Heritage Illustrated Bookshelf – The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1939)

The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1939, Illustrated Bookshelf Edition)
No Sandglass, includes a “Monthly Magazine of the Junior Heritage Club”
Artwork: Illustrations by John Austen
No Introduction beyond a brief note on the author
Heritage Press Exclusive, printed as a standard Heritage title as well.

Click to see larger images.

Front Binding – Ah, our second Illustrated Bookshelf piece.  The first was Twain’s Tom Sawyer, and finally I can share the first “complete” one I own (in fact, at present it is the only one!), Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield.  Designed by John Fass, this book never saw a LEC edition, so Macy purists will have to settle for a Heritage edition.  Some quick production details: W.A. Dwiggins’ Caledonia font is what renders the text, done at a 12-point size.  Unfortunately, Macy fails to mention the publishing house who printed the work and the bindery who bound it (just my luck today it would seem, as Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard also left out that crucial information!).

John Austen was a very productive member of Macy’s artist pantheon, and there’s a nice essay on Austen by Austen in the Magazine you may want to peruse.  He calls joining the Limited Editions Club “the happiest period of my life”, and you can see the results in every book he had a hand in, including this one.  I’ve failed in my duties to elaborate on his career with my earlier posts spotlighting his work, Vanity Fair and The Faerie Queene, so I’ll do it now and save myself some grief.  Austen began his work for the LEC with Vanity Fair in 1930, and following that he rendered for the LEC The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens in 1933, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle by Tobias Smollett in 1935, The Frogs by Aristophanes in 1937, The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane by Alain Rene Le Sage in 1938, The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett in 1941, and The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser in 1953, which was published after his death and also featured the woodcuts of Agnes Miller Parker.  Several of these books were bound at Oxford University Press in similar slipcases, with dustjackets, in two volumes, and all had common design philosophies.  As far as I know, all of the above save The Frogs were published in this way.  Austen was also a player in the LEC Shakespeare, contributing his touch to The Comedy of Errors.  He also did several exclusive Heritage books, including this particular work, Dickens’ David Copperfield, and R.K. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone.  He was a busy man, no question.

As for Oliver Goldsmith, he is known for producing an absolute classic in drama (She Stoops to Conquer), novel (The Vicar of Wakefield), and poetry (“The Deserted Village”).  He was an Irishman, and was known to be a sweet yet envious man.  This was his first work printed by the Company, with She Stoops to Conquer to follow in 1964.  I have the Heritage She Stoops… for you to look forward to. :)

Slipcase – A little unusual for a Heritage slipcase to feature artwork and author/artist information, but apparently this was common for the Illustrated Bookshelf line.

Title Page – The paper used in this edition is interesting.  It has tiny speckles throughout that give it a sort of “recycled” feel, although I doubt much of that was going on in 1939!  Austen’s work is beautiful, as usual.  He has pen drawings at the beginning of each chapter along with these “portrait” pieces scattered throughout the text.

Page 1 – Example of the pen drawings.

Page 4

Personal Notes – I picked this up from my bookselling gig at a used book shop in my college town in Merced.  I think I paid $10 for it.  It has someone’s name written in pen in it, and it’s somewhat battered, but it was a complete book despite its flaws, and the Monthly Magazine seemed fascinating.  I’ve photographed it in its entirety below for you.

Monthly Magazine:

Heritage Press – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (two printings, 1936/1964)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1936/1964*)
Sandglass Number III:34R (from a later New York printing)
Artwork – Paintings by Norman Rockwell
Introduced by John. T. Winterich
Heritage Press Exclusive – the LEC would print their own Tom Sawyer with Thomas Hart Benton’s illustrations in 1939.

Click the images for larger views.

The Connecticut reprint is usually on top here, followed by the New York Illustrated Bookshelf edition below.  I’ll explain the Illustrated Bookshelf distinction below!

Front Binding – Well, the first thing that should leap out at you is the fact I’ve got a Huck Finn binding as the New York representative…but I assure you that Tom Sawyer is the book inside.  A curious binding error I imagine didn’t happen too often.  Anyway, the Connecticut printing keeps Tom’s head front and center but drops the text, going with a beige/brown combo.  I can’t vouch for the actual Tom Sawyer binding for the Illustrated Bookshelf run, alas, due to the error, but I imagine it was close to this but with Tom Sawyer items where Huck’s are.

The original Heritage was designed by Frederic Warde, no stranger to the George Macy Company.  The Sandglass mentions that he had done “several” Heritage books, which indicates that this is not the first printing’s letter.  The binding itself was designed by Norman Rockwell.

Tom Sawyer was printed up by the Limited Editions Club in 1939 with the artistic talents of Thomas Hart Benton, which was his first commission for the Club.  Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (a second printing – I’ll explain below) and Life on the Mississippi would follow, as well as the acclaimed printing of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and his final work, Lynn Riggs’ Green Grow the Lilacs.  The latter three would see reprint as Heritage Press editions (good luck finding The Grapes of Wrath – it’s almost as rare as the LEC!), but for Tom and Huck the Heritage Press had gone with their own unique printings featuring renowned American painter Norman Rockwell as the illustrator.  Tom was printed in 1936, but I’ll have to check on Huck.  Rockwell also did Poor Richard’s Almanac for both clubs later on.  The Sandglass goes on and on about Rockwell, which I’ll let it do.

As for Mr. Clemens himself, the George Macy Company loved him, and Cardevon Press continued that love.  Twain was printed twelve times by the LEC alone – a remarkable number that few other authors could match (Shakespeare is the only one who leaps to mind at present, with a staggering forty-one LEC editions, although thirty-seven of those were a special run of his complete works).  We currently have this and the Heritage A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court up, but that wasn’t where it began.  Twain’s legacy with the George Macy Company kicked off with Huck Finn in 1933, but neither Benton or Rockwell are attached to that project.  Carl Purington Rollins provides a signature (as its designer), but E.W. Kemble served up illustrations for it.  Booth Tarkington wrote an introduction, as well – another case of a future LEC author getting an intro in an earlier work (like Thornton Wilder).  This one was printed at Yale University.  Anyway, Benton’s Huck arrived in 1942, likely after his Tom Sawyer was so received.  Bernard DeVoto supplied that edition’s intro.  But enough with Huck – this is about Tom!  The Rockwell Heritage here preceded Benton’s LEC by three years, and, if I can, I’ll provide further comparisons down the road.  My last note – Benton’s never saw release as a Heritage.

As both of my Toms lacked any informational letter, I’d like to know who designed the original Heritage printing, so if you know, please drop me a line!

Title Page – The Connecticut reprint removes Rockwell’s whitewashing painting for a later on in the book, but the Illustrated Bookshelf (and I’d imagine the Heritage original) keeps it at the front.  Now, since this is the first appearance of the Illustrated Bookshelf, I imagine you’d like to know a little more about it.  According to Heritage Press historian Michael C. Bussacco, George Macy began a Junior Heritage Club in 1942 to cater to a youth market on a subscription basis.  The books were fairly similar, if not identical to their “adult” editions, but included a Magazine over a Sandglass that went into further detail about the author and illustrator (The Vicar of Wakefield, which I recently acquired, is a Junior Heritage Illustrated Bookshelf edition and its magazine has those features – I’m making a broad assumption that all of them did) on top of its design and creation notes.  The slipcase (again, broad assumption) likely featured an illustration from the text on both sides, as well as putting the title on the back end of the case (The Vicar does this).  The two books’ publication dates do not sync up with Bussacco’s date of the Junior HC’s foundation, but perhaps Macy figured it wasn’t as essential to alter the dates of his Junior line, or perhaps it was an oversight.  Now, Bussacco does not mention when the Company ceased the Junior Heritage Club ceased to operate, so I can not pass along that info.  Any insights into this fascinating arm of the Heritage Press would be appreciated. :)

Thanks to kdweber at Librarything, I can pass along the book’s printing details!  Warde selected the Bell font (which was also used in The Innocents Abroad, which was done in 1962 – obviously this is not a first printing!) in 12-point, which the history of which is in the Sandglass.  It was printed by the Quinn and Boden Company in New Jersey (at the very least this one was).  The binding process is notably absent, though.

Now, with all that out of the way, we can focus in on the book’s paintings.

Conn. Preface – Why this was moved to the preface instead of the title page is beyond me.  I will say that the colors and sharpness are a bit dulled for the Connecticut reprint, which isn’t a surprise.  However, compared to South Wind, it’s at least recognizable.

Conn. Page 60

Illustrated Bookshelf Page 60

Personal Notes – I think Rockwell is a good fit for Twain’s ragamuffins, so I wouldn’t mind owning a nicer edition of it than I had (which got wet :( ).

Sandglass of a later New York Heritage Printing (courtesy of kdweber):


* = I suspect Cardevon did not alter a pub date from the George Macy Company for their printing, as they did not take over until 1970, and Helen Macy was still in charge in 1964.