January 14, 2018 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club/Heritage Press: Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope (1958)
Limited Editions Club:
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope (1958)
LEC #292/27th Series V. 1 in 1958
Artwork: Illustrations by Fritz Kredel
Introduced by Angela Thirkell
#403 of 1500.
Click to see larger views.
Front Binding – Happy 2018 everyone! I am not entirely sure how frequent this blog will see updates without any new books to spotlight beyond this one at present, but I will continue to post new titles that come into my hands as they enter my library — I promise you that!
Our first post in 2018 is not the first for either author nor artist; in fact, we’ve spotlighted them both TOGETHER way back when with the Heritage reprint of The Warden, which predated this book by three years. You can take a look at the Heritage edition I previously reviewed below. Anthony Trollope would only see these two works printed by the Limited Editions Club, with both decorated by Fritz Kredel’s graceful hand. As for Fritz, he hasn’t been spotlighted since 2013’s post on The Decameron, so it’s nice to welcome him back, especially since he was the most utilized of all illustrators by George Macy and his family over the LEC tenure. This is a very representative example of his output; expertly done and apropos of the story within. For his entire LEC/Heritage bibloiography, see here.
Design Notes – Designer Richard Ellis was recruited to continue the tradition he established with The Warden (a theme for this book, as we will see shortly). Ellis is no stranger to the blog at this point; I even reposted a complete LEC/Heritage bibliography just for him from Devotee featherwate! We last saw his work with the Heritage exclusive The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. The font chosen was Bell (much like The Warden), which was printed by Clarke & Way on Curtis paper. The letter makes a note about the paper being infused with titanium to minimize showthrough. Frank Fortney of Russell-Rutter binded the project, with a black levant-grain leather with Kredel supplying a decoration stamped in gold leaf alongside the title and publisher. The boards have a patterned paper, and it seems to be radically different batches used midway through as I’ve seen two copies of this LEC and they did not share the same paper! Kredel’s artwork was reproduced via gravures by the Photogravure and Color Company and subsequently colored by Walter Fischer’s studio. Each of the forty drawings had four separate stencils created for each to maximize closeness to Kredel’s originals. These stencils were then carefully used to color each illustration by hand to match up. More can be seen in the Letter below!
Title Page – Angela Thirkell, who also provided a preface for The Warden, steps back in to provide the same treatment for this book. Trollope’s two books essentially had the exact same crew backing them, which is sort of unique for the Club. The big selling point of the LEC upgrade is the upgrade to Kredel’s colors, which the Heritage reprint does not come close in replicating:
As was frequent in Heritage reprints of this era, the color choice was radically simplified.
Colophon – This is copy 403 of 1500 and signed by Kredel. My first LEC from him!
Examples of the Illustrations by Kredel (right click and open in new tab for full size):
Personal Notes – I picked this up for store credit as Old Capitol Books in Monterey when I was down there for Christmas…this is like the 15th LEC of theirs I’ve bought I’m pretty sure. I’ll have to check one of these days…
I will update this with the Heritage edition for comparative purposes very soon!
LEC Newsletter (right click and open in new tab for full size):
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope (1958)
Sandglass Number unknown
Artwork – Illustrations by Fritz Kredel
Introduced by Angela Thirkell
Reprint of LEC #292/27th Series V. 1 in 1958
Click the images for larger views.
Front Binding – A nicely designed pattern for the boards on this book, with a brown spine. Shame it’s been sunned somehow, but it is a library book, after all.
Page 18 – Lovely, lovely work. The woman’s face to the right of the carriage is amazing; I’ll need to check and see how it looks in the LEC.
Personal Notes – Back when I was reviewing library books, I picked this up to document from the Mariposa library. It’s seen its fair share of readers, I can say that much.
August 13, 2017 § 2 Comments
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.
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.
August 5, 2017 Comments Off on Heritage Press – Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore (1943)
Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore (1943)
Sandglass Number 10F
Artwork: Illustrated by John Austen
Introduced by John T. Winterich
Heritage Press exclusive
Click images for larger views.
Front Binding – Today brings another Heritage exclusive to the blog, R.D. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone. A Victorian novel written among many other greats of the era, the book is perhaps considered a minor classic in contrast to its more famous contemporaries like Great Expectations and Silas Marner, but it remains a romance icon regardless. The Limited Editions Club however passed over printing an edition of their own, but we do have this Heritage exclusive to consider. Blackmore did not get a second publication.
The book’s illustrator is a different story, as John Austen was called upon for his third Heritage exclusive, following David Copperfield and The Vicar of Wakefield. We’ve seen a fair amount of Austen’s work thus far on this blog, as we have discussed Vanity Fair, The Faerie Queene and the aforementioned Vicar, where I go into his publication history. This is very much in Austen’s usual standards of illustration, with hauntingly beautiful full-page color prints and several line drawings decorating the chapters, and as such may or may not please your eyes, depending on your feelings of Austen’s style. I for one feel this novel fits Austen’s artistic proclivities.
Design Notes – The designer is unstated, so it’s conceivable George Macy handled it, as is often the case when such commentary is lacking in a Sandglass. I’ll update this when I find out for sure. The color prints were reproduced by the Photogravure and Color Company of New York, while text setting and printing was done by Rochester’s The Printing House of Leo Hart. The font is Scotch. Paper was supplied by The West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company, while Russell-Rutter did their usual binding services.
Spine – The front and back covers are pretty barren save the green cloth, but the spine has this delightfully intricate design.
Title Page – Interestingly we get a rather large reproduction of the Heritage logo in the center of this title page (minus the HP). While uncredited here, John T. Winterich stepped in to discuss the book’s origins and history within a short Introduction.
Examples of the Illustrations by Austen (right click and open in new tab for full size):
Personal Notes – I acquired this at Bookbuyers in Monterey last time I was there. The condition was exquisite! Bright and vibrant, unlike other copies I had seen before. Happy to have this in my collection.
July 30, 2017 Comments Off on Heritage Press: Moriae Encomium or The Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus (undated)
Moriae Encomium or The Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus (undated)
Sandglass Number unknown
Artwork: Woodcuts by Franz Masereel
Introduced by Hendrik Willem Van Loon; translated by Harry Carter
Heritage Press exclusive; the LEC issued their own edition with Lynd Ward’s illustrations in the 14th Series, V. 4 in 1943
Click images for larger views.
Front Binding – We’re back after a week off to continue on discussing the few remaining books I have in my collection. And today’s…well, we have a lot to talk about with this book! But before we delve into the history of this edition and its origins, I think I’ll get the author/illustrator/design notes covered first.
Desiderius Erasmus only had this particular work of his published by the George Macy Company and its descendants, but it was printed twice. The LEC commissioned Lynd Ward to tackle the work in February 1943, and we have this Heritage exclusive that presumably followed featuring the talents of another woodcut specialist, Franz Maserell. This is likely the last of his jobs with Macy, as the others came in the 1930s: he was the illustrator for the infamous 1930 printing of Notre Dame de Paris, where Macy sent out in only paper wraps which did not go over well with many subscribers, who subsequently were offered the opportunity to have them rebound; Masereel also joined the many notable artists for the LEC Shakespeare, decorating Julius Caesar.
Lastly, the book does have a colophon with some design commentary:
So now we can get into the meat of this post; the whirlwind production of this book and how it ended up as a Heritage Press title. I will also spin this off into its own post as it’s going to be a significant chunk of history that deserves its own space, but this book is central to the story so I want to keep it here. And before beginning, much thanks to Devotee BuzzBuzzard for sharing the monthly letter this all comes from.
So, in the fall of 1938, George Macy and his Directors determined the course for the LEC following the release of the massive Shakespeare set — a “Booklover’s Journey around the World” is how the letter describes it. Intended to begin in November 1940, Macy would have the most influential book of a particular country selected to be designed, published and illustrated by artisans within that very country. He clearly was enthused beyond words for this lofty project, and even though there were considerable challenges ahead (what with World War II about to explode, not to mention other logical difficulties of doing international correspondence in those pre-Internet years) he felt that now was the time to announce the proposal to the membership. And what a proposal it is!
Fourteen works were selected from fourteen countries for the initial prospectus. For simplicity’s sake, I will list these out:
- The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett, England, printed by Oxford University Press, art by John Austen, introduced by Frank Swinnerton
- The Kalevala, Finland, printed by Tilghmann, art by Matti Visanti
- In Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus, Holland, printed by Joh. Enschede en Zonen, art by Franz Masereel
- The Temptation of Saint Anthony by Gustave Flaubert, France, printed by Jean-Gabriel Daragnes, art by Daragnes, translated by Lafcadio Hearn
- Oedipus the King by Sophocles, Greece, printed by Pyrsos Press, art by Demetrios Galanis, introduced by Thornton Wilder, translated by Sir Richard Jebb
- The Song of Songs which is Solomon’s, Palestine, printed in a scroll form
- “Literature of Ancient Egypt”, Egypt, printed at the Press of the French Institute of Archaeology, art taken from examples of ancient Egyptian artwork, edited by the Librarian of the National Museum in Cairo
- The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner, Basutoland (Lesotho), printed by Morija Printing Works, artist’s name not disclosed, binding to be bark from a native tree to the region*
- The Bhagavad-Gita, the Song Celestial, India, printed at the Times of India, seven Indian artists who are not disclosed, binding to be of gold cloth, translated by Sir Edwin Arnold
- The Ramayana, Siam
- Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad, Java
- We of the Never-Never, Australia
- Gaucho by Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (according to Wikipedia, the author never had a book by that name, but perhaps there was something in the works Macy knew of at the time that didn’t come to fruition?), Argentina
- The True History of Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz, Mexico, printed by Rafael Loera y Chavez, art by Miguel Covarrubias
That’s quite a list! The letter then goes on to explain that books would still be sent out from the USA (in the patriotic verbiage you might expect) interspersed between these 14 volumes. The goal was to have all of these sent out by October of 1941.
…and we all know the result of that! Nary a single one of these proposed books actually made it out as intended to the membership of the LEC, and the few that did manage to make it out certainly did not hit that hopeful 10/1941 end date. Of the entire catalog, The Old Wives’ Tale was the only one to cut it close, shipped out to subscribers in November of 1941 as detailed above. From there, The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico (a rebranded title from the prospectus!) by Diaz was mailed in October of 1942, also as planned. The next, The Temptation of Saint Anthony, showed the first signs that problems were severely hampering the original plan for this series. Instead of Daragnes, Warren Chappell was recruited to do the artwork and the book was printed in New York by Aldus Printers. It came out in January of 1943. The ML for that book goes into some of the tribulations regarding the creation of the book and the selection of Chappell, but fails to mention Daragnes whatsoever. Next came The Praise of Folly, but it was not from Holland as originally intended; Masereel and Van Krimpen were sidelined for Lynd Ward and The Mount Pleasant Press, and as noted earlier came out in February of 1943. And unlike Saint Anthony, nothing about the book’s original vision came out in the letter for it.
It ought to be clear that Macy’s dream had withered, most likely due to World War II. I can only imagine the disappointment he must have felt as the majority of the remaining books fell off of his publication radar. Of the 10 left on the prospectus, only Oedipus made it out in any sort of form as Macy intended, with Galanis’ artwork still included, in November of 1955. After George’s death in 1956, Helen Macy issued three other titles from the “Booklover’s Journey”, although I doubt little beyond the text matched up to her husband’s aspirations for two of them: Lord Jim in 1959 (with Lynd Ward again stepping in to produce artwork for it), and The Bhagavad-Gita in 1965 (art by Y. G. Srimati and still including Arnold as the translator). The Story of an African Farm in 1961 (with Paul Hograth’s art), however, did manage to achieve some level of success in matching up with Macy’s design as outlined in the letter. I’ll let Django6924 explain:
The fascinating Monthly Letter uploaded here also fails to mention the name of the printer/designer at the Morija Printing Works where the The Story of an African Farm was to be printed. That gentleman was Hans Schmoller and that same gentleman actually did design and print the book–25 years later and in England!
Per the ML for the 1961 edition, Herr Schmoller was a 21-year-old printer in 1938 when he wrote to George Macy, whose name he had seen in an issue of The Dolphin, introducing him to the Morija Printing Works of the Société des Missions Evangéliques de Paris in Basutoland, where he was in charge of the composing and monotype department. “The only printing office of any importance in a country the size of Switzerland with a staff of 32, all but two of them natives, printing books in 15 languages.” Macy’s suggested that Morija might want to print The Story of an African Farm for the LEC. The ML is oddly silent about whether Schmoller accepted the offer (if indeed he had the authority to make such a decision at his age), but the war intervened and by the time it was over, Schmoller had moved to England where he was Oliver Simon’s assistant at the Curwen Press. Macy located him and raised the question of The Story of an African Farm again, but again the ML doesn’t say whether Schmoller accepted (if he had the authority to do so). In 1949 Schmoller moved to Penguin Books and by 1961 was the head of the production department and one of the directors of Penguin. By now, Schmoller must have decided that he needed to write finis to the production of this book for the LEC (he was, incidentally, the designer of the LEC edition of Silas Marner back in 1953).
Although Macy did not live to see the edition, and although it wasn’t printed in Basutoland, and the illustrator was not a native of Basutoland but an Englishman, I believe George would have been pleased overall with the result — especially the tree-bark binding.
The remaining 6 titles faded into nothingness, never properly fulfilled in any fashion. Which is a shame, as they sound quite interesting indeed.
For Oedipus, we did get some explanation about the project and its overall failure in regards to that book, which I’m going to copy over from that post below:
[Oedipus] 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.
So in the end Van Krimpen did get his chance to be a part of the series, although a long ways removed from reproducing a classic piece of Dutch literature!
So let’s spin back to the Heritage Press for a moment. The Heritage Press did publish their own Song of Songs back in 1935 (1500 of which are signed by artist Valenti Angelo!), so that particular title does have a Macy publication under its belt, even if the original intent for its LEC was lost. And we do somehow have the intended The Praise of Folly available as a Heritage edition, printed in Holland by Van Krimpen and featuring woodcuts by Masereel, issued as an exclusive. As I lack a Sandglass for the Heritage Praise, I can’t go into any specifics, but I imagine a similar situation took place a la Oedipus; Van Krimpen and/or Masereel were unable to fulfill the commission due to the war, and Macy had to audible in Ward to get the book out. However, as the war concluded, there was an opportunity to put out the proposed Praise, but with the LEC released not all that long ago Macy decided to instead publish it as a Heritage exclusive. That’s all speculation on my part, but it seems reasonable to assume.
Regardless, this is arguably among the nicest exclusives of the Heritage Press, and it’s unsurprising given Van Krimpen’s expertise. Masereel’s woodcuts are lusciously reproduced and the text is sharp and crisp.
Monthly Letter (source)
Slipcase – This matches the binding quite nicely.
Title Page – The Heritage and LEC share its translator/introduction, so Harry Carter and Hendrik Willem Van Loon (respectively) pul double duty on this book.
Examples of the Illustrations by Masereel (right click and open in new tab for full size):
Personal Notes – I picked this up at Bookbuyers last November. It was pretty neat being able to snag three exclusives in one fell swoop, and as usual I paid nothing beyond credit for them.
July 9, 2017 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club: The Way of the World by William Congreve (1959)
The Way of the World by William Congreve (1959)
LEC #301/27th Series V. 10 in 1959
Artwork: Illustrations by T.M. Cleland
Introduced by Louis Kronenberger
#1358 of 1500.
Click to see larger views.
Front Binding – Today’s post comes from a notable English playwright not named William Shakespeare — instead, it’s William Congreve, who rose in prominence in the late 1600s with his theatrical works and poetry. This is probably his best known work, although a few of his lines in The Mourning Bride (1697) have become common parlance in terms of quotation: “Musick has charms to soothe a savage breast [beast]” and “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” are paraphrases of Congreve’s actual lines in that play. However, the George Macy Company only showered Congreve with this sole LEC edition (which is also available in a Heritage reprint, with a blue cloth binding if I remember right). This is a rather lovely book regardless of that fact. I love this binding, and it’s a book I’ve actually wanted to add to my collection for a while now in either format.
Congreve’s comedic narrative was brought to life by T.M. Cleland, last seen here performing a similar design philosophy for Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer. Cleland’s bibliography is covered in my Monsieur Beaucaire post (which doesn’t step too far away from this design as well; perhaps it was part of an unstated series). As with those books, he served as both illustrator and designer for this book as well. Thankfully, Cleland’s vision for this set is pretty nice to look at, especially the title page. I also find the illustrations in this book to be reproduced a little better than in Beaucaire.
Design Notes – Cleland’s design was executed by A. Colish, with his own illustrations being printed by the Photogravure and Color Company and colored by Walter Fischer’s studio. However, I don’t have a ML nor is one available to me at the moment, so I’m afraid this is the most I can share for now.
Front Binding (contrast adjusted to spotlight the detail) – This design is also on the back of the book.
Title Page – Cleland has a way of heightening title pages; he’s consistently done some elegant and classy ones over the books we’ve covered of his thus far. And, in a curious twist, Louis Kronenberger is called to serve as the Introduction writer here, the second of at least three collaborations with Cleland. The History of Tom Jones came first, with She Stoops to Conquer following this book.
Colophon – This is copy 1358 of 1500 and signed by Cleland.
Examples of the Illustrations by Cleland (right click and open in new tab for full size):
Personal Notes – This is the latest LEC to come into my hands; I actually found it at my local Goodwill a few months ago for $4, along with a second copy of The Three Cornered Hat. I snagged them both, in the hopes that the latter will help me next time I head to Monterey in earning some store credit somewhere. Both were in great condition in terms of the books themselves; the slipcase for this one is a little ragged, but I view that as it doing its job over the years. I adore the binding on this so I’m pleased as punch to have it.
July 9, 2017 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club: Selections from The Koran (1958)
Selections from The Koran (1958)
LEC #284/26th Series V. 5 in 1958
Artwork: Decorations by Valenti Angelo
Translated from the Arabic and Introduced by Arthur Jeffrey
#660 of 1500.
Curator’s Note – The Koran (Quran) is the most sacred text of the Islamic faith, and some Muslims believe it is not acceptable to reproduce the book via photograph. As an anthropologist, I personally adhere to the discipline’s tenets of being respectful and understanding to other cultural groups and their religious/societal beliefs. With that in mind, I will be putting all of this post’s images behind a jump in a special gallery. For the Table of Contents, the slipcase’s spine will be shown. That way it is a choice to view these images, and will hopefully be a fair compromise for all parties. For those who clicked onto this post via a link or the Table of Contents who may follow that belief, please be aware that photographs will be included at the bottom of the post and will be marked beforehand. I appreciate your understanding on this matter.
With the preamble above duly noted, let’s discuss what I can about this book from the Limited Editions Club’s perspective. Unfortunately, I do not have access to the Monthly Letter for this, but what I can gleam from the book itself is the following. This is not the entire Koran, but selections of the sacred text as selected by its translator Arthur Jeffrey. Valenti Angelo was called upon to provide decorations, and includes his trademark hand illuminations on several pages as well (as last seen here in the Heritage Salome where you will also find his LEC/Heritage bibliography). It’s been a while since we’ve seen Angelo on the blog (2011’s discussion on Shakespeare’s Sonnets for the Heritage Press), but this is an excellent example of his exquisite eye for this style of illustration. I presume he was the guiding hand for the design given how prevalent his decorations are to the overall aesthetic of the text, but I may be wrong. What little else I can gleam from the book is that A. Colish was the publishing house. As soon as I get access to additional information I’ll update the post. The Heritage Press did reprint this, which is a rather nice edition for the Club considering the year (many Heritage reprints starting around this point are lacking in their reproduction values — stripping out colors and such from the text and illustrations — but this is an exception).
Personal Notes – This is the final LEC sent to me by my very kind contact Liz, who also sent along Tono-Bungay and Herodotus’ Histories. Once again, I am incredibly appreciative for her generosity. It’s a book I didn’t expect to be in my collection any time soon, and yet here we are.
July 3, 2017 § 1 Comment
The Book of the People: Popoh Vuh (1954)
LEC #251/23rd Series V. 7 in 1954
Artwork: Illustrations by Everett Gee Jackson
Translation by Sylvanus Griswold Morley and Delia Goetz (based on the Spanish translation by Adrian Recinos), with a Pronouncing Dictionary compiled by Lucille Kaufman Weil
#687 of 1500. LEC Exclusive.
Click to see larger views.
Front Binding – This is a book I’ve been looking forward to discussing on the blog ever since I discovered the Limited Editions Club actually decided to publish it: the Popol Vuh, also known as The Book of the People. If you’ll let me divulge briefly from the LEC for a minute, I’d like to share just a bit of a glimpse into the world of the Ancient Maya (the creators of this text) and their fascinating culture. I may have mentioned this before, but I am an anthropologist by trade and spent a fair amount of time earning my Bachelors learning about the Maya people. My upper division courses were mostly in archaeology (even though my interests lie in socio-cultural; let’s just say that archaeology had a better set of professors and leave it at that), and I had three courses with one who specialized in the Ancient Maya. She was trying to resolve a major archaeological question of why the Maya abandoned many of their cities at a particular point in history. Now if you haven’t seen Maya ruins, here is an example. This is one of the pyramids in Caracol, a major site in Belize. We know the name because archaeologists and linguists have cracked the Mayan written language, which is an amazing story I’ll summarize briefly here. The Maya utilized pictures (i.e. hieroglyphs) for their written language, like so. Here’s an article and a video on the writing:
My professor’s interests lie in caves; the Maya as a group treated them with extreme reverence, and would often leave artifacts in there as gifts to the underworld. The Maya also practiced sacrifice, as blood was among the highest gifts you could give to the gods. One of the more famous sites in Belize is the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, where within lies a crystallized female skeleton known as the Crystal Maiden. You can read up more on her and these practices here. My professor believes that these rituals were done to appease the rain god Chaak (spelling differs, but I believe this is how my professor spelled it). The Maya religion is quite fascinating as a whole, especially one of the few books that survived to the present day, the Popol Vuh. I recommend taking a quick look at this PDF or buying Allen J. Christenson’s translation if you’re curious…or track down this edition of the book!
Okay, so with that background out of the way, let’s get back to the LEC edition. This is the 251st book of the LEC, so it fell outside of the Quarto‘s 250 volumes. Fortunately I do have a monthly letter to get into some details for you. Curiously, the letter devotes a page or so to Clarence Day the author of Life with Father, but does eventually focus itself on the topic at hand. Now please keep in mind that the text here was produced in 1954, and that both knowledge on the Ancient Maya and anthropological practices have greatly increased and improved, respectively.
This book appears to have come about due to the interest of illustrator Everett Gee Jackson, a professor of art at San Diego State at the time, who had told Macy that he had desired a commission to bring his artistic touch to this classic work of Latin America before he died. Macy obliged, and Jackson headed to several Maya ruins scattered throughout Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras for reference. His yearlong trek brought him to some of the most astounding Maya ruins still standing, including Chichen Inza, Copan and Tulan, and ultimately led him to produce several paintings of key figures of the Popol Vuh (eight of which were selected to lead off the book) and fifty drawings that decorate the text. Now Jackson does a fine job here, but it is a bit of a disappointment that another LEC alum didn’t get the offer — Miguel Covarrubias. Covarrubias had worked alongside translator Sylvanus Morley and produced papers with the noted archaeologist, but given Macy’s several headaches dealing with the artist in the past, it’s unsurprising that such a call was never made. Anyway, this was Jackson’s first solo commission for the LEC, and I’ll let his publication history from an earlier post on Paul Bunyan tell the rest.
Design Notes – Saul and Lillian Marks of the Plantin Press were called in to design and publish the book. They dug into the history of the Quiche Maya people and utilized the “Dresden Codex”, one of the scant remaining copies of a Maya text, as the base for their design, taking the Mayan hieroglyphs discussed earlier as decorations throughout the work. Saul handled the implementation of the design and the typography, while Lillian set the text (in Bembo) quite excellently. Paper was supplied by Mohawk Paper Mills, the paintings reprinted by the Photogravure and Color Company, the drawings properly printed by the Marks themselves, and Russell-Rutter performing the bindery duties per usual. The binding was deliberately kept simple; a coarse green linen with only the title being stamped in green on the spine.
Spine – Mine has an unfortunate stain on the spine. I’ll have to look into some sort of way to clean it.
Slipcase – Alas, the bookseller felt compelled to apply a price label on the text of the slipcase, so when I tried to remove it I lost the “Vuh”. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in used books, and it’s tragic when it happens to rarer books like these.
Title Page – The text reprinted here is the translation done by Morley and his partner Delia Goetz, which was in turn taken from the Spanish translation by Adrian Recinos, a former ambassador for the U.S. from Guatemala. The English was originally printed by the University of Oklahoma, who gave Macy permission to reprint their text. Lucille Kaufman Weil supplies a pronunciation dictionary and there is a meaty appendix in the back. The introduction writer is unspecified, but I suspect either Morley or Goetz was behind it.
Colophon – This is copy 687 and signed by Jackson.
Examples of the Illustrations by Jackson (right click and open in new tab for full size):
Personal Notes – I ordered this one from an online seller around the time I got the two Cyrano LECs, as this was the other major wishlist item I had. This one isn’t quite as excellent in condition as the Cyrano as there’s a decent stain to the spine, as well as some slipcase damage thanks to a bookseller sticker and some heavy wear, but otherwise it’s in pretty good shape and I’m happy to have it.
If you’re at all interested in learning more about the Maya and/or want to read fiction I’ve written, please take a look at my archaeological fiction on the Maya on my academic site P4. There’s two short stories I wrote for a class that are heavily sourced from available Maya information from many experts in that subject area, and I am pretty proud of them, too.
LEC Monthly Letter