Limited Editions Club – Of the Nature of Things by Lucretius (1957)

Of the Nature of Things by Titus Lucretius Carus (1957)
LEC #278/25th Series V. 11 in 1957
Artwork: Woodcuts by Paul Landacre
Translated by William Ellery Leonard. Introduction by Charles E. Bennett

#495 of 1500. Heritage Press reissued.

Click to see larger views.

Front Binding – Hello everyone! We’re back with a new post that isn’t a Shakespeare; in fact, we have several books on tap over the next few months to keep the blog quite busy! Today brings forth an intriguing book; the didactic poem that explores physics and the universe by Roman poet and philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus, Of the Nature of Things (De rerum natura). Easily Lucretius’ best known work, Of the Nature of Things is given a rather nice treatment by the Limited Editions Club. This would be the sole literary work either Club would issue, and the Heritage Press did choose to reprint it themselves.

In the six books Lucretius explores the known laws and principles of the world around him, positing theories and waxing upon the rules that govern the Earth and the cosmos..but in verse. I haven’t read it, but it sounds like a fascinating blend of science and the arts, and I look forward to giving it a chance soon.

Woodblock illustrator Paul Landacre performed the artistic duties on this book, the second commission he received (the first was for Ambrose Bierce’s Tales of Soldiers and Civilians in 1943). He is the perfect choice for this book, as his ethereal woodcuts give the atomic musings of the poetic words of Lucretius some visual splendor well deserving of the work. Landacre would come back for another scientific watermark, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1963, but he had passed away before the book was issued.

Design Notes – Unfortunately this book doesn’t have a Letter in Devotee storage for me to reference, but I can tell you that Ward Ritchie designed the book, which was subsequently printed by The Ward Ritchie Press by Anderson, Ritchie and Simon. Ward is renowned in the book publishing world for his excellence in the craft, but I believe this is the first edition we’ve seen of the press on the blog thus far. Landacre’s woodblock prints were taken directly from his engravings.


Title Page – The text is translated into English by William Ellery Leonard. This wasn’t the first time the LEC utilized his talents, as he also handled Beowulf. Charles E. Bennett stepped in to introduce the text.

Colophon – This is #495 of 1500, and was signed by Landacre.

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

Personal Notes – This is the first of a second set of five books generously donated to me by a fellow Devotee who is passing along duplicates for me to spotlight here on the blog. Words really cannot express how awesome and kind this individual is for helping me out like this! And this is a lovely addition to my library!

Limited Editions Club – The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific (1957)

The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific (1957)
LEC #279/25th Series V. 12 in 1957
Artwork – Illustrations by Geoffrey C. Ingleton
Edited by A. Grenfell Price
LEC #248 of 1500

Click images to see larger views.


Front Binding – Ah, I love doing Limited Editions Club posts…especially when the books are mine! Removes the envy aspect of the equation.

Anyway, this is an amazing book, I must say. Issued in 1957, this is a collection of various journals, diaries and narratives from the voyages of Captain James Cook and his crew doing the years 1768-1779. The material is a LEC-approved condensation of the greater work being done on the journals by the Hakluyt Society, which was prepping a four-volume set of Cook’s observations at the time this was published.

However, let’s stop for a moment so I can tell you all about the binding. This is one of the coolest, most culturally-tied boards I’ve stumbled upon in the LEC oeuvre. The book details the elaborate process on Page 295, which I will summarize for you. The cloth is called “tapa”; it is a very, VERY important component of the natives of Tonga. It was made by (at the time) contemporary women of those people for this edition, and it is a very long process to get it to look this nice. It comes from a specific plant only utilized for this purpose; the paper-mulberry tree (or “hiapo” to the Tonga) is the likely candidate for this book’s cloth. To the Tonga, the cloth is called “ngatu” and is often given out as gifts. Right before the purchase of this book I had a class that explained the significance of this cloth to its native population, and found its use here for Cook’s journals (especially since he was the one who brought it to the world at large) incredibly apropos. More on the cloth can be seen here for those curious.

The spine leather is kangaroo, and features Australian Aborginal decorations that symbolizes key aspects about their culture. The front shows the mythic Yarapi, the snake who created many of the rivers and waterways during his travels. Each horseshoe-esque design shows where Yarapi rested, which are still used today as camping and ritual sites. I’ll explain the others when we get to them.

Cook only saw this one release of his work; its illustrator, Geoffrey C. Ingleton, had one more work to his credit beyond this. He was called upon by Cardevon Press to do James Bligh’s A Voyage to the South Seas in 1975, which also reunited him with this book’s designer, Douglas A. Dunstan. This was printed in Australia, and it’s clear Dunstan knew how to best symbolize the ancestral heritage of his country just by the binding. Masterful. Production details follow via announcement letter:



Back Binding – This side shows the the path of the creator of Australia, who planted waterholes over the deserts of Central to Northern Australia as he moved. The parallel lines reveal his route, and the boomerangs he carried are represented by the crescents. The short transverse lines represent his ribs. Awesome.


Spine – Last but not least, the spine details the Arakuja’s mythology regarding women who formed the topography of the early world. Each circle served as a camping spot for the women, and is now a large hill, and the parallel lines, which were their path, now are waterways. The creation of all of these designs were originally engraved on oval stone slabs that are the epitome of sacredness to these people; women and uninitiated men are forbidden from seeing them. Like I said above, this book is a wondrous glimpse into the cultural roots of Australia and its neighboring islands.




Title Page – A. Grenfell Price is your guide to Cook’s exploits, with further help from the Hakluyt Society. There is no formal introduction to the work; Price provides background and context before every section.


Signature Page – Ingleton and Dunstan both offer their penmanship here. My copy is #248 of 1500.

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

Personal Notes – This is LEC #21 for me, which I got for $100 in store credit at Carpe Diem Fine Books in Monterey. Nice shop, nice owners. This is a very special book, one I am happy to be its guardian. It does need to be demusked, though.

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

Mine lacked the letter; thanks to the George Macy Devotees for their aid in furnishing one for this post! Speaking of letters, this one includes a four page essay by Price about Cook; see the final four pages for that.

Heritage Press – Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen (1957)

Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen (1957)
Sandglass Number X:21
Artwork: Illustrations by Per Krohg
Translated and introduced by William and Charles Archer
Reprint of LEC #259/24th Series V. 4 in 1955

Click images to see a larger view.

Front Binding – With the coming of our second Ibsen post (see here for the first), this one on his play Peer Gynt, I notice that I was amiss in talking much about Ibsen then.  I’ll need to rectify that with an updated post.  Why not here?  Well, there’s a hugely fascinating story behind this book’s creation that will take some time to tell, and I tend to like introducing authors when I first talk about them.  Ah, if I wasn’t so busy with university work (and slacking off on it… XD ).  Anyway!  The story.

This book is the result of World War II.  The book’s designer, Harald Grieg, was one of the many prisoners taken by the Nazis when they invaded Norway.  It was not because he was Jewish – as far as I know, that was not the case with Grieg.  He was Managing Director of Gyldendal, the largest publisher in Norway, and the Nazis were utilizing their presses to create propaganda materials for their cause.  When the board of Nationaltheatret, which Grieg was a board member of, declined being subordinated by the Nazi Ministry of Culture and Enlightenment, Grieg and other members of the board were arrested and sentenced to a similar fate of many Jews in Europe – being taken to a concentration camp.

It so happened that Per Krohg, this book’s illustrator (and “the most famous artist of Norway” at that time if the Sandglass is to be taken at face value), was also interred into the same camp as Grieg and the two were able to meet in these dire circumstances.  To pass away time, Krohg would doodle scenes fromPeer Gynton the walls of his cell.  As of the Sandglass, the murals Krohg created were still visible, and the two men would often visit the site and vow to each other to make a book out of these illustrations.  Grieg went back into the publishing world and became a publisher himself, managing the presses of Gyldendal and serving as president of the Norwegian Publishers Association.  Hedrik Ibsen’s work was under his publishing house, and he had always wanted to produce that special “fine” edition ofPeer Gyntwith Krohg’s powerful art backing it.

Enter George Macy in 1951.  Macy talked to Grieg and Krohg and got the ball rolling for making that dream a reality.  Krohg was then engaged in other work, but once it was completed, the two men who were victims of a horrendous period of history were granted their one solace from that dark period, the publication of Peer Gynt for the Limited Editions Club in 1955, designed by Grieg and illustrated by Krohg.  The Heritage edition took a little longer to come to fruition, perhaps due to the death of Macy in 1956.  It has a publication date of 1957.  As a sidenote, World War II tends to be a major factor in a few books done by the Company – Oedipus the King was deeply affected and significantly delayed by the war, arriving well after its intended due date thanks to the chaos the Nazis ravaged on Greece.

Let’s jump into the book perimeters for a moment.  Grieg handled the overall design, but assigned the typography to a relative of his, Robert Grieg Gran.  Baskerville was the font choice, and the Centraltrykkeriet of Oslo, Norway printed the LEC edition.  Kellogg and Bulkeley of Hartford, Connecticut reproduced the text and illustrations for the Heritage printing on International Paper Company’s Ticonderoga paper.  The binding credits are notably absent beyond the mention of green linen covering the boards.


Title Page – William Archer would revisit Ibsen with the later collection of Ibsen’s other plays – here he is joined by Charles Archer on translation and introductory duties.

Krohg would only do this sole book for the George Macy Company, but you can read up on his career in the Sandglass.  He did a fine job for this particular book, with over a hundred drawings of various sizes AND several double-paged paintings.  No shortage of visual treats here.

Page 7 – An example of the drawings above and below (some are really sketchy compared to these examples, mind).

Page 9

Page 16-17 – And here’s one of the paintings.  Krohg has a style that’s his alone.  I wonder how vindicated he must have felt getting this assignment completed.  To have his and Grieg’s goal accomplished.  You can see the results all throughout the book, and it truly is a special title in the Macy canon.

Personal Notes – I got this one from Bookbuyers in Monterey, California.  I traded in a plethora of books, and got a large pile of Heritage Press titles in exchange.  I’ve done this twice and have gotten twelve or thirteen books in return…I think. XD


Thanks to skyschaker @ Librarything for bringing Harald Grieg’s biography to my attention, allowing me to modify my post to make it much more factual.

Limited Editions Club: Argonautica by Apollonius Rhodes (1957)

Argonautica by Apollonius Rhodes (1957)
Series, Book # 292 (6th of the series)
Artwork: Illustrations by A. Tassos
Translated by Edward P. Coleridge, and introduced by Moses Hadas
#220 out of 1500

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Right off, this is a distinctive book.  The bold design caught my eye, and seeing the quality extended throughout the book made me more than excited upon stumbling upon it.  Since I scored the Newsletter and Announcement Pamphlet this time, I’ll spare myself from typing all of that out, since the Club did the work for me:

Spine – I like how the Club truly made this a Greek book, prominently displaying its creation in Athens all over the place.

Slipcase – Mine’s a touch beat up, but it’s better than the other copy I saw, which was split. XD

Title Page – This is a fairly unique title page with the strong font that proclaims who was involved in its creation.  Very classy.

Signature Page – Here’s A. Tassos’ signature, and my limitation number is 220 out of 1500.

Pages 2  and 3 – This book maintains its Greek heritage by dividing the text from the original Greek on the left and the translated English on the right.  A. Tassos was an ideal fit for this book, as far as I’m concerned.

Page 30 – There’s quite a few chapter breaks in the book, where A. Tassos stuns with these Greek pottery-esque pieces.  Wow.

Page 93

Personal Notes – I got this one at Moe’s in Berkeley for a good price of $30 (marked down from $100!) complete and in great condition.  It’s the tallest book I have save the Steiner-Prag Tartuffe and The Oresteia, and it’s a massive tome as well.  I love the design – it’s so awesome.  I don’t regret picking this one up!

I need to sample the text still to see if I dig the translation, but I do love the art!

LEC Newsletter: