Limited Editions Club: The Adventures of Hajji Baba in Ispahan by J.J. Morier (1947)

The Adventures of Hajji Baba in Ispahan by J.J. Morier (1947)
LEC #179/17th Series V.5 in 1947
Artwork: Illustrations by Honoré Guilbeau
Preface by Sir Walter Scott, Introduced by E.G. Browne
LEC #1368 of 1500. Heritage Press reprint.

Click images to see larger views.

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Front Binding – Happy holidays dear readers! This month’s post returns us to the whimsical sketches of Honoré Guilbeau with the cousin volume to the later The Shaving of Shagpat, The Adventures of Hajji Baba in Ispahan. Before diving into Guilbeau, W.A. Dwiggins and the connections between these two, let’s talk about the author of this particular work, J.J. Morier (James Justinian). Morier was a British diplomat who primarily focused on relations with Iran, with a two year stint later on in Mexico. It was during this time in Mexico where his best known work, The Adventures of Hajji Baba in Ispahan, was put to pen in 1824. A sequel, The Adventures of Hajji Baba in Ispahan in England, followed in 1828. While Morier continued to write following his political career, none of his later works of fiction matched the success or critical reception of the Hajii Baba books. He died in 1849. This would be the sole edition of his work printed by the George Macy Company, although it would see a Heritage Press reprint.

Guilbeau, meanwhile, began her artistic career with the LEC with this particular book, winning one of the five finalist positions in the third commission competition with her pencil drawings for Hajji Baba. As designer W.A. Dwiggins retorted in the LEC newsletter for Shagpat, “When this book appears, it will establish that gal as a woman who really knows how to make pictures!  I can’t remember when I have seen drawings for a book that pleased me so much.” Clearly the two enjoyed working with each other as they would reunite for her last commission, the aforementioned Shagpat. I’ve referred to these two as “cousin” volumes; mainly that’s because both feature stories from the Middle East depicted by British authors designed by Dwiggins and illustrated by Guilbeau. The spine, title page and aesthetic choices are remarkably similar as well. In between she worked alongside designer Charles Skaggs on the LEC Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Heritage edition was covered here). She lived quite the long life, passing away in 2006 at the age of 99.

Design Notes – As noted, Dwiggins served as designer on this. Here’s the QM details:

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Spine

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Slipcase –
A very fancy foil was applied to the slipcase here, with the same pattern as the front and back bindings of the books.

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Title Page – Much like Shagpat, Dwiggins delivers a beautiful title page with a rich kaleidoscope of inks.

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Colophon – This is #1368 of 1500, and was signed by Guilbeau.

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

Personal Notes – After getting Shagpat nearly ten years ago (oh my!) and posting about it way back then, it’s always been a bit of a wish list to snag its older cousin, as the two share so much in common. Luckily, this edition finally fell into my hands in 2020 when I acquired multiple volumes from NYCFAddict, a fellow devotee. So now I have both and I’m super happy about it, haha.

Video Series #5 – Notable Women Illustrators for the George Macy Company

For the fifth video for the George Macy Imagery Video Series, I share some books illustrated by women for Women’s History Month. Covered in this episode are The Ballad of Reading Gaol (Heritage) illustrated by Zhenya Gay, South Wind (LEC) illustrated by Carlotta Petrina, Jude the Obscure (LEC) illustrated by Agnes Miller Parker, and The Adventures of Hajji Baba in Ispahan (LEC) illustrated by Honore Guilbeau!

There’s a lot of books referred in this video, so here is a medley of links:

The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde/Zhenya Gay
The Aeneid by Virgil/Carlotta Petrina
George Macy Imagery Video Series #1 – The Aeneid
South Wind by Norman Douglas/Carlotta Petrina (Conn.)
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy/Agnes Miller Parker
Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard by Thomas Gray/Agnes Miller Parker
The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser/John Austen/Agnes Miller Parker
The Shaving of Shagpat by George Meredith/Honore Guilbeau

Heritage Press – A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (1948)

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (1948)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork
: Illustrations by Honore Guilbeau
Introduced by Carl Van Doren
Reprint of LEC #196/18th Series V. 11 in 1949

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Front Binding – A pleasant enough looking book, with a smiling lad in armor waving at you! The linework of Honore Guilbeau, last seen inside of The Shaving of Shagpat, is strikingly different in style from the later book. Personally, I’m inclined to believe that this may be her finest art inside of a Macy tome. The aforementioned Shagpat chronicles her George Macy Company career. Back to the boards: blue cloth boards and a yellow cloth spine, with red text for the spine.

Mark Twain has one of the more prestigious and extended printing histories in the George Macy Company. I’ve yet to fully give a full bibliography of the LEC output for Twain, so why not now? A whopping twelve LEC’s were issued with Twain’s words inside, beginning in 1933 with the first publication of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Original illustrator E.W. Kemble was resurrected to provide that edition some artistic flair, and Carl Purrington Rollins took on the design. Slovenly Peter, Twain’s translation of the German children’s story Struwwelpeter, was next in 1935. His daughter Clara Clemens gave an introduction on that, and Fritz Kredel would do his first rendering of Twain. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer came out in 1939 starring Thomas Hart Benton’s paintings. Benton and Twain would reunite in 1942 to redo Huck Finn, and again in 1944 for Life on the Mississippi. The book this post is discussing was originally released in 1949 (curious why the Heritage gives a copyright of 1948). Twain would take a small vacation through the 1950’s, but Helen Macy remembered that there was a slew of Twain left to publish, and began with The Innocents Abroad in 1962. Kredel returns to the world of Twain to illustrate that one. 1964 saw The Prince and the Pauper come out, and Clarke Hutton stepped in to provide his art for that. A Tramp Abroad followed in 1966, and David Knight handled illustration duties (with a dozen doodles by Twain included). When Cardevon took over the LEC, they kept on publishing Twain, with 1970’s The Notorious Jumping Frog and Other Stories; Joseph Low doodled for that one. Roughing It was 1972’s offering of Twain, with Noel Sickles doing some art for that, and we finally wind down to 1974’s printing of Pudd’nhead Wilson. John Groth did some painting and drawings for that. *whew*

Wish I could say I was done, but no, there’s a bit more in terms of Heritage exclusives to cover! Norman Rockwell was recruited to do editions of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. Lastly, Warren Chappel was called in to do his own version of this particular book. Huh, I’ll need to find that one.

I now have the Sandglass for this, so I’ll get around to scanning it in the near future.

Slipcase

Title Page – Guilbeau’s design chops are highlighted in this book, as her leafy embellishments add a lot to this eye-catching title page. I LOVE the font used here. Carl Van Doren provides some introductory comments to Twain’s fantasy/humor novel.

Page 8 – Man, I love the layouts of the chapter beginnings. The red lines are a delightful contrast to the black text, and I think this may be one of my favorite interiors in any book.

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Personal Notes – When I first wrote up this post, I used a library copy. Now I do own it, and I’m pleased as punch. I really like this book.

Updated 8/27/2013 – JF

Limited Editions Club: The Shaving of Shagpat by George Meredith (1955)

The Shaving of Shagpat by George Meredith (1955)
LEC # 267, 24th Series, V. 5
Artwork: Pen and brush drawings by Honore Guilbeau
Introduction by Sir Francis Meredith Meynell
#787 out of 1500

Click images to see a larger view.

Front Binding – George Meredith is perhaps better known for The Ordeal of Richard Feveral and The Egoist over this particular work, the satirical The Shaving of Shagpat, but the Limited Editions Club chose this as a counterpart to their earlier printing of The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan by J.J. Morier.  Both books feature a similar binding style, done by W.A. Dwiggins, so they go together quite nicely on a shelf.  Here’s the announcement letter with all the details on its creation:

This would be the only work of Meredith’s that they would publish, but at least they did a splendid job of it!

Spine

Slipcase

Title Page – The artistic combination of Dwiggins’ decorations and Honore Guilbeau’s drawings is an ideal one.  I was quite taken with how well the two blended their talents, and am looking forward to seeing the earlier Hajji Baba, which Guilbeau also did illustrations for.  She also did Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, which I will be putting up in a couple weeks.  Guilbeau started off her LEC career by winning the Club’s third competition to have their art printed with a new work, for Hajji Baba in 1945.  Dwiggins really enjoyed her work, saying “when this book appears, it will establish that gal as a woman who really knows how to make pictures!  I can’t remember when I have seen drawings for a book that pleased me so much.”  High praise, there, and I think she deserves it.  Guilbeau has a nice chat about how she got into art in the Newsletter below – it’s pretty interesting.

Sir Francis Meredith Meynell, godson to George Meredith and founder of the Nonesuch Press, another mammoth in the collectible book industry, provides a preface to the work.  And it’s a rather pretty title page Dwiggins created, isn’t it?  The Newsletter calls it “one of the best he has ever drawn”, and I wouldn’t argue.

So…why was this book printed, you ask.  Well, let me give a brief summary.  Professor Gilbert Highet, who taught at Columbia University, asked George Macy and the LEC staff if they had ever read Meredith’s Shaving of Shagpat, and why didn’t they produce a lovely volume celebrating it?  The reply was, well, no, we hadn’t read it, and thus why we haven’t made a book of it, but the curiosity got the better of them and Macy did read it.  He enjoyed it immensely, chuckling all the while.  Macy decided that yes, this was indeed a book we needed to print up, and reunited Dwiggins with Guilbeau, asked Meynell to reminiscence about the tale and his godfather, and it was off to the races.  Shagpat so happens to be Meredith’s first published novel, written at the tender age of twenty-five.  George Eliot, famous for her novels The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner and Middlemarch, adored the work so much she reviewed it three different times for three different publications.  The Newsletter has a little too much fun with its “George All the Way” retorts, FYI.

Signature Page – Copy #787, signed by Honore Guilbeau.

Page 1 – Dwiggins also provided nice initial letters to the beginning of each chapter, which is very nicely done.

Page 27 – Now for Guilbeau’s pen-and-brush drawings, which are simple and elegant.  They are a beautiful fit for this work set in the Arabian mythos.

Page 37 – Notice the diversity of color on these pages.  Lovely stuff, and had to run through the printer four times to get each color in.

Page 53 – Love the eyes on the woman in this one.

Personal Notes – I must admit, this book was an absolute gamble on my part.  Having not seen Guilbeau’s artwork before, I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not.  I ordered it online through my current bookselling employment for $40 (which I saved about $15 to $20 on due to store credit), and I was very relieved to see it arrive in very good condition and featuring such artistic wonders inside.  No complaints.

LEC Newsletter: