Limited Editions Club – Snow-Bound by John Greenleaf Whittier (1930)

January 12, 2019 § Leave a comment

Snow-Bound by John Greenleaf Whittier (1930)
LEC #4/1st Series V. 4 in 1930
Artwork: Vignette on the title page was done by Alice Hubbard Stevens. Otherwise unillustrated.
Foreword by George S. Bryan

#1441 of 1500. LEC Exclusive.

Click to see larger views.

Front Binding – Let’s take a brief respite from Shakespeare to cover what is currently the oldest LEC I own and on the blog as of today: Snow-Bound by John Greenleaf Whittier. This was the fourth volume issued by the Limited Edition Club way back in January of 1930, meaning it’s 89 years old this month! It was also the debut of Carl Purington Rollins to the halls of the Club, but we’ll discuss him momentarily.

Whittier was one of America’s most vocal abolitionists as well as a notable poet — Snow-Bound won him a fair amount of acclaim upon its publication in 1865, and his writings on anti-slavery remain in the discourse of U.S. History. Macy fancied his work quite a bit, given the very early publication of Snow-Bound by the Club. Sadly, the title did not earn much accolades from the readership according to the Quarto; he sadly recites a brief anecdote on how one member was so offended to pay $10 for “so slim a book”. Whittier would see a collection of his poetry released in 1945 by the LEC and Heritage Press, and unlike this edition would feature multiple illustrations, done by painter Raymond J. Holden.

Rollins was the printing maestro of Yale University Press, and his debut emphasizes his book design philosophy. Macy was obviously pleased by this edition based on his comments below. Rollins took the title literally with his design, making every component suggest the wintry powder Whittier espouses throughout his poem. The paper is textured and distinctly white, the font gives the impression of snow falling from the sky, and the ornamental letters hide little snowflake adornments within. And the binding of course swirls itself like a blizzard. It evokes the season quite well.

Design Notes – Here’s what the Quarto-Millenary has to say about the design:

Spine

Slipcase

Title Page – The title page doesn’t mention its introduction writer, George S. Bryan, who provides a brief foreword. The vignette was designed by Alice Hubbard Stevens, marking the debut of the first woman artist to the Limited Editions Club (and would, to my knowledge, not return for a second commission).

Colophon – This is #1441 of 1500, and was signed by Rollins.

Bibliography – Unlike most LECs, the earlier editions did include a bibliography of earlier titles. I believe volume 6 in the first series, Two Medieval Tales, does the same.

Example of the typeface:

Personal Notes – I purchased this from Old Capitol Books in Monterey on my recent vacation. It has actually been there since 2008, waiting for someone to give it a home. With my last visit, I decided to bring it to mine. It’s neat having a book from the first series after all this time, 10 years into collecting these!

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Limited Editions Club: Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

January 6, 2019 § 2 Comments

Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Drawings by Gordon Craig. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #195 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Another LEC Shakespeare for you today, this time my personal favorite play: Macbeth. Having been in a production of the “Scottish Play”, it is one I personally enjoy on a level beyond the text. This is the first of the Bard’s tragedies we’ve covered from the series. It was likely performed in 1606 for the first time, and stands as the shortest of this subset of Shakespeare’s theater. It also have quite the mythology surrounding it, in particular never saying its name if you are involved in a production lest you wish to bestow the infamous “curse”. Curiously, my production was beset by some bizarre circumstances, including the sudden and severe illness of one actress and a technician breaking their ankle on stage during dress rehearsals. I’m not the superstitious type, but it was a weird coincidence…

Gordon Craig (aka Edward Gordon Craig) marks his debut to the Limited Editions Club and George Macy’s canon, but this would be his sole contribution. Among collectors today Craig’s artwork is not revered; I personally find his drawings satisfactory enough but they lack the pizazz of many of the other illustrators for this series. This was his second artistic rendering of Shakespeare, handling a publication of Hamlet before. He is far better known for his acting career, where among his acclaimed roles he was the title character for our play in question. For his work here he focused on the costuming (per Macy’s request) with his lithographic crayon drawings, which are quite nice from that perspective. He was also an accomplished wood-engraver, and I wonder how that approach might have been received.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text, while Craig’s illustrations were printed by Fernard Mourlot.

Title Page – As with the entire set, Herbert Farjeon handled editing duties for the set.

Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This is from the 195th set.

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

Personal Notes – Of the five LEC Shakespeare a fan of the blog provided me, I have to admit from a literary perspective this was the most exciting for me. I adore this work, and it’s nice to have the LEC edition of it, even if the art is not my favorite.

Limited Editions Club: The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

December 30, 2018 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club: The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Watercolors by Pierre Brissaud. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #897 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Our previous LEC Shakespeare editions have both been from the Bard’s histories — let’s mix it up a bit and highlight a comedic effort from the playwright, The Two Gentlemen of Verona. This is one of Shakespeare’s earlier efforts, originally composed in 1594 or so, and features some of his favorite methods of comedic effect, the act of hidden identity (Julia disguising herself as a male page to lead Proteus, whom she loves) and setting up the main characters to suddenly come at odds over a particular subject (in this case, the duke of Milan’s daughter Silvia), to ultimately have all of the odds and ends come to a close in a jolly manner. It may not be as highly revered as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it’s still a great piece of humorous theatre.

Its artist will not be a new face to you if you’ve followed our coverage of these books for some time, as it is Pierre Brissaud, appearing in his first Limited Editions Club release. Brissaud is one of my favorite illustrators in the Macy canon, and this book showcases his talent quite well with its exquisite reproductions of his watercolors of scenes of the play. The Newsletter makes an interesting comment about his upcoming commissions, which I find fascinating: Cyrano de Bergerac, of which I’ve discussed thoroughly in its own post, is mentioned here as his next project for release for the Heritage Press! This does seem to fit in with the details I’ve laid out in that post, but it’s still a bit of a surprise. However, this is not unexpected; George Macy happily had the Heritage Press publishing its own spins on classic works at this point of its history along with LEC reprints, so I guess I have more of a definitive answer for that particular publication history. Of course, that was delayed due to World War II’s genesis, but it was ultimately issued as both a LEC and Heritage title in 1954. Another title impacted by the War was his next project, Madame Bovary for the Nonesuch Press. That commission would go on to be a LEC and join the Heritage/Nonesuch French Romances series, but it was in the works already at this early phase. Brissaud’s bibliography is in my post for Cyrano de Bergerac.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text and illustrations, while Brissaud’s watercolors were reproduced via collotype plates by Georges Duval and then colored by Beaufumè of Paris.

Title Page – As with the entire set, Herbert Farjeon handled editing duties.

Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This is from the 897th set.

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

Personal Notes – This was one of five LEC Shakespeare volumes sent to me by a fan of the blog. As noted with King John I was taken aback by the kind offer and very thankful to have these added to my library, especially this one, given how much I love Brissaud’s work.

LEC Newsletter and Ephemera

A neat curio included in my copy is a secondary letter discussing the design of a box to hold the LEC Shakespeare; I’ve included it below.

Limited Editions Club – The Physiology of Taste by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1949)

December 27, 2018 § 2 Comments

The Physiology of Taste by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1949)
LEC #201/19th Series V. 5 in 1949
Artwork: Color drawings by Sylvain Sauvage
Translated, edited, preface by M.F.K. Fisher, with additional preface by the author

#1060 of 1500. Heritage Press edition available.

Click to see larger views.

Front Binding – Hello friends, we have returned with new posts! We will take a short break from Shakespeare to instead focus in on a vastly different work, The Physiology of Taste. Its author, lawyer and politician Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, published the work shortly before his death, and the extended essay tackles the topic of gastronomy (the study of food and culture). It popularized the concept of a low-carb diet, as well as extolling the virtues of food and drink. It has never been out of print since its original 1825 pub date, and in 1949 the Limited Editions Club commissioned a brand new translation by food critic M.F.K. Fisher, who commented how blessed she was to be able to perform this task. The Heritage Press would reissue this later on.

Brillat-Savarin only had this sole title printed by Macy, but its illustrator, Sylvain Sauvage, has had a far more diverse portfolio for the two George Macy Company publishing houses. I go over his bibliography in my post on Zadig, which shares one particular trait with this edition; it was published after Sauvage passed away. Here his drawings are colored simply, without the rich watercolors seen in Zadig or Cyrano de Bergerac. I suspect this may have to do with Sauvage’s death, but the colophon and Quarto-Millenary don’t address WHO exactly did the coloring for this book to begin with, so for now I’ll let the thought lie.

Design Notes – Here’s what the Quarto-Millenary has to say about the design:

The colophon notes Herbert Rau did the prints of the illustrations via rubber line-plates.

Spine – As you can see, the spine here is not doing super well. A common problem with certain LEC volumes with pigskin leather is that it has shown a high tendency to flake, and this copy is suffering such a fate. According to GMD member Glacierman:

The problem with pigskin is that unless it is used at full thickness, it is weak and prone to rapid wear. It appears to me that they probably split the hides used for this book resulting in a weak leather. I have several books bound in pigskin where it was used full thickness and the bindings on these are tough as nails.

Slipcase

Title Page – Fisher was heavily involved with this publication, translating the entire work, adding in several annotations, performing some editing, and writing a preface. A preface from the author is also included.

Colophon – This is #1060 of 1500, and was issued unsigned due to Sauvage’s passing.

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

Personal Notes – I purchased this from Old Capitol Books in Monterey on my recent vacation. While the spine is concerning, it is otherwise in excellent condition.

Of Interest: An Attempt to Completely Document the Limited Editions Club and Heritage Press

October 7, 2018 § 2 Comments

I meant to bring this to the blog earlier, so I apologize for the delay. George Macy Devotee SteveJohnson has taken it upon themselves to create a spreadsheet covering all of the LEC and Heritage Press publications, working from resources such as the Devotees forum, Bill Majure’s work, the official bibliographies, Michael Bussacio’s work on the Heritage Press, my blog, and others. It’s an astounding project and one I wish to support, so I am pleased to be able to give it a little more of a spotlight that it deserves. It’s a work in progress so expect it to update periodically.

Limited Editions Club: King John by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

October 7, 2018 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club: King John by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

King John by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Drawings by Valenti Angelo. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #245 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Hello friends, we’re back with a small series of posts continuing our look at the LEC Shakespeare. As I noted in my Henry the IV Part I post, this is a 37 volume achievement of publishing within the annals of the Limited Editions Club. I’ve also made a list of the series and its illustrators. If you want more background on the entire set, I recommend looking at both of those earlier posts; for today I’m going to focus in on this particular play, King John.

King John falls into the genre of histories, although it lacks the broad appeal of Shakespeare’s Henry the IV, Henry V and Richard III in terms of popularity and production in the modern day. It was hugely popular in the Victorian era, however. This is based on the life of John Lackland, the king of England from 1199 to 1216. It is written entirely in verse, a very uncommon trait in Shakespeare’s canon (Richard II is the only other).

Our illustrator this time is Valenti Angelo, whose artistic style works beautifully with the play itself. Much like Salome, Angelo hand illuminated each of his drawings with gold accents, and it really makes each example pop with an energy and vigor befitting the text.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text and illustrations, which Angelo subsequently added in illuminations in gold.

Title Page – As with the entire set, Herbert Farjeon handled editing duties for the set.

Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This is from the 245th set.

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

Personal Notes – This was one of five LEC Shakespeare volumes sent to me by a fan of the blog. This was an incredibly kind gesture and one I greatly appreciated. I am very happy to add more of this beautiful publication series to my collection, and look forward to sharing the rest with you soon!

Limited Editions Club – The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner (1961)

July 7, 2018 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club – The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner (1961)

The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner (1961)
LEC #329/29th Series V. 7 in 1961
Artwork: Lithographs by Paul Hogarth
Introduced by Isak Dinesen

#921 of 1500. LEC Exclusive.

Click to see larger views.

Front Binding – Hello friends, we’re back with another LEC offering, this time The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner. This was Schreiner’s sole LEC production, but the book does have a fascinating story behind it. But before we dig into that, let’s touch on Schreiner’s past a bit. She worked as a governess for two separate families in Cradock in the then-known Basutoland (now Lesotho), having been born and raised in the region. In her thirties she departed for England, and despite her relative lack of formal education had enough independent reading to formulate the manuscript for the novel before you now. However, in Victorian England a woman did not have the easiest time of publishing her own works, but Olive was tenacious and kept circulating her manuscript to various publishers. It eventually fell into the hands of George Meredith (of Shaving of Shagpat fame), who enjoyed her novel and pushed for his publisher Chapman and Hall to publish it. In 1883, the book was issued as a two-volume set under the name of Ralph Iron (see what I mean?). Eventually the work was attached to Schreiner, who had returned to Basutoland in 1891, married Samuel Cronwright (who affixed her last name to his), and continued to write, although none of her other literary efforts reached the acclaim of her first.

Another first is illustrator Paul Hogarth, an artist who had seen prior publications of Jane Eyre and The Pickwick Papers issued in foreign countries, and this was one of his earliest American contributions to book illustration. Unlike its author Hogarth would return to the LEC for three more commissions for Cardevon and Sid Shiff’s tenures with the Club: Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man by Siegfried Sassoon in 1977, Robert Grave’s Poems in 1980, and Sassoon’s Memoirs of an Infantry Officer in 1981.

So let’s get into the meat of this book’s history. You may recall a little while back I produced a post on the “Booklover’s Journey of the World“. I’ll refrain from diving back into that well, but the short of it is that this book was originally planned to be a part of that series when George Macy was still alive and well, and would be entirely produced in Basutoland per the perimeters of the project. As that post documents, this was alas not a long-lived notion, as World War II dashed the enterprise before it could really take off. The newsletter is refreshingly candid about the doomed idea, showing how designer and then-Basutoland publisher Hans Schmoller reached out to Macy to produce a book at his press, and how Macy pitched Story to him, only for the War to intervene and for the suggestion to go unmoved. As the war ended and Schmoller relocated to England, Macy reconnected in the hopes of moving forward with the book once more, but Schmoller was not the head of a press and by the time he was head of the production team at Penguin Books in 1949 and in a role he could act on such a request, Macy’s health was in decline and it took another 12 years for the edition Macy had so yearned to create to become reality under his wife Helen’s eye.

Design Notes – Schmoller may have had to wait several years to execute this book, but he adhered to the original plan as much as he conceivably could. While the book’s text and black and white illustrations were ultimately printed by the Westerham Press in Kent instead of at Schmoller’s former Basutoland press Morija Printing Works, the binding maintained Macy’s intent of utilizing the bark-cloth tree’s namesake bark as the binding material. To the Club’s knowledge this is the first time the material was used to decorate the outside of a book, which was originally stitched together by Basuto women artisans well-versed in utilizing it for clothing and other means. Russell-Rutter per usual was the bindery. The spine’s red cloth and gold leaf design was created by Schmoller. Back to the innards: Dante was the font chosen for the text, with the Hollingworth Ltd.’s Turkey Mill producing the gray-rag paper. The Curwen Press reproduced Hogarth’s color lithographs.

Spine

Slipcase

Title Page – Noted author Isak Dinesen, pen name of Baroness Karen Blixen-Finecke, provides an introduction.

Colophon – This is #921 of 1500, and signed by Hogarth.

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

Personal Notes – My good friend Django6924 sold this to me as part of his recent cull. Very happy to have this in my collection!

LEC Monthly Letter

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