so centralized on Riggs’ home state of Oklahoma, in the hands of those who also lived there. He turned to Will Ransom of the University of Oklahoma Press (which is still going strong!) to design and print the book. Per the QM:

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Spine – My spine has seen a bit of sunning; I imagine it should be as gray as the front binding.

20210109_120218 Slipcase

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Title Page – Brooks Atkinson provides an introduction.

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Colophon – This is #1440 of 1500, and was signed by Benton.

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

Personal Notes – I’ve been on the hunt for a Benton LEC for a long while. Since I saw his work at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, I’ve found it compelling, and finally adding Green… to my collection fulfills that need quite nicely. I would like to add the others at some point, but…well, they’re all expensive! Haha. I got this online from Powell’s Books in Portland, OR.

Limited Editions Club – The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (1954)

The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (1954)
LEC #241/22nd Series V. 9 in 1954
Artwork: None
Translated by Hill Thompson. Introduction by Irwin Edman.

#107 of 1500. Heritage Press reissued.

Click to see larger views.

Front Binding – Sorry for the lack of a post in September; it was a busy month! But we’ll try to squeeze in a second post this month to make up for it.

Anyway, today brings The Prince, the well-known political treatise from the 16th century Italian diplomat and philosopher Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli. Easily regarded as Machiavelli’s best written work and often cited as “Machiavellian” when applied to actual politics, The Prince was printed after Machiavelli’s death in 1532. Controversial from the start, Machiavelli’s work here has withstood the test of time and influenced countless other works of literature, several political figures, and inspiring other philosophers.

George Macy himself took on the design of this book, and chose to issue it as text only, emphasizing the printed word and binding to elevate it over having an illustrator attempt to visualize its concepts. It would be the only work of Machiavelli to see life as a LEC or Heritage title.

Design Notes – The Quarto has some design comments:

The emphasis was definitely placed on making it a classic looking book, mimicking the publications of the period it was written. Thus, gold leaf and leather for the binding, shaped to mirror titles of Machiavelli’s era, and high quality textured paper with very deliberate printing with a bite on the font to give it depth. It’s a very exquisite book, even without any pictures. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide much else for me to comment on!

Spine

Slipcase – The slipcase has seen some action, but I always view them as the first line of defense for these books, so as long as the book itself is in good condition, I am okay with a dinged or damaged slipcase.

Title Page – The text is translated into English by Hill Thompson, and a new preface was written by Irwin Edman.

Colophon – This is #107 of 1500, and was issued unsigned.

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

Personal Notes – This is the third book from the second set of books a very generous fan of the blog has kindly donated to me. I treasure them all!

Heritage Press – The Story of Reynard the Fox by J.W. von Goethe (1954)

The Story of Reynard the Fox by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1954))
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Wood Engravings by Fritz Eichenberg
Introduced by Edward Lazare, translated by Thomas James Arnold
Reprint of LEC #242, 23rd Series, V. 10

Click images for larger views.

Front Binding – Hello dear readers! Today’s post features an illustrator I hold most dear; the masterful Fritz Eichenberg, who has made quite an impression on this blog with his exquisite woodcuts and other art scattered throughout the Limited Editions Club, the Heritage Press and a few non-Macy publications. His Macy bibliography is covered in The Brothers Karamazov. But here we get to see a slightly different side to Eichenberg as the majority of his engravings feature animals over humans (although humankind is represented here in the book), giving it much more of a fantastical edge. This is an epic poem from the legendary Germanic author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, although it is not the first appearance of the character Reynard the Fox — according to the introduction the fox has been around at least since the medieval period, with some variants of the tale appearing in Ghent (1148), German (1180), France (1175-1250), and Flemish (early 13th century). English has its earliest version appearing in the thirteenth century as well, alongside an Italian version. In short, Reynard has been around a long time, although it is a particularly excellent spin on this iconic tale that George Macy chose to publish.

Goethe makes his debut on our blog at last, as noted one of the German masters of literature and quite a well-rounded contributor to Germanic academia: among his many talents (including literature) were expertise in art, philosophy, science, diplomacy, architecture and botany. However, we will focus on his skill with the written word, of which George Macy printed two examples of (and his wife Helen a third). The play Faust was the first, issued as a LEC in 1932 starring Rene Clarke’s talents. A Heritage exclusive of the same work was issued later on with Eugene Delacroix’s artwork, possibly in 1959 (I don’t have a copy in front of me to confirm my quick research on ABEBooks; I will update this once I do). I believe it uses the same text as the LEC. Next came this epic poem in 1954 for both clubs, followed by what may be his greatest novel Wilheim Meister’s Apprenticeship in 1959, featuring William Sharp as artist. Not printed by Macy or his other clubs would be the contender for Goethe’s greatest novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, which helped propagate the worldwide literary movement of Romanticism.

Design Notes – The original LEC was designed by Eugene M. Ettenberg, who likely carried his designer title over to the Heritage edition as well. The font is Janson. I don’t have a Sandglass unfortunately so I can’t get too much more into the details than those observations in the Quarto.

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Slipcase

Title Page – I really like this decoration Eichenberg crafted up for this page. Edward Lazare stepped in to provide a new introduction to this work, which was translated by Thomas James Arnold.

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

 

Personal Notes – This was another title Liz sent me last year. I plan to upgrade to a LEC down the road, but will hold on to this title until that day comes.

Limited Editions Club/Heritage Press: Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (1936/1954)

Before beginning this post proper, let me give a brief explanation for this post. This is the second time I will be covering all publications of a particular work by the George Macy Company that was printed in two unique LEC editions (the first was Tartuffe, although that was done in two posts). I’ll be starting with the earlier book first, and then cover the later LEC and Heritage reprint (the latter previously covered on the blog). Also, I accidentally mislabeled the date on the update, but I don’t want to relink everything more than once, so I’m leaving it as an April 2017 post. :p

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (1936)
LEC #80/7th Series V. 10 in 1936
Artwork: Watercolors by Sylvain Sauvage
Translated and Introduced by Brian Hooker

#510 of 1500. LEC Exclusive.

Click to see larger views.

Front Binding – I am a nut about Cyrano de Bergerac (which I’ll get into below). So, I am beyond pleased to tell you that there are two Limited Editions Club variants of this fine play…although there is a very complex history behind the publication of both of these lovely books. But we’ll get to that momentarily.

Edmond Rostand, another of the legendary French playwrights (alongside Moliere, of course), had several other dramas beyond Cyrano spring forth from his pen, but none seemed to resonate the same way as his epic retelling of the eccentric de Bergerac. The George Macy Company didn’t feel compelled to create books for any of his other works, but being printed in two separate LEC volumes is relatively rare, so kudos to Rostand for that achievement (and having two spectacular artists doing your work justice at that!).

So this book has some significant backstory behind it, which I’ll happily share. This is retold from the Sandglass at the very bottom of this post. Before the war, when the Club was initially beginning the planning of this edition, Jacques LeClercq was going to be the book’s translator. He had performed the task and submitted it the Heritage Press (this was planned to be a Heritage exclusive), but Macy and his partners felt that LeClercq did not recapture Cyrano‘s talents at poetry in English, or as the Sandglass puts it, “he had not made real poems out of the ‘set pieces'”. This was disappointing to Macy as LeClercq had done plenty of work for him that he felt did the original work justice, but just couldn’t print this particular translation.

While the text was being puzzled over, the other half of the book’s design was also having its own problems. The Club wanted to utilize Pierre Brissaud, who had recently made a big splash for the Heritage edition of The Story of Manon Lescaut which had just come out earlier in the year. Brissaud had completed his set of illustrations, but prior to sending them off to Macy Europe began sinking into the chaotic web that begat World War II. Brissaud made himself scarce as Germany’s forces entered Paris, and vanished for over a decade from any contact with Macy.

Now, this is all from the Heritage Press’ perspective, and I do not have access to the Monthly Letter of the second edition, and the letter for this book doesn’t mention any of this. The Quarto as well is mum on the matter, only delving into design notes for both. However, the newsletter for Two Gentlemen in Verona does go on to state that the Brissaud Cyrano was in fact a Heritage Club edition, due for issuing in 1940. This did not come to pass, as we shall see in the second half of this post.

Meanwhile, the LEC had also seen several of its members clamoring for Cyrano, and I suspect LeClercq was commissioned to do the translation for both editions. However, the Club ultimately settled on Brian Hooker’s translation — popular at the time and still held with regard in dramatic circles — along with recruiting another French watercolorist, Sylvain Sauvage, to handle the art. Sauvage hasn’t been discussed as much as I would like on this blog, but we do have some history on him over at our Zadig post. He scored a home run here in my opinion, as his work is absolutely gorgeous. There are twelve full page watercolor illustrations reprinted here in color collotype.

Design Notes – My edition came with the announcement card, so I’ll let that speak for the volume:

The binding, while novel for the blog, was modeled after the design utilized by the Club for Sauvage’s handling of the Anatole France novel At the Sign of the Queen Pedauque, and would see one more reuse for another France edition, The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard. Images for both courtesy of Oak Knoll Books. It has two sides, so the back is also included below. Our featured book was designed and printed by Edmund B. Thompson at Hawthorn House. Curiously, the France novels were done by different designers: William A. Kittredge of the Lakeside Press for the Queen, and Edward Alonzo Miller for Crime.

Now if you read that note closely, you’ll notice it states the rust-colored linen is stamped in a blue and gold pattern; however, the “blue” appears brown to my eyes on my copy and others I’ve seen online. So perhaps it was originally blue but time has discolored it, or an alternative was used after this was printed. Again, this book was a bit of a pickle for Macy, so it may just be another detail that had to be changed at the last minute. And since the note lacks the detail, ever at the ready bindery Russell-Rutter performed that task.

Back Binding – This is a classic scene from the play, where Christian attempts to woo Roxane with the help of Cyrano speaking on his behalf.

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Slipcase – The slipcase includes the limitation number, a relative rarity for the LEC, but it does happen on occasion.

Title Page – The book has an exquisite title page with the play’s dramatic final moments spotlighted here (perhaps an odd choice to have the end be your centerpiece for the title page, but with art this well executed it’s hard to complain). This edition never saw a Heritage reprint.

Colophon – Here Sauvage provides his signature (nice to have one!), and this is copy #510 of 1500.

Examples of the Text and Illustrations by Sauvage:

Page 3 – Each act begins with a nice curtained backdrop surrounding Rostand’s notes setting up the scene.

Page 20 – Sauvage’s gorgeous watercolors are an ideal fit for the world of Cyrano. Brissaud is a very close second, but I do have to give the artistic edge to the older edition. Here Cyrano steps up to shut down the play of his rival, Montfleury.

Page 36 – Here Cyrano has outclassed snotty marquis Valvert both in verse and by the sword.

Personal Notes – This book was created in chaos, and apparently I needed a relic of such a time for my own personal chaos, as I acquired this from an online seller as my marriage was dissolving in 2016. I wanted to fill three huge holes in my collection with an influx of money that had come in, and both Cyrano LECs and the Popol Vuh (which will likely be the next post) fit the bill, with reasonably priced copies in good condition available for all three books. I am thankful to finally have this book, as it was on my wishlist for a long while. And while I wish it didn’t have to come to me in a time where I was trying to ignore the reality of my life on the precipice of changing forever, I still cherish it for what it is, not for what time it entered my life.

LEC Newsletter:

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (1954)
LEC # 240/22th Series V. 8 in 1954
Artwork: Ilustrations by Pierre Brissaud
Translated and Introduced by Louis Untermeyer
#990 of 1500. Heritage Edition discussed below.

Front Binding – And so we turn to the 1954 edition, one of the last books overseen by Macy himself (he served as designer for both the LEC and Heritage editions) before his death. When the Club finally reconnected with Brissaud in 1952, they offered him the chance to print his Cyrano with the lost art they were unable to originally use as a Limited Editions Club title. Brissaud’s response? “…In the intervening years he had certainly grown older and possibly wiser, that he certainly ought to make a new set of pictures – which would be better pictures.” So he did twenty five brand new illustrations, done with pen and brush watercolors, which were printed for the LEC by the Photogravure and Color Company in key black, then hand colored by Walter Fischer to match up with Brissaud’s originals. And thus the edition now before you was printed. But LeClercq, the translator paired with Brissaud, was still unseen in the edition. As the Sandglass below explains, the Club apparently had the intention of printing this book again while the LEC original would never be reprinted as a Heritage edition, and Louis Untermeyer was subsequently recruited to do his own translation for the second edition. Personally, I find it one of the best — if not the best — I’ve read of this production, and I adore this play.

Since this post originally served as a means of sharing Brissaud’s bibliography with the Club, let’s go ahead and cover that again. He had a decent run for Macy, with four Limited Editions Club titles, which are Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona as part of the LEC Shakespeare, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1950), and Saint-Simon’s Memoirs (1954) along with Cyrano. He also rendered the Heritage Press exclusive The Story of Manon Lescaut as noted above in 1936. He passed away in 1964.

Design Notes – Courtesy of the Quarto and the Colophon, here’s what I can tell you. As I mentioned earlier, Macy himself designed the book.The Marchbanks Press handled printing duties after the text was set by David Goldman’s team at Empire Typographers. Curtis Paper was used, and the binding was done again by Russell-Rutter. The font is Times Roman, with News Gothic for character names. The binding is a full patterned brocade with a tan leather label stamped in gold.

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Slipcase

Frontispiece – Right before the title page is this fantastic curtain call illustration by Brissaud, which I think perfectly suits Cyrano. A fine way to start a book! There is a bit more color to the LEC in contrast to the Heritage, as I will provide below.

Title Page – Untermeyer was no stranger to the Macy publications at this point, with several introductions and a few other contributions under his belt by the time Cyrano came out. This may be his unsung opus, though. He also provides an intro for this volume.

Colophon – Much more relaxed in style than Sauvage’s. This is #990 of 1500 and Brissaud provides his signature.

Pages 16 – 17 – Christian and Ligniere chat about Roxane, before the performance of Montfleury. De Guiche can be seen talking to Roxane in the balcony. Brissaud does a splendid job illustrating Cyrano much like Sauvage did; I find both premiere treatments of the classic. I think I like the execution of Sauvage’s watercolors just a touch more due to being full-page prints versus the majority of in-text ones Brissaud created. Both are marvelous though.

Pages 76-77 – Here De Guiche, the major antagonist of the play, shows up to recruit Cyrano to his side after seeing his skills at poetry and swordplay.

Personal Notes – I got this at the same time as the original LEC of the play from another online seller, and it replaced my Heritage edition.

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (1954)
Sandglass Number IX:18
Artwork: Illustrations by Pierre Brissaud
Translated and Introduced by Louis Untermeyer
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC # 240/22th Series V. 8 in 1954

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – This feathery design was done through a specifically designed marbled cloth, modeled after the 17th century French style. The Press calls it an unusual material for them. It’s on both the front and the back. My first copy did not come with a slipcase, but the second did, and it’s a tan color.

Design Notes – Brissaud’s watercolors were done differently here; here they were reproduced as gravures with dark brown ink. From there Brissaud watercolored them all and returned them to the Club. Herbert Rau cut each color into a rubber plate, so that the book’s reproductions would match up to Brissaud’s originals (mostly, as you will see below). The text was set still by Empire Typographers in New York, while the Heritage reprint was reprinted by the Ferris Printing Company on specifically made paper for this edition.

Frontispiece (Heritage top, LEC bottom) – The Heritage omits the peach and tan tones entirely, and prints the other colors in a different, often lighter tone. They still are effective, but lack the pop that the full color range gives the LEC edition.

Title Page – I’m impressed the red was reused here; oftentimes Heritage editions strip out extra colors on title pages.

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Page 65 – Cyrano and Roxane share a moment after the scene with the poets. I think this is definitive proof of Brissaud being an ideal match for Rostand’s classic.

Bonus Pamphlet – Along with a Sandglass, the Heritage Press included a comparison between Cyrano’s famous “nose” speech in Act I, and how it has been translated over the years (including LeClercq’s unused translation). A rather fascinating document!

Personal Notes – Acquired at a Oakhurst library sale, this was my third Heritage Press book (The Aeneid and Sherlock Holmes preceding it). It’s arguably the one that clued me into discovering that there was a particular press making all these exquisite books I was getting. I’ve become hopelessly devoted to these literary treasures. I considered this one of my absolute favorite books in my collection…until I replaced it with the LEC, but now that edition is treasured as such! As I mentioned, I love this play, and I found Untermeyer’s translation very readable and smooth. Having been a part of this dramatic production as De Guiche for my local college, I consider it to be a great way of remembering the good times being in this show. Brissaud’s excellent art is a great cherry on top, although I have to give the LEC the edge for its extra coloring.

Sandglass:

Updated 12/30/2018 – JF

Heritage Press – Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust (1954)

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust (1954)
Sandglass Number XII:18
Artwork: Illustrations by Bernard Lamotte
Translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff, Introduced by Justin O’Brien
Reprint of LEC #244, 22nd Series, V. 12 in 1954.

Click images for a larger view.

Front Binding – This book is a bit curious in that it in nearly all respects mimics its LEC original to a fault. The board design is identical to the LEC, as you can see here:

From Bill Majure – http://www.majure.net/

I’m sure the LEC fabric is more luxurious, but it’s a little weird to see a Heritage edition mirror its LEC parent so closely.

Anyway! Swann’s Way is the sole work of Marcel Proust published by either the Limited Editions Club or the Heritage Press. Proust is a rather interesting figure of French literature, but I’ll reserve that story for Wikipedia to tell. Swann’s Way was his first novel in his series of several works of fiction entitled “Remembrances of Things Past”, first published in France in 1913. In 1954 George Macy slotted the work into his 22nd series of the LEC.

The Sandglass raves and raves about the illustrator recruited to render Proust’s novel into visual art, the painter Bernard Lamotte. I have to admit that I am not at all attached to Lamotte’s style, and only have this book to discover Proust. Lamotte’s accomplished and his skills are superb, I do not question that. There’s just something …lifeless to his work that I don’t care for. However, as your faithful curator it is my job to not merely complain about an artist I don’t like, but to instead inform. So, I’ll save rambling on and on about my grievances. Lamotte began working with Macy in 1948, rendering Emile Zola’s Nana for the LEC. He would stick with French-related commissions for the rest of his career (fitting, as he was French). Here’s the rest of his career with the LEC:

France, Anatole, Crainquebille, 1949.
Proust, Marcel, Swann’s Way, 1954.
Hugo, Victor, Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), 1955.
Dumas, fils, Alexandre, Camille (La Dame Aux Camelias), 1955.
Carlyle, Thomas, The French Revolution, 1956.
Maupassant, Guy de, Bel-Ami, 1968.

All prominent French works save Carlyle, but his certainly relates to the French! Lamotte passed away in 1983, which makes his sudden lapse of involvement following Bel-Ami a little odd.

Anyway, the cloth boards were inspired by a photograph of Proust’s quarters Lamotte had taken in order to enrich himself in the world of Swann’s Way. A wall covering in the room looks just like the fabric utilized here, which Lamotte was asked to recreate by Macy after a panicked cable. Lamotte did one better, and actually took a piece of that covering to have it duplicated for both the LEC and the Heritage editions. Apparently it left a strong impression on Macy to have it cover both books! The Garamond Press handled the printing duties, taking the Bodoci Monotype font selected for the text and applying it to Crocker-Burbank paper. Russell-Rutter unsurprisingly was the bindery for the Heritage edition. It’s more of a shock when they’re not involved with a Heritage book! The illustrations were printed in Paris. The Sandglass describes the detail of how Lamotte’s work needed six separate printings of color to be properly reproduced, but I will let it tell the tale. Derberny et Peignot handled the plates, while Delaporte did the actual printing of the paintings. Don Floyd was kind enough to contribute some key information, namely the designer! Macy himself was responsible for this book’s design, making it one of the last books he had such involvement with before his death. Here’s what he has to say about the LEC:

Swann’s Way was designed by Macy and since it was published in 1954, it must have been one of the last books designed by Macy…The LEC binding is in full natural linen printed with a lavendar pattern and stamped in black.

So, there you go. Thanks, Don!

Slipcase – It’s actually black, as much as this photo insinuates it’s green.

Title Page – C.K. Scott Moncrieff was the translator for this work, and Justin O’Brien supplies an introduction.

Page 24

Page 52 – I will admit that I do like this one, but that’s an unfortunate anomaly for my brain. Lamotte just doesn’t cut it for me, alas.

Personal Notes – This was received as part of a trade-in at Bookbuyers in Monterey. I got it primarily to read Proust, and it is a lovely book on the outside. Lamotte had no bearing on my purchase, as I’ve probably made clear by now. :p

Sandglass: