Limited Editions Club: Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1930)

The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner, by Daniel Defoe (1930)
LEC #11/1st Series V. 11 in 1930
Artwork: Illustrations by Edward A. Wilson
Introduced by Ford Madox Ford, reproduced to mirror the first edition of the 1719 text
LEC #96 of 1500. Heritage Press Reprint with J. Cuthbert Hadden providing an introduction instead of Ford.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – It’s been a little while since we last checked in on the First Series; Undine was spotlighted in November of last year. Let’s return with the 11th book in the series, which is a notable first for both frequent author Daniel Defoe and artist Edward A. Wilson. And there’s quite a story behind the creation of this book as well! The makings of a great post!

Let us start with the origins of the First Series. The intention was to spotlight American presses that had established themselves as the bigwigs of the industry, ones such as Yale University Press, A. Colish, the Marchbanks Press, and the featured publisher/designer of this edition, Edwin Grabhorn’s titular press in San Francisco. A solid enough ambition for an American based book publisher to begin their enterprise, right? Well, there was an earnest bit of sabotage attempting to undermine George Macy’s lofty aspirations.

According to Macy in the Quarto, a rival printer felt Macy lacked the skills to properly execute his lofty plans of issuing twelve exquisitely printed books a year for a dedicated membership, and took it upon himself to disparage the man to his contracted printing houses. This individual is not named, but his most insidious effort landed within Edwin Grabhorn’s ear in the midst of producing Robinson Crusoe. Grabhorn and Macy did not have a smooth or even remotely amicable relationship over the duration of Crusoe‘s creation. Grabhorn provided his side of the story in an interview as part of a history of his printing house done in 1967 shortly before his death the following year, Recollections of the Grabhorn Press by Ruth Teiser:

Grabhorn: I got into a terrible fight with the Limited Editions Club. When they first started in business, they wrote to me and wanted me to print Robinson Crusoe. They offered me $15,000 for 1500 copies. The fellows name was Macy. He was going to furnish me all the illustrations by a well-known illustrator. He sent the cuts out to me and claimed they cost him $1500. And I wrote back and said he was a liar. Then he took the $1500 off the price he was paying me for the books. He was to pay me $15,000. The final check was around $700 or $800. He sent the cuts out to me by mail and put $25 postage stamps on them and asked me to send the stamps back to him because his boy was collecting stamps. I sent the stamps back. Then he charged me the $25 for the postage. One letter led to another and we got into a terrible fight. My final check on that when the job was finished — was about $500 or $600, after he subtracted all the money he could. I got so mad. They wanted me to print some more books, and I wouldn’t print anything. I said No.

Grabhorn: When we printed a book for the Limited Editions Club, we had 1500 illustrations. There were 1500 books, which was a large edition for us. And we printed the illustrations and had them inserted around the pages. The binders did that.
Teiser: You printed them here, though?
Grabhorn : Yes.
Teiser: From wood blocks?
Grabhorn: No, they were colored. I had a boy working for me who did a sloppy job. He never was very exacting. This boy is dead now. Jack Gannon was his name.
Teiser: Were they from metal plates?
Grabhorn: Yes, they were zinc etchings. They were the ones they charged me $1500 for.
Teiser: Did you often print illustrations from metal plates?
Grabhorn: Yes. Zinc. Very rarely halftones. That kind of press doesn’t print halftones well. It takes a rolling press to print halftones well.

You can tell in his description of the coloring of Wilson’s illustrations that Grabhorn was not really invested in providing Macy anything of high quality by that point.

Grabhorn also had some rather negative comments about longtime Macy illustrator Valenti Angelo:

Grabhorn: He first came to the shop he was an artist and engraver. He had never worked as a printer before. But he was a very speedy man. I remember we did The Scarlet Letter for Random House. There are twenty-five chapters and I wanted a cut for every chapter. He went home that night and brought me the next morning the twenty-five designs for it. They looked like postage stamps; they were very small. And I wouldn’t use them. He was god-awful. He wouldn’t design anything that looked like Picasso.

Grabhorn: When Bennett Cerf started it, he came to California. He and I went to lunch together. And somehow or another he wanted me to print three books for them one year. I printed two. but I never made the third…The third was a book by Hawthorne — it was a long book, two volumes. What was it?
Teiser: I don’t know. The Scarlet Letter is short.
Grabhorn: No, it wasn’t The Scarlet Letter. Valenti Angelo was working for me. He went back east and he took the designs for the book with him and had the Limited Editions Club reproduce it.

Grabhorn is likely referring to either The House of Seven Gables Angelo did for the LEC, although it did not feature a two volume edition. If Angelo abandoned Grabhorn to make his mark with Macy, it’s a little understandable as to why given Grabhorn wasn’t a fan of what he was producing.

To wrap up this loose end, Teiser also spoke with Angelo about joining up with the LEC and the Macy/Grabhorn feud (thanks to bluphocks for sharing this!):

Teiser: How did you become acquainted with the Limited Editions Club? How did George Macy’s organization operate from the point of view of a person working for it?

Angelo: How I became acquainted with the Limited Editions Club could be classified as somewhat of a miracle, and a salvation for me and my work as designer and illustrator of books.

There had been some unfavorable gossip among San Francisco printers and book dealers toward the Limited Editions Club, and especially its director, George Macy, which to me still remains a mystery. I knew that the Grabhorns, who were commissioned to print a book for that firm, had some problems with the club’s director, and I was warned to be careful with whom I dealt if ever I became involved in a commission to illustrate a book for him. For this reason (and it was at the time a foolish one on my part) I did not visit the director of the Limited Editions Club.

Angelo: It was a day in December 1933 when I decided to call on George Macy, director of the Limited Editions Club. It had snowed the day before, and Fifth Avenue was being cleared of heavy drifts of snow as I struggled with my portfolio of examples to the club’s headquarters.

As I sat waiting in the small reception room, I tried to envision what Mr. George Macy might look like. I had never seen a picture of him, but from what I had heard about him I imagined he would be a tall, stout, clean-cut businessman.

A door opened. I was wrong. The man was just the opposite of what I had envisioned him to be. He was medium height, and the most prominent feature was the shape of his head. It was a large head tapering pear-shaped to his chin. His blond hair was a complement to his sharp blue eyes. A faint smile played around the edges of his lips as he stood looking at me. I stood up and extended my hand. His little fat sausage-like fingers were moist. Before I could utter one word, he said: “So! You re the great Valenti Angelo. I know that you’ve been in New York for some time.” He seemed a little peeved: “Why didn’t you come to see me first?”

His secretary coughed and glanced quickly in my direction. She smiled. And the meaning I read on her face seemed to imply, “Don’t be afraid of the big, bad wolf, little man.”

“Well, Mr. Macy,” I replied, “the truth of the matter is I’ve been very busy.”

“Doing what?” he asked.

“Designing book jackets, mostly for Random House. And, and…”

“Jackets?” He smiled. It was a faint smile and his eyes twinkled. “I’m sure a man of your reputation deserves more than that.” He placed a hand on my shoulder in a fatherly manner. “Come into my office. There are some things I want to discuss with you.” And as he directed me toward his office he kept repeating the word jackets over and over again.

I had never met a more inquisitive person. He wanted to know all about my past life and especially my connection with the brothers Grabhorn, for whom I had worked for seven years. At times he conveyed little respect for the brothers and the way they had mutilated the illustrations for the club’s book, Robinson Crusoe, illustrated by Edward Wilson.

I was going to tell him that I’d had a hand in cutting woodcuts for the colored illustrations in that book, but thought better of it.

The morning passed swiftly. It was one o’clock when he asked me to go to lunch with him, where we could talk further of the plans he had in mind for my future as an illustrator for the club. There were some happy moments racing through my mind on that day moments so foreign to those I had ever experienced before that I felt as though a new world had opened up for me, one that would become richer, more fascinating and exciting as time went on.

The St. Regis Hotel is still one of the most respected hotels in the city of New York. Everyone seemed to know George Macy. On that day during lunch I met celebrities I had heard of. Clifton Fadiman, Franklin P. Adams, Alexander Woollcott, a host of others were there. All seemed to know each other, for they were all men of letters. In time I was privileged to know most of them.

After a lunch that only millionaires could afford, I was escorted back to his Macy’s office.

It seemed all too good to be true. One commission followed another. He examined examples, pages of new editions of The Song of Songs which is Solomon’s, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Salome, and some drawings for a proposed Richard Burton’s The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night for which he asked me to execute 1001 decorative illustrations. That commission alone would have been ample reward, but before proceeding with it he wanted me to design and decorate what he called a deluxe gift edition of The Song of Songs which is Solomon’s, which was embellished with two-color full page borders surrounding text pages, with eight initials hand illuminated in 23 carat gold. The first special edition of five thousand copies contained a special illustration signed by the artist and had been published by the firm’s Heritage Press in 1934, three months after my arrival in New York.

As he looked through my portfolio, he said, “Valenti, you are a very lucky man. This portfolio contains a veritable gold mine.”

That visit was to stay with me for a long time to come. Before I left his office I was given a substantial advance payment for the work I was to do on my first three illustrated book commissions for the Limited Editions Club of New York.

On my way home on the train I silently wept with a joy I had never experienced before. A commuter sitting beside me finally asked me if I was all right.

I replied, “Sorry, I m just fine,” and wiped away my tears.

“Then why are you crying?” he asked.

“I, I’m so.. .so happy,” I replied. He gave me a quick side glance, then continued reading his paper. In all probability he thought I was some kind of a nut.

In the Angelo house that night there was great rejoicing. Our friends and neighbors, Beatrice and Franklin Wolf, who lived across the hall in the same apartment building, supplied the bootleg gin, and the Angelo family was on the way to a new life and happiness.

On the following day I was to meet with Bruce Rogers and Frederic Warde, two of the best known book designers of their time, to discuss the composition and the decorations I was to execute for The Thousand Nights and a Night. The six-volume edition was to be printed for the club by the printing house of William Edwin Rudge, the finest printing establishment of its kind.

For me it was the beginning of a relationship with Bruce Rogers, one that would last for a long while.

It wasn’t long before my name became known to craftsmen and printers in and around New York City, and my drawing board was kept very busy.

Teiser: You mentioned that Macy was critical of the illustrations in the Grabhorn Robinson Crusoe. What was the problem?

Angelo: A complete set of zinc plates was provided by the Limited Editions Club for printing the illustrations for Robinson Crusoe. They were for three colors. The Grabhorns tried to use them. They soon discovered that a transparent watercolor wash effect, which the original illustrations possessed, could not be achieved through printing from metal plates. I was therefore asked to cut linoleum blocks for each color. The results were very effective and the printers completed the reproduction of the illustrations in this manner.

I do not think that Edward Wilson, the illustrator of the book, was happy with the final results, however. I met him in New York on occasions, and he complained bitterly, not only how the Grabhorns had reproduced his illustrations but how badly they had taken the liberty to change his original design for the book’s title page. Despite all the fuss made over the reproductions, the Robinson Crusoe is among one of the fine books printed by the Grabhorn Press.

To bring us back to Crusoe, the two did manage to release the book despite their quarrels, and while Grabhorn was not putting his best staff on the job (and Angelo himself being somewhat embarrassed of his own role in how the illustrations turned out), the overall result is still very “Grabhorn” in execution and definitely not the weakest entry of the First Series in my view.

Perhaps the reason why is that very “Grabhorn” feeling this book generates upon holding it. Several years ago I was a museum collections manager and worked closely with several of the Grabhorn Press’ California focused editions as part of the museum’s library. Crusoe exudes the same sensations as those books: a distinctive font, bold ink choices, rugged paper and a downplayed but effective binding that brings everything together. It’s definitely “a sum of its parts” sort of book. It resembles a weathered journal, which I think is on point for Defoe’s masterpiece of a mariner’s fictionalized life.

Defoe of course is no stranger to our blog, as this is his third appearance following Moll Flanders and Journal of a Plague Year (which will get a proper LEC/Heritage comparison down the road). The latter includes a complete bibliography of his runs with the LEC and Heritage Press. It is fitting that one of the pioneers of the English novel would also be among the first printed by the LEC!

Wilson’s long illustrious career with Macy begins here and would continue on into the late 1960s. It’s a bit of a shame that Grabhorn compromised his debut with “a sloppy job” on the coloring, reproductions and changing the title page design, but Wilson’s classy linework still clicks beautifully with Grabhorn’s design and Defoe’s adventurous words. I cover his career in my A Journey to the Center of the Earth post.

Design Notes – As noted, Grabhorn handled design duties along with printing and binding the book. Here’s the notes from Macy (with his side of the story) in the Quarto:

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Title Page – Ford Madox Ford, a contemporary adventurous fiction writer best known for his novel The Good Soldier, provides an introduction. One interesting curio about the Macy/Grabhorn rivalry is that this is one of only two titles from the First Series to see a Heritage reprint, and the colors and design were entirely redone for the Heritage edition! Django6924 was kind enough to share an image of the title page from this reprint:

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This was what Wilson originally submitted and Grabhorn subsequently altered. I do not have a copy on hand to properly compare further, but take a quick look at these search results for the Heritage edition to see for yourself! Another interesting curio is that Ford’s introduction is gone entirely, with J. Cuthbert Hadden stepping in for an exclusive opener. This didn’t happen too often with Heritage reprints of LECs.

Colophon – This is #96 of 1500, and was signed by Wilson.

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

Personal Notes – Last year’s big aspiration was to collect all of the First Series. I got close! Just need #1 to round it out. This one came from a seller on AbeBooks lacking a letter or a slipcase, but was priced right for my wallet, haha. And I do adore this one a lot, it’s probably in my top 5 of the series thanks to that “Grabhorn” style giving me a lot of pleasant memories of my museum days. And it’s got such a wild history, too, haha.

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

The Tempest by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Watercolors by Edward A. Wilson. 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 – Let us return once more to the LEC Shakespeare series, with the last play I currently have in my collection, the fantastical comedy The Tempest. One of Shakespeare’s later plays in the canon, this one is a bit like Midsummer’s Night’s Dream in terms of featuring supernatural characters alongside its human cast, but this particular work goes more into the tragic side of things. It’s one I haven’t read or seen yet, so I should remedy that soon!

Edward A. Wilson was the illustrator for this play, and he did so quite wonderfully. This is perhaps his finest work thus far on the blog, but there are a couple contenders I have not covered yet. He was one of the most frequent artists called upon by the LEC (#2 overall for the LEC!) and Heritage Press, as this post covers. He studied under the legendary Howard Pyle, who was a masterful artist in his own right, and you can see some of that legacy here in The Tempest.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text, while Wilson’s watercolors were printed via collotype in gray ink by Georges Duval, with two colors printed from lithographic stones by Fernand Mourlot. Watercolors were then applied by stencil by the atelier Beaufume.

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

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 897th set.

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

Personal Notes – This is the final LEC Shakespeare I received from a very kind fan of the blog who had some duplicates and was generous enough to pass them along to me to cover. It’s taken a little over a year, but the set is finished at last and I am very thankful to have these in my collection.

Trivia: The 10 Most Frequent Artists in the LEC

Hey, remember the trivia category? Well, I’m bringing it back. This time, let’s examine who George Macy and the subsequent owners of the Limited Editions Club commissioned the most over the Club’s long tenure!

10) Sylvain Sauvage (7)
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Sauvage illustrated several French classics for the LEC, including Cyrano de Bergerac, The History of Zadig (pictured), and two works of Anatole France, The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard and At the Sign of the Queen Pedauque. He also handled As You Like It in the LEC Shakespeare.

9) Rene ben Sussan (8)
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ben Sussan had two commissions of Honore de Balzac, rendering the worlds of Old Goriot   and Eugenie Grandet as part of his eight titles for the LEC. He also had a hand in English drama, providing art for Jonson’s Volpone, the Fox and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Pictured is The Chronicle of the Cid.

8) John Austen (8)
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Several British works were illustrated by Austen: Vanity Fair (pictured), The Comedy of Errors, The Faerie Queene, The Pickwick Club, and The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle. He also branched out a little with Aristophanes’ The Birds.

7) Agnes Miller Parker (8)
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The sole woman on our list, Parker’s exquisite woodcuts brought life to all of Thomas Hardy’s novels printed by the Club, as well as The Faerie Queene (pictured), Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard, Richard the Second, and The Poems of Shakespeare.

6) T.M. Cleland (8)
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A talented designer as well as artist, Cleland’s artistic gifts were displayed a little less frequently, but often enough to earn a place on our list. Some of his works include The Decameron, The History of Tom Jones, The Way of the World, She Stoops to Conquer and The Life and Times of Tristan Shandy, Gentleman. Pictured is Monsieur Beauclaire.

5) Valenti Angelo (12)
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The simplistic yet stylistic grace of Angelo graced a dozen books of the LEC, and several of them are masterworks of literature: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, The House of the Seven Gables, The Books of a Thousand Nights and a Night, Songs of the Portuguese,  and several religious texts, like The Koran, The Book of Proverbs and The Book of Psalms. Pictured is The Song of Roland.

4) Lynd Ward (13)
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Ward’s thirteen contributions mark him as one of the most prominent illustrators for Macy, and he didn’t even work on the LEC Shakespeare like the majority of the others on this list! Ward’s commissions ranged from non-fiction works such as Rights of Man and On Conciliation with America to fantastical works such as Beowulf and Idylls of the King to contemporary works like The Innocent Voyage (pictured) and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

3) Fritz Eichenberg (15)
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The gifted Eichenberg worked the longest stretch of any of our artists; his first commission was 1939’s Richard the Third for the LEC Shakespeare to 1986’s The Diary of a Country Priest. One of the few to work under late Club owner Sid Shiff, Eichenberg’s output left the LEC a lasting legacy that is difficult to ignore. Best known for his work on the Russian legends of literature, including Eugene Onegin, Crime and Punishment (pictured), Fathers and Sons, and Childhood, Boyhood, Youth.

2) Edward A. Wilson (17)

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Wilson was productive, to say the least; he even had his own Heritage volume detailing his artwork! Among the many classics he brought visual splendor to are Westward Ho!, Treasure Island, The Tempest (pictured), Robinson Crusoe, Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

1) Fritz Kredel (20)
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And finally we come to Fritz Kredel, the king of illustrating for the LEC with a massive twenty volumes! Many collections of fairy tales were conjured by Kredel, including both Andersen (pictured) and the Brothers Grimm. Two Shakespeares, two Trollopes, two Twains, Thackeray, Darwin, Austen, Plato and Heine were among the literary giants Kredel decorated for Macy, and his talent was certainly up to such a diverse palette of books.

Next time, we’ll explore the most frequent Heritage Press artists in terms of their exclusives. We’ll see how many of these artisans cross over!

Heritage Press – The Seven Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor (1949)

The Seven Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor (1949)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Illustrations by Edward A. Wilson
Introduction by C.S. Forester; Translated by J.C. Mardrus (Arabic to French) and E. Powys Mathers (French to English)
Reprint of LEC #198, 19th Series, V. 2 in 1949.

Click images for larger views.

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Front Binding – Today’s book is The Seven Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor, a collection of the folktales of the titular protagonist. These tales hail from the Middle East, featuring the supernatural and the sensational. No single author is credited with these stories, but they have been around for a very long time, and it’s nice to see them in such a nice edition.

Edward A. Wilson, a frequent artistic contributor, stepped in to provide his touch to this book, and he’s a really good fit, I’d say. I like Wilson’s work in the more fantastical realm; it works well with his bold color palette and his gentle linework. His LEC/Heritage bibliography can be found here.

I can’t go into thorough design notes, as I have no Sandglass. Sorry!

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Title Page – C.S. Forester, author of the Horatio Hornblower series of novels, provides the introduction. Two translators reworked the text for this edition: J.C. Mardrus, who converted the original Arabic texts into French, and E. Powys Mathers, who took Mardrus’ French and worked it into modern English.

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

 

Personal Notes – The photos came from a library copy, but I acquired my own Heritage book from Liz shortly thereafter. I’ve also read the work, and it’s pretty entertaining!

Heritage Press – Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley (1947)

Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley (1947)
Sandglass Number 7L
Artwork: Illustrations by Edward A. Wilson
Introduced by John T. Winterich
Reprint of LEC #182, 17th Series, V. 8, in 1947 in 2 volumes.

Click images for larger views.

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Front Binding – We’re back with new reviews! Yay! And our first book is the exquisite rendering of British author Charles Kingsley’s Westward Ho! for the Heritage Press. This is, as usual, a reprint of the LEC edition. Kingsley only saw this one book produced by the LEC, but the Easton Press would later issue The Water Babies under the Heritage Press label after they took over the brand. The Sandglass calls this a “masterwork of British propaganda…a symbol of British martial heroism”, and I suppose that’s a pretty accurate assessment. A nice little biography can be found in the Sandglass below.

Edward A. Wilson makes his second Macy appearance on the blog now, following his earlier Journey to the Center of the Earth. This is a better overall example of his work in my opinion, and stands as some of his finest illustrations I’ve come across. Perhaps, as the Sandglass notes, he is unmatched in his “creation of illustrations for a salty tale of the sea.” His full Macy bibliography is in the aforementioned post. For this book, the pen and brush were Wilson’s tools as he created over 40 full-color illustrations for Westward Ho!, and the Sandglass notes that the reprinting of these drawings were quite expensive! Photogravures of his original drawings were touched up and painted by Wilson via watercolor, and then lithographic processes brought the colors and lines together for the Heritage edition.

Design Notes – The binding is a lovely linen (“tough-binders’ linen” according to the Sandglass) of a “sea-green” tone, stamped with a Wilson design of a symbolic sailing of the sea done in a golden shade. The designer is notably absent here, when oftentimes leads to George Macy’s involvement in that role. However, Django6924 was kind enough to pass along some info from the Quarto-Millenary and the LEC letter:

The ML gives no indication of designer either, but in the Quarto-Millenary reference volume, the designer is designated as Eugene Clauss, about whom I found that he was a prominent lithographer at the J.C. Hall Company, Lithographers, Printers and Binders of Providence R.I. This and the LEC edition of The Scarlet Letter are apparently Mr. Clauss’ sole Macy efforts–and a fabulous one this one is!

The LEC was printed on a predominantly rag paper provided by the Worthy Paper Company and the binding was done by Russell-Rutter. (Same details about type used as the HP.) The illustrations were likewise produced in monochrome via photogravure, but the colors were hand-applied with stencils (pochoir process) and with watercolor paints–not printer’s inks.

Bodoni 175 is the font of choice. The bindery is also missing for the Heritage, but Russell-Rutter was the likely suspect.

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Slipcase

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Title Page – Although the title page omits this information, Heritage Press introductory alum John T. Winterich supplies such a preface for this work. I like this title page a lot; Wilson’s colors are indeed a wonderful thing when he’s on fire.

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

Personal Notes – I originally acquired the Connecticut edition of this book from the Oakhurst Library as part of my 50-book haul back in 2012, but I came upon the New York printing in fairly good condition at a later sale from the same library for around $3, so I ditched my older edition for this one. I wouldn’t mind having the LEC of it!

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