Limited Editions Club: The Book of Job (1946)

The Book of Job (1946)
LEC #173/16st Series V. 11 in 1946
Artwork: Illustrations by Arthur Szyk
Prepared at Cambridge in 1611 for King James I, Introduced by Mary Ellen Chase
LEC #1288 of 1950. Heritage Press Reprint available.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – This month’s post brings us to the precursor of The Book of Ruth, which we spotlighted last year. This is another section of the King James Bible isolated on its own. Much of what was true for Ruth is true here; Arthur Szyk (whose bibliography is in the Ruth post) brings his superb talents to the LEC for the first time with his stunning miniature paintings; George Macy acts as designer and the later title mimics this design; Mary Ellen Chase introduces the text; and a higher limitation of 1950. There’s not a ton more to add beyond some design details, which we’ll get to shortly.

Design Notes – The Quarto highlights the one major difference between the two books, which is the printer. Lewis F. White handled both text and Szyk’s paintings for Job, and Aldus Printers did the text and Triggs Color Printing Corporation the paintings for Ruth:

Spine



Slipcase

Title Page – Like its later cousin, the text comes straight from the King James Bible, and Mary Ellen Chase provides the preface to the work. However, Ruth went with a gold leaf to emphasize the title and chapter initials versus the red and blue Job utilizes. Ruth also changes up the LEC’s font versus printing it in a different color.

Colophon – This is #1288 of 1950, and was signed by Szyk. No extra illustration for this one.

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

Personal Notes – Devotee NYCFAddict sold this and Ruth to me at a really solid price, and I’m so happy to have two of Szyk’s signed LECs!

Limited Editions Club: The Evergreen Tales series (1948-1952)

The Evergreen Tales series (1948-1952)
Edited by Jean Hersholt, with different illustrators for each volume
Five different sets of three books were issued between 1948-1952; more individual details below.
All are LEC exclusives.

Hello dear readers! Today brings a very unique post to the blog: a comprehensive look into one of George Macy’s many projects under the LEC banner, the “Evergreen Tales” subseries. At present I own sets 1, 2, 3 and 4, and will update this post accordingly when I acquire set 5. This is falling outside of my usual format for my posting given that I will be covering this as an enterprise versus a post per three book set.

Before beginning each set proper, I thought it would do some good to look into the entirety of said enterprise first. This is going to be very generalized as unfortunately there isn’t a lot of information on the creation of this series available to me at the time of writing. As of this moment there isn’t a copy of any of the five sets’ Monthly Letters accessible, a Google search for the sets only gives me options to purchase them, and the Quarto doesn’t get into specifics on its creation from my perusal of it. So, some basics: at some point Macy decided that he wanted to reprint individual tales of children’s literature from several sources in a separate collection. Having done some work in this field with the early editions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Book #20) and Andersen’s Fairy Tales (#138 and #195), alongside some publications of Pinocchio (Book #88), the Alice in Wonderland titles (Books #36 and #65), Aesop’s Fables (#47), and Twain’s Tom Sawyer (#114), and some others, Macy was well equipped to tackle this concept. He recruited Jean Hersholt, who had served as the translator and editor for both the aforementioned Andersen’s, to serve in an editorial role on this project. Hersholt is a bit of a fascinating person — I’ll let the Wikipedia page cover much of his biography as this is already going to be a massive post. For our purposes, I’ll note he was an actor, radio personality and avid Andersen fan, with his massive collection of titles being donated to the Library of Congress upon his death in 1956. His work on the original Andersen volumes were praised at the time as being definitive; it’s little wonder Macy called him back to assist with this endeavor. Hersholt provided brief introductions to each tale on top of his editorial and occasional translation duties.

The other major selling point was the recruitment of some of the premiere book illustrators of the era to get their chance to shine alongside these fairy tales. Some of them were already titans in the Macy oeuvre: Fritz Kredel, Arthur Szyk, Edy Legrand, Sylvain Sauvage, and Fritz Eichenberg had several prior editions by the Club at this point. Some illustrators like Henry C. Pitz, Rafaello Busoni, Malcolm Cameron, and Edward Ardizzone either got their start here or were relative newcomers to the LEC canon. Robert Lawson and Everett Gee Jackson were brought back after an extended hiatus from a LEC publication, while William Moyers, Edward Shenton, Ervine Metzl and Hans Bendix began and ended their Macy careers with these editions.

It is important to note that these did have a higher limitation number than usual — 2500, in fact. Finding a complete set with the same limitation number is difficult nowadays! Most were signed by Hersholt, and a few did get the illustrators to sign. An exhausting fact is that the Evergreen Tales had Hersholt sign 2500 copies (plus additional ones for special individuals) for 15 individual books: that’s 37,500 signatures in four years! Note that my “Ali Baba” is not signed by Hersholt, which I touch on below. My third set has Jackson and Ardizzone’s signatures in their respective books, although I know of some of the other sets being signed by their illustrators (my first and fourth sets are not), as you’ll see below. Another thing of curiosity is Hersholt’s dedication to the families these sets went to. In my fourth set the signature includes a dedication note to the “Cutler” children. Other limitation numbers feature this dedication as documented here on Librarything — note that the photos are from the first, second, third and fifth sets, most within the normal 1500 copy limitation. The second “Ugly Duckling” example falls outside of the 1500, though, and is inscribed while mine is not.

Thanks to Django6924, tag83 and astronauteric for the above images. It seems the colophon was a chaotic element with these sets, and one truly will not know if they will purchase a set with illustrator signatures or an additional inscription from Hersholt! Before moving away from this topic, I want to spiral back that I discovered that the fifth set of #1993 ended up with another Devotee, and he noticed the fifth set was still in the original glassine wrappers sent out to protect the books. My fourth set was received the same way. Seems the Cutlers weren’t all that interested in these books by the time the last two were issued in 1952. Shame I don’t know where the second set ended up.

Another question I have on these is how they were shipped to subscribers. For instance, the 18th series considers each Evergreen Tale book to be its own unique release for the twelve books issued that year. However, the 19th series did not do that for the second or third set, with the Evergreen sets counting as their own release alongside ten others. The fourth and fifth sets do the same. So perhaps this first set was issued separately? Or there was a two month gap with the understanding that you’d get three books all at once for the first set? Hopefully I’ll find that out someday.

The other thing to note is that even in the Quarto the designer details are sketchy. I can say five are definitively assigned to Macy himself (“Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” in Volume 1, all of Volume 2, and “The Ugly Duckling” in Volume 3), with one, “The Tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” in Volume 3 designed by Ernest Ingham. The other nine are quiet on the matter. Given the consistency with these volumes, it’s likely that Macy handled several others within this set, but I cannot state that as a certainty.

I’m not sure if five sets were the intended cutoff point for the series, but given both Macy and Hersholt’s deaths in 1956, I’m sure that future plans for more Evergreen sets were possibly in the cards but folded as the two faced their medical issues. Helen Macy never returned to the concept over her tenure, and thus 15 classic pieces of children’s tales were enshrined under this banner.

Okay, so now that we’ve gone over some of the murky background of the development of the Evergreen Tales, let us begin our look into the books themselves. My Volumes 1, 3 and 4 all came from the same limitation number, #1993 of 2500. My set #2 came from a different number, #1888. I’m going to keep my words to the point for these to keep this post from being too exhausting.


Volume 1: Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, The Three Bears, The Story of Joseph and his Brothers
Illustrated by
Fritz Kredel, William Moyers, Arthur Szyk
LEC #193/18th Series V. 8 in 1948
#1993 of 2500

Click images to see larger views.

Spines – Let’s begin our journey into the Evergreen Tales with the very first set. This is, out of the three I have, probably the most stunning on the binding front, courtesy of the excellent Arthur Szyk having one of his pieces bound into the cover of his take on “Joseph and his Brothers”. The other two are quite playful as well, as you’ll see below:

Front Bindings (in the order they are listed on the slipcase label)

Along with Szyk, Fritz Kredel and William Moyers were the other artists on this set. We recently covered Szyk’s gorgeous art with the LEC edition of The Book of Ruth (which also includes his bibliography). Kredel, meanwhile, was last seen in Barchester TowersLEC update in 2018. Both would continue to see commissions following this. Szyk ended a fabulous run of LEC and Heritage Press commissions over three years with this, and would have his art for The Arabian Nights Entertainments posthumously published in 1954. Kredel would have several more extending into the 1960s; for his entire LEC/Heritage bibloiography, see here. Moyers, meanwhile, only illustrated this book for the LEC.

The Quarto provides the following production details:

As the front binding gallery suggested, I’m going to combine the three books into a gallery for each of my usual post breakdowns just to save on space a little bit.

Slipcase

Title Pages – “Aladdin” was translated by Hersholt. “The Three Bears” is pulled directly from English poet Robert Southey, who created the iconic tale. “Joseph and his Brothers” comes from the King James version of the Bible. All note a 1949 publication year, but given the gap between November to January for these titles, it’s hard to say when exactly these came out.

Colophon – These are #1993 of 2500, and Hersholt signed the colophon for all three.

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


Volume 2: Saint George and his Dragon, Beauty and the Beast, Dick Whittington and his Cat
Illustrated by
Edward Shenton, Edy Legrand, Robert Lawson
LEC #202/19th Series V. 6 in 1949
#1888 of 2500

Click images to see larger views.

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Spines – Compared to the other three sets that came from the Cutler family, my second set is a little more faded and appear to have been read more often (there’s also a strong smoky smell in these ones, so I’ll need to apply some baking soda treatment to these to absorb it out). I feel that this set is a bit of a bridge between Set #1 and #3 in terms of the quality of the bindings. “Dick Whittington” and “Beauty” remind me more of the third, while “Saint George” harkens back to the more lush aesthetics of the first.

Front Bindings (in the order they are listed on the slipcase label)

This set brings together two well established LEC illustrators along with a fresh artist who only contributed to this set of Evergreen Tales. Edy Legrand (“Beauty”, last seen here with 2020’s post on Travels in Arabia Deserta) and Robert Lawson (“Whittington”) had both had a LEC under their belt by the time this commission arrived; Legrand had the grandiose LEC Shakespeare Hamlet, while Lawson designed and illustrated The Crock of Gold in 1942. Legrand would continue on with several more commissions through the 1960s (see The Nibelungenlied for his complete Macy bibliography), while Lawson would end his run here. The other artist was Edward Shenton, whose watercolors enrich “Saint George”.

The Quarto provides the following production details:

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Slipcase

Title Pages – “Beauty” was originally written by Madame Le Prince de Beaumont and translated by P.H. Muir, “Whittington” was retold by its illustator Robert Lawson, while “Saint George” was retold by William H.G. Kingston. This is the only set without a more extensive literary touch from Hersholt, as he either retold or translated one of the books in the other four Evergreen Tales releases.

Colophon – These are #1888 of 2500, and Hersholt signed the colophon for Whittington along with artist Robert Lawson. For my set, the other two were unsigned.

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


Volume 3: Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves, The Ugly Duckling, The Sleeping Beauty of the Wood
Illustrated by
Edward Ardizzone, Sylvain Sauvage, Everett Gee Jackson
LEC #203/19th Series V. 7 in 1949
#1993 of 2500

Click images to see larger views.

Spines – Set three features three very well known tales from vastly different sources. We have Charles Perrault’s “Sleeping Beauty”, Andersen’s “Ugly Duckling”, and the Arabic “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”

Front Bindings (in the order they are listed on the slipcase label)

The bindings reflect these differences as well — I do find that these are a bit of a step back from the first set, but I do like the classy “Sleeping Beauty” one the most of these.

Sylvain Sauvage is my personal highlight here — this is the third posthumous publication the LEC issued after his death in 1948, and if memory serves this is the last I’ll be able to cover here. The last time Sauvage was discussed here was The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard last month! Zadig covers his bibliography for the two Clubs. Edward Ardizzone makes his LEC debut with “Ali Baba”, as well as his GMI debut as well, haha. As of today I don’t have anything else of his in my collection, but when I do, I’ll cover his bibliography. Lastly, we come to Everett Gee Jackson, whose prior LEC contribution was for the American folktale The Wonderful Adventures of Paul Bunyan in 1945, and his style works well for “The Ugly Duckling”. We’ve featured his other commissions before, the most recent being The Popoh Vuh in 2017. I’ll let his publication history from an earlier post on Paul Bunyan talk about the rest of his career with Macy.

The Quarto provides the following production details:

Note that “Ali Baba” was designed by Ernest Ingham and printed in London; this is a key I’ll get to shortly.

Slipcase

Title Pages – “Ali Baba” was translated from the original Arabic into French by J.C. Mardrus, and subsequently translated into English by E. Powys Mathers. Hersholt translated Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling” from Danish to English (probably pulling from his earlier LEC Andersen), while P.H. Muir translated Perrault’s “Sleeping Beauty” from French into English.

Colophon – These are #1993 of 2500, and Hersholt signed the colophon for all but “Ali Baba”. I wonder if this was because it was handled by a different designer and published in London versus the US as the others? Ardizzone did sign that book, however. Jackson joined Hersholt on “Ugly Duckling”. Unfortunately, Sauvage had passed away well before the time this set was issued. This shows how early these were in the production cycle — Sauvage died in 1948, and these were not issued until late 1949, but it’s a healthy amount of illustrations!

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


Volume 4: King Midas & the Golden Touch, Pandora’s Box, The Emperor’s New Clothes
Illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg
Rafaello Busoni, Ervine Metzl
LEC #222/21st Series V. 2 in 1952

Click images to see larger views.

Spines – There is a lot less color diversity in this set than the other two I own, but that’s okay when the bindings are considerably nicer than the last set:

Front Bindings (in the order they are listed on the slipcase label)

“King Midas” in particular is my favorite in this set and second overall; it’s so classy! “Pandora” has a textured binding in contrast to the others feeling slick to the touch, and “Emperor” is perhaps the most avant-garde in the entire Series, with a distinct rebellious orientation that defies layout conventions.

Fritz Eichenberg was called in for “King Midas”, which he does with splendor. He abandons his usual woodcutting techniques for colored lithographs, which works very well for the tale. Of course, I’ve covered Eichenberg plenty on the blog before as he is one of my favorite all-time illustrators; he was last seen in the Heritage reprint of Reynard the Fox back in 2017, with a look at his career in The Brothers Karamazov post. Rafaello Busoni got his second LEC commission here following The Red and the Black in 1947, which is conveniently the last time I covered him as well way back in 2011 (I need to update that post with Busoni’s bibliography!). Ervine Metzl only contributed his artistry to “Emperor” to the LEC.

The Quarto provides the following production details:

Slipcase

Title Pages – “King Midas” and “Pandora’s Box” both come from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys, called there “The Golden Touch” and “The Paradise of Children”. “Emperor”, meanwhile, is another Andersen tale translated by Hersholt.

Colophon – These are #1993 of 2500, and Hersholt signed the colophon for all three to the Cutler children. Unfortunately, I know nothing about the Cutlers, but I can at least suspect that these three sets with the same limitation all went to that family.

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


Volume 5: Bluebeard, Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk
Illustrated by
Hans Bendix, Henry C. Pitz, Malcolm Cameron
LEC #228/21st Series V. 8 in 1952

Forthcoming!


Personal Notes – I bought the first set from Powell’s Books online when they had a sale, and I wanted to give this a test as they had the third and fourth sets available as well but didn’t apply to the sale. When I received the set, I was incredibly pleased by the condition and I took the risk in the hopes all of them would be so nice! And hey, I was right! These have always been on a wish list for me since I saw the second set at Carpe Diem years ago, and while I couldn’t afford that set then I knew I wanted to have them all eventually. As of today, I’m 60% there! Haha. It’s super cool that these three are all from the same limitation, too!

In 2021 I acquired the second set from a library non-profit with an Amazon storefront for a remarkably good deal. While it’s a bit sunned and has a smoky smell, the interiors are in excellent condition, so I’m happy to be one step closer to having all of these lovely sets!

Limited Editions Club/Heritage Press: The Book of Ruth (1947)

The Book of Ruth (1947)
LEC #184/17th Series, V. 11 in 1947
Artwork: Illustrations by Arthur Szyk
Translation Prepared at Cambridge in 1611 for King James I, Introduced by Mary Ellen Chase
LEC #278 of 1500. Heritage Press reprint, see lower half of this post.

Click images for a larger view.

Front Binding – On occasion George Macy branched the Limited Editions Club’s limitation number beyond the typical 1500. Of course, the inverse also happened during the tight rationing of paper and dipping membership during World War II, but the increased limitation was a deliberate choice of the Club’s to really promote specific editions that Macy was particularly excited about. Examples of this include the LEC Shakespeare, the Evergreen Tales, The Wind in the Willows, and the two “Books” from the King James Bible, one of which is spotlighted here, The Book of Ruth.

This was a special pair of books that share several common elements: both designed by George Macy himself, both featuring an introduction by prominent New England educator, author and Bible scholar Mary Ellen Chase, and both starring the visual splendors of artist Arthur Szyk. 1946 marked a memorable debut from the talented Szyk, as The Book of Job, the first volume of the duo, came out in 1946 alongside the Heritage exclusive The Rubaiyat and one of two spotlights the Heritage Club issued of illustrators, Ink and Blood. This was a limited edition of 1000 copies, and is among the more coveted Heritage exclusives out there. The Canterbury Tales followed later in 1946, with the second in the duo, The Book of Ruth on its heels in the same series, coming out in 1947. He contributed to the first set of Evergreen Tales, illustrating “The Story of Joseph and His Brothers”, which came out 1949, and the final commission was an exquisite rendering of The Arabian Nights Entertainments in 1954. This was issued posthumously as he passed away in 1951. Szyk specialized in miniature paintings, calligraphy and illumination, and put these talents on display in all of his contributions to the George Macy Company. Historicana has a great site on his legacy if you’d like to learn more about his craft and technique.

Design Notes – As noted, George Macy stepped into the designer shoes for this edition, and the Quarto details the following:

One item of note: both Ruth and Job are bound in sheepskin leather, and it is a material that degrades more rapidly than other leathers. Thus, it has been difficult to come across these books in fine or near fine condition because of the leather. Mine I would say are very good +; as you can see above and below on the spine, there’s some pieces that have flaked off.

Spine

Slipcase

Title Page –  The Book of Ruth’s translation comes straight from the King James Bible, and Mary Ellen Chase provides the preface to the work.

Colophon – This is #1622 of 1950, and was signed by Szyk.

Page 12 – 13 – Words really can’t express Szyk’s talent, so I’ll just let these marvels vouch for themselves.

Page 42

Personal Notes – I wrote the below post (well, I deleted a lot of it as it wasn’t really informative) in 2011, and have wanted these books ever since, haha. Szyk’s LECs have eluded me until 2020, when I finally got the first set of Evergreen Tales, but those were all unsigned. However, devotee NYCFAddict gave me an opportunity and a half with several acquisitions, with these standing tall among the many books he sold me. I love them so much! And got a pretty great deal on them too. Expect The Book of Job exactly one year from now!

The Book of Ruth (1947)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Illustrations by Arthur Szyk
Translation Prepared at Cambridge in 1611 for King James I,
Introduced by Mary Ellen Chase
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #184/17th Series, V. 11 in 1947

Click images for a larger view.

Front Binding – While this is not as lavish a treatment as the LEC original is, I do have to say that the Heritage makes an admirable attempt at replicating the luxurious design with a lower budget. It even redoes the Szyk linework remarkably well on the cloth binding. This is a library copy I no longer have easy access to, so I can’t elaborate on its design particulars.

Title Page –  The reproductions of Szyk’s illustrations is also well handled. They aren’t quite as crisp or colorful, but they certainly are excellent.

Page 13

Page 42

Personal Notes – I checked this out from my old hometown library a decade ago! I’ve been wanting this ever since, haha. Luckily I have the LEC now!

Updated 9/13/21 ~ JF

Limited Editions Club: The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1934/1946)

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1934)
LEC #62/6th Series V. 3 in 1934
Artwork: Decorations by George W. Jones
Translated and introduced by Frank Ernest Hill
LEC #268 out of 1500. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

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Front Binding – 
Hello friends! It’s time for another comparison post between different LECs of the same work, and this month’s post brings the original 1934 printing of Geoffrey Chaucer’s immortal The Canterbury Tales. After this, you can look at the later 1946 edition which brought in Arthur Szyk to illustrate the tales, but for now let’s focus on this one.

Chaucer’s literary importance to the English language cannot be understated, as his work stands as among the earliest remaining texts in the language and is considered “the father of English poetry”. So it’s little surprise to see his best known work come out in the first few years of the Club. In 1940, the LEC would issue Troilus and Cressida, which would reunite the author with this book’s designer George W. Jones (who I’ll get to momentarily); in 1946, the aforementioned second Canterbury was issued, and that was the last time his words were put to paper by the Club. The Heritage Press only reissued the latter Canterbury. However, I was just notified by fellow Devotee and friend Django6924 of a variant edition of the Canterbury Tales for the Heritage Press’ Illustrated Bookshelf subseries, which I’ll let him explain:

The Heritage Illustrated Bookshelf Tales From Chaucer. This slim volume uses the same binding as the HP version, the Szyk illustrations which in their reproduction are an exact match for the ones in the HP, but instead of the Hill translation, uses “selected tales told for young people by Charles Cowden Clarke.”

Clarke’s retelling is in prose, includes the Prologue and nine of the tales. The Prologue is abridged to only describing the characters in the related tales, and the more ribald tales, the Miller’s Tale and the Monk’s Tale, for example, are excluded. Some of the byplay between the characters is also cleaned up; when the Pardoner finishes his tale in the unexpurgated version, he offers his holy relics to the other members of the party for “a grote,” and to the Host first as he is the most sinful. He says he will let the Host kiss the holy relics and the Host replies:

Thou woldest make me kiss thyne olde breech,
And swere it were the relyk of a seint,
Though it were with thy fundament depeint!
But by the croys which that Seint Eleyne fond,
I wolde I hadde thy coillons in myn hond (testicles)
Lat kutte hem of…
They shul be shryned in an hogges toord!

In the Tales From Chaucer, the Host just introduces the next character.

Jones wore many hats on this publication; not only was he the designer, but he also created and colored the decorative initial flourishments featured within, and served as the printer and binder. Jones operated his own printing shop, The Sign of the Dolphin, which handled such duties for this particular book. He created a few well known fonts such as Venezia, Granjon and Baskerville, and showed a talent for initial embellishments highlighted in this edition. He retired from his shop in 1938, but did come out of retirement for Troilus to mimic the design of this particular rendition. He also served as the designer for the Arthur Rackham illustrated edition of Dickens’ The Chimes in 1931. He passed away in 1942.

Design Notes – Here’s the Quarto‘s comments on this book:

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Spine

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Slipcase – This slipcase has the unusual distinction of having a lot of the basic publication info on its spine, as well as a handwritten limitation number. This was far more common on early LECs, I’ve come to realize.

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Pre-Title Page – This book features an interesting feature of having two title pages. The first, which I’m calling a “pre-title” page, features the publication info, and a frontispiece of Chaucer. This is a pencil drawing Dorothy Woollard did based on a bust inside the Guildhall Library and Jones got permission to reproduce it from the “Chairman of the Library Committee of the Corporation of the City of London”. The signature is reprinted from the sole remaining one in the Public Record Office in London. Frank Ernest Hill served as the translator, editor and introduction provider — his work would be revised further for the 1946 edition. Macy did comment on Hill’s contribution in the Quarto above.

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Title Page – Jones is incredibly talented at decorative initials! The title and author get the deluxe treatment here.

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Colophon – This is #268 of 1500, and was issued with Jones’ signature.

Examples of Jones’ decorations (right click and open in new tab for full size):

Personal Notes – I got this from fellow devotee NYCFaddict earlier this year with a big lot of other titles. Definitely among the favorites I received this year!


The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1934)
LEC #175/17th Series V. 1 in 1946
Artwork: Miniatures by Arthur Szyk
Translated and introduced by Frank Ernest Hill
LEC #1122 out of 1500. Heritage reprint also shown in this post.

Click images to see a larger view.

Front Binding (LEC on the left, Heritage on the right) – It’s been nearly 10 years since I wrote this post! It was also the very first comparative post I did on the blog, so it seems a little fitting I get to resurrect it to add another layer of comparison to it with the 1934 original! With this particular edition, quite a few changes took place to differentiate it from its earlier cousin. First off, George W. Jones was no longer alive, so he could not provide any of his design or decorative expertise. Second, Arthur Szyk, who literally just had his first production with the Limited Editions Club with The Book of Job issued two volumes before this one, would provide his incredible miniatures to Chaucer’s iconic characters. Third, the book would have a Heritage reprint that scales quite well against its fancier cousin, and fourth, George Macy himself would take on book design duties.

I just found out about a fifth difference! Thanks to the Devotees, I learned that the 1946 Tales removed the “Prioress’ Tale” from its collection of narratives. Devotee BionicJim noticed this:

There is a publisher’s note at the beginning stating simply that it has not been included, which seems to be news to the translator, Frank Ernest Hill, who also wrote the introduction dated March 1946. Here he states that his is the first “complete” translation, which isn’t relevant if The Prioress’s Tale isn’t included, and he even references the tale later in the Introduction while illustrating one of his points.

Django6924 replied with a well-reasoned hypothesis as to why it was cut:

The Prioress’s Tale (and her Prologue) is definitely in the 1934 LEC. I’m not sure about the statement that it is partially lost: although it may not be printed in more recent common editions (for the same reason it is omitted in the 1946 LEC), it is in The Riverside Chaucer (1987) which is the standard critical edition of Chaucer’s works, the 1986 3-volume Folio Society edition of the Canterbury Tales, as well as the 1992 Everyman’s Library edition.

Yes, as you point out, I’m sure Macy left it out due to sensibilities arising from the aftermath of the Holocaust. I will quote from Larry Benson’s introduction to The Prioress’s Tale in The Riverside Chaucer:

The Prioress’s Tale is a “miracle of the Virgin,” a very popular genre of devotional literature, and the story that she tells was widespread in medieval Europe…yet this tender tale is also a tale of violence; the Prioress seems to dwell on the sickening details of the child’s murder and the savage punishment meted out to his murderers…Even more difficult for the modern reader is the anti-Semitism the tale. In Chaucer’s time there were almost no Jews in England; they had been banished a hundred years before. The tale is set therefore in far-off Asia, and its Jews are the stock boogiemen of the fairy-tale-like miracles of the Virgin. The tale’s anti-Semitism is thus somewhat different from modern varieties. It nevertheless inevitably discomfits twentieth-century readers….

Seeing as Szyk himself was Jewish, it’s possible Macy didn’t wish to offend his artist, especially in the wake of the Holocaust.

Here’s the announcement letter from Macy for this edition:

I will provide a proper bibliography for Szyk early next year in my update to the Book of Ruth post. For funsies, let’s look at the Quarto comments on this release:

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Spine

Title Page – The LEC edition went with a nice blue ink for its title page, while the Heritage ran with standard black. Otherwise, they’re about the same. Not too surprising, as this was common practice to drop color from Heritage rereleases. Frank Ernest Hill’s translation from the 1934 edition is reused here, but has further revisions, so it might be the definitive.

Introduction – The LEC continues to spice up its pages with color – blue and red are used throughout the text, while the Heritage reprint stays with black only. The LEC also has the added bonus of “feeling” the text with your hands (and by that, I mean that the ink rises above the page slightly, and you can notice the difference brushing the page with your hand), which is just incredible.

Signature Page – This was a copy from my old university’s library, and is #1122 of 1500. Szyk has a very nice signature, I must say.

Title Illustration – Flip the title page and you’ll see this decadent piece that Szyk did of the entire cast of the Canterbury Tales. The LEC original (top) is much more vibrant with its colors and detail, which isn’t much of a surprise. It’s a bit hard to tell in these shots, but the LEC artwork has a nice border around it that’s a light tannish color, and the text on the right or left of the portrait shares that attribute, as you’ll see below.

The Host

The Wife of Bath

Personal Notes – Nine years on and I’m still on the hunt for this one. Szyk’s titles for the LEC tend to be coveted items, so they usually run a pretty penny. Someday! Luckily, I was able to check out both the Heritage and LEC from UC Merced’s library back then for this post.

LEC Newsletter

Updated 11/24/2020 by JF

Heritage Press: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1946)

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1946)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Illustrations by Arthur Szyk
Translated by Edward Fitzgerald
Heritage Press Exclusive, originally printed in 1940

Click images for a larger view.

Front Binding – In 1940 the Heritage Press put out a lovely exclusive – The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, utilizing the talents of Arthur Szyk to illustrate the volume.  This edition had Szyk’s work mounted directly to the pages, which sounds lovely.  This is the later 1946 edition, which merely reprints the art onto the page.  Still, this is a lovely book.  The book was designed by Ernest Inghan at Fanfare Press in London, England, and looks very classy with Szyk’s linework printed in blue on the off-white boards.  An eye-catcher, this one.

Title Page –Szyk drew his work in color and gold, which Sun Engraving of London engraved.  Apparently they did the same in the 1940 original.  The text is Monotype Sachsenwald with Albertus Capitals, set by Mr. Ingham.  Szyk is stunning as par the course – he did The Canterbury Tales (1946), The Book of Job, The Book of Ruth, The Story of Joseph and his Brothers (in the 1948 Evergreen Tales), The and The Arabian Nights Entertainments for the LEC, along with this and Ink and Blood (a very rare collection of his own work) for the Heritage Press.  The translation is the wildly popular Edward Fitzgerald one that seemingly was everywhere in this era – I’ve seen a Random House edition that was rather nice using the same Fitzgerald translation, for example.

Page 2 – Stunning stuff.

Page 6

Personal Notes – One of my more recent acquisitions, received on my last day of volunteering at my current employmentIt did come with a gold slipcase, but it was very ratty and split nearly in two – I didn’t really think it was necessary to keep it in such poor condition.  Glad to have a Szyk book at last!

I’m lacking some crucial stuff on this one – a Sandglass and any info within (and its number), comparisons to the 1940 printing, and other insights would be ideal.  Please let me know through the comments here or at my thread about this blog at the George Macy Devotees @ LibraryThing!  Thanks!