Heritage Press: Oedipus the King by Sophocles (1956)

April 7, 2011 Comments Off on Heritage Press: Oedipus the King by Sophocles (1956)

Oedipus the King by Sophocles (1956)
Sandglass Number XVIII: 20
Artwork: Wood Engravings by Demetrios Galanis
Translated by Francis Storr, and Introduced by Thornton Wilder
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC # 256/24th Series V. 1 in 1955

Click to see larger views.

Front Binding – I ADORE the cover of this book.  It’s so classy and bold – the black and silver and browns go so well together.  I knew I had to have this the moment I saw it.  Anyway, there’s an incredible story that goes along with the creation of this book, one that may be more appropriate to allow the Director of the Heritage Press, which could have been George (he passed away in 1956, while the LEC edition came out the year before) or Helen, explain it to you through the Sandglass below.  I’ll sum it up here: Oedipus the King was originally announced for the Limited Editions Club in April, 1940.  This was going to join their “Booklover’s Tour of the World” plan that they had going at the time, with the book to be printed and illustrated in Greece to truly showcase its cultural style.  The following month, Nazi Germany began their invasion of France, which led to Paris being taken in June.  In the chaos that ensued, the Club lost contact with their printer, Kiron Theodoropoulos and their illustrator, Demetrios Galanis.  The Club had seen Galanis’ work in print form before the war kicked off, so they knew the work had been completed, but alas, it would be quite some time before the LEC were able to recontact their Greek collaborators.  Luckily, both men were alive following the war’s aftermath, but the book was in dire straits.  Over the war’s duration, vandals broke into Theodoropoulos’ press, the Pyrsos Press, and had destroyed the pages of type prepared for the book.  The engravings were still intact, but their condition was no longer satisfactory.  The Club wanted to see for themselves, and the American Embassy in Athens had become involved, sending an interested party to the Press to retrieve and ship the engravings to the Club.  This occurred in 1953.  Once in their hands, the engravings were deemed printable.  The Club then decided that their lofty aborted plan of “The Booklover’s Tour of the World” was no longer limiting the book to be printed in Greece, so they turned to Jan van Krimpen in the Netherlands to design the book based on Galanis’ initial plans to have the Greek on one side and the English on the other.  I’ll dive into van Krimpen’s story in a bit – let’s focus on the binding now.  The boards are covered in black buckram, the text stamped in with silver leaf which were drawn by van Krimpen for this cover, and Galanis’ engraving was stamped in with white leaf and terra-cotta leaf.


Title Page – Galanis’ concept of having the Greek text on the left with the English on the right turned out to be a wise choice, especially with the expert craft of van Krimpen designing it.  Jan van Krimpen was the “designer”, as the Sandglass puts it, of the Dutch printer Johannes Enschede en Zonen, which was established in 1703.  van Krimpen joined in 1925, and had turned the company’s fortunes around during his tenure, developing several new fonts among other accomplishments.  At the time of this book’s creation, Enschede was one of the few presses still creating text types using steel punches that were hand-cut, a tradition going back to the eighteenth century.  van Krimpen designed two that he would later use for this book – the Greek Antigone, and the English Romulus.  The paper was specially made under his supervision, and the book was printed at Enschede as well.  It was bound by J. Brandt & Zoon in Amsterdam.  Galanis adored his engraving’s printings, according to the Sandglass.  The Club utilized the translation of Francis Storr, who according to the Sandglass, taught Professor Gilbert Murray “‘the granduer of the Oedipus'”. Thornton Wilder, one of the few authors that wrote an Introduction AND had separate works of theirs done by the Club (The Bridge of San Luis Rey and Our Town), provided an Introduction to the Club way back in 1939, which was first printed in the LEC version.  The Greek text was edited by Richard Jebb.

Pages 104 – 105 – Galanis’ wood cuts are quite effective and add to the book’s historic feel, I think.  Most of his pieces are small, but he did do a two page spread for the endpapers with three other larger illustrations.


Personal Notes – Purchased complete at Moe’s in Berkeley, CA for $10, I adore this book and find its history fascinating.  It, according to the Sandglass, was the longest in “gestation” for the Club – conceived in 1939, announced in 1940, and then in limbo for 15 years to magically appear in 1955 for the LEC and 1956 for the Heritage Club thanks to World War II.  Definitely a milestone book for collectors intrigued by the behind-the-scenes moments of the George Macy Company!


LEC Comparison Shots (courtesy of pm11)


Heritage Press: This is the Hour by Lion Feuchtwanger (1956)

December 10, 2010 Comments Off on Heritage Press: This is the Hour by Lion Feuchtwanger (1956)

This is the Hour: A Novel about Goya by Lion Feuchtwanger (1956)
Sandglass Number V:21
Artwork: Reproductions of Francisco Goya’s paintings, photographed by Jose Loygorri and selected and arranged by J.B. Neumann
Introduced by Carl Van Doren
Heritage Press Exclusive: This is the fourth and final book in the Heritage Club’s Great Master Novels series (that designation is mine) illustrated by the original artists that the novel is based upon.

Click images to see larger versions.

Binding (front) – Apparently I never wrote anything about this book the first time, so I’m fixing that now. This is the Hour was the last Heritage Press title in their “Grand Masters” line (which is my distinction), reprinting classic biographies or novels about legendary painters, and supplementing them with that artist’s body of work. This came out considerably later than the first three in the series — much like many other plans George Macy had cooked up, the second World War wrecked havoc upon this proposed line of exclusives. These were put on the backburner due to the majority of the artwork these books were utilizing were in Europe, and the war with Nazi Germany made it far too dangerous to attempt replicating them for the series. Between the first book, Irving Stone’s Lust for Life: A Novel of Vincent Van Gogh (1936), and the publication of Feuchtwanger’s This is the Hour, twenty years had passed by. The two books in between were Dmitri Merejcovski’s The Romance of Leonardo Di Vinci (1937) and Hendrik Von Loon’s R. v. R. The Life of Rembrandt van Rijn (1938). Macy passed away in 1956, and with his death also saw the end of this series. I suppose Helen Macy didn’t see a need to reissue contemporary works on artists with their artwork within anymore, and it’s kind of understandable. Some of these works were issued in bookshops with dustjackets under the “Heritage Reprint” label; the R. v. R. on the blog is an example of such a book. R. v. R. also showed a printing history; if only all Heritage titles were kind enough to do such a thing! Collectors would have a much easier time unraveling the web of editions, that they would.

Binding (back)

Title Pages

Example of the Text

With this series of books, I will make an exception to my usual illustrations rules and only provide one example of the interior text, with the reasoning that Goya’s art is readily accessible online, and nothing in here is exclusive to this text as far as I am aware.

Personal Notes: This particular book was revolutionary to me because it opened up the sudden realization that the Heritage Press operated on its own at times, showing me that following the LEC checklist alone would not be a sufficient method of keeping track of these books. It was purchased in Mariposa, CA at an antique shop sometime in 2008. Since then the store closed, and now the building it was housed in has gone up in flames. *sigh* The book was lacking the slipcase, but did include the Sandglass, explaining some interesting history (which is below). I sold this off a while ago, as I had no desire to actually read it.

Sandglass (right click and select Open in New Tab to see full size):

Updated 7/30/2014 – JF

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with 1956 at The George Macy Imagery.