Limited Editions Club: The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

June 1, 2019 § 2 Comments

The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Drawings by Gordon Ross. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #1505 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – After some interlude we once more are back to the LEC Shakespeare, this time with one of the comedies, The Merry Wives of Windsor, starring the comedic Falstaff from Henry IV after the request of Queen Elizabeth for the knight’s tale to continue into one of budding love. Shakespeare obliged, and according to accounts at the time the Queen was so enthused with the prospect that she “commanded it to be finished in fourteen days; and was afterwards…very well pleased with the representation,” per the LEC newsletter for this edition. As the letter notes, Falstaff arguably had such a moment in Henry IV, when he departs Doll Tearsheet’s side to help Henry’s cause, but that’s neither here nor there — we have this delightful comedy to enjoy regardless of Falstaff’s whimsies.

For this play, George Macy tapped the artistic talents of Gordon Ross, who has not been seen on this blog for quite some time, although it is not for lack of effort or interest! Ross relished the opportunity to illustrate Windsor, especially enjoying drawing Falstaff’s horse and working to improve the look of the stout man from “gross toper sunk in a tavern chair” into the more dynamic and able character Shakespeare wrote. Personally, I think he succeeded! My very old Pickwick Papers post goes into his bibliography for Macy.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text, while Ross’s illustrations were printed in collotype in black and sanguine by Georges Duval, then hand-colored for the title page (sadly, I do not know who did it).

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

Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, as we’ve discussed before, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This is from the 1505th set.

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

Personal Notes – As with the rest of the LEC Shakespeare covered over the past year or so (Henry IV Part 1 notwithstanding), this was sent to me by a very nice fan of the blog who has been beyond kind in sharing his duplicates with me to document. I cherish these books and am beyond appreciative.

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Limited Editions Club/Heritage Press – The Song of Roland (1938)

May 26, 2019 § 2 Comments

The Song of Roland (1938)
LEC #102/9th Series, V. 7 in 1938
Sandglass Number VIII: 19
Artwork: Decorations by Valenti Angelo
Translated from the French into English by Charles Scott Moncrieff, and Edited and Introduced by Hamish Miles
#611 of 1500
Heritage Press reprinted this edition, both compared below.

Click images to see larger views. LEC on top, Heritage on Bottom.

Front Binding – The Song of Roland is a classic retelling of the epic battle between France and Spain (or, to be more specific, Charlemagne’s forces against the Saracens), originally composed in French by an anonymous poet. The George Macy Company was quite taken with the idea of attempting to recapture the era when this confrontation took place, and decided to have well-regarded illumination expert and illustrator (not to mention frequent LEC/Heritage Press artist) Valenti Angelo take the reins of trying to get the essence of an illuminated manuscript of the event done up in printed form. Angelo, of course, was up to the task, having done incredible work on the Heritage Salome and The Song of Songs by this point, as well as the LEC/HP edition of Elizabeth Browning’s Songs of the Portuguese. Clearly Angelo was quickly becoming a Club favorite and with good reason.

Now let’s look at the binding more closely:

Angelo was responsible for the binding design, and his charming handiwork gives it a strong centerpiece that really pops. The Heritage edition makes a valiant effort to replicate it; the white leather with gold leaf decoration was replaced with yellow cloth with blue decorations, and the fabric is a little less luxurious, but overall it’s a fairly good recreation. And his interior illustrations are perfect for this text. Angelo’s Macy bibliography can be found in our Salome post. Both editions I’ve owned are library editions, so they’ve seen some sunning over the years.

Design Notes – For this book, Angelo would split the designing task with printer Edmund B. Thompson of Windham, Connecticut. Angelo would do the art and hand-illuminate the decorations with gold, as well as design the binding, while Thompson would choose the type, set it by hand and have it printed. The Quarto goes into a little more detail:

For the Heritage reprint, details can be found in the Sandglass below.

Spine

Sadly, I don’t have a slipcase for this edition.

Title Page – Now we start seeing some of the major differences between these editions. The LEC features Angelo’s decadent hand-illuminations far more frequently, while the Heritage merely had some of these illuminations redone via silk screen application. The title font for the Heritage is a deep gold ink, but it’s difficult to make out here.

Charles Scott Moncrieff was the original translator of the French poem; Hamish Miles provides some editing alongside an introduction.

Colophon – Angelo provides his signature, and this is #611 of 1500.

Page 3 – Here’s a quick summary of Angelo’s decoration creation process. Angelo began with the basic black outline of his art, which he then embellished with inks of alternative colors: blue, green, and red. He then hand-illuminated each illustration with gold (which, again, is was applied much more thoroughly in the LEC edition). Angelo deliberately wanted to use dynamic and striking colors to recreate the feeling of medieval manuscripts, so he chose vivid inks that would be intense on the page. Very classy work. The Heritage may lose some of the hand-illumination, but does apply some changes to the design to try to make up for it. The first letter is done up in gold, and the stanza numbers are now in red both as the section headers and each set of lines.

Also of note, The Song of Roland is omitted from the Heritage reprint for some reason.

Page 27 – It looks like the line count on the left may be omitted on the Heritage edition? I no longer have it to check, but if I see it again I’ll doublecheck.

Page 84 (Heritage)

Page 127 (LEC)

Personal Notes – I originally got the Heritage edition for $1.00 from the anthropology club book sale at my old community college, and the LEC came into my hands courtesy of my delightful fan who continues to pass along books for me to review. Much appreciated!

Sandglass

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

April 14, 2019 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club – Of the Nature of Things by Lucretius (1957)

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

#495 of 1500. Heritage Press reissued.

Click to see larger views.

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

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

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

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

Spine

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

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

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

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

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

January 12, 2019 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club – Snow-Bound by John Greenleaf Whittier (1930)

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!

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.

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