July 30, 2017 Comments Off on Of Interest – The LEC’s “Booklover’s Journey Around the World” Project
Before beginning, much thanks to Devotee BuzzBuzzard for sharing the monthly letter this all comes from. This was originally a part of The Praise of Folly Heritage post, but I feel it deserves its own space.
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.
Monthly Letter (source)
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
June 10, 2017 § 4 Comments
Limited Editions Club
Three Plays of Henrik Ibsen – An Enemy of the People, The Wild Duck and Hedda Gabler (1964)
LEC #364/33rd Series V. 2 in 1964
Artwork: Engravings by Frederik Matheson
Translated by Eleanor Marx-Aveling (Enemy), Florence Elizabeth Archer (Wild Duck) and Edmond Gosse and William Archer (Hedda Gabler), edited by William Archer and introduced by John Gassner
#144 of 1500. Heritage edition detailed below.
Click images for larger views.
Front Binding – Hello again, dear readers. It’s been almost a half year since we last had a book post pop up here at the blog, and over those six months my life has continued to change. I needed to get away for a bit to mature and rediscover myself, and I think I’m finally at a good point to pick up this project once again and discuss these lovely books. So I hope you can excuse me revising an old post as my return so I can get this back under my belt again. Thankfully it’s a nice edition from the Helen Macy period; Three Plays by Henrik Ibsen! This set features three of his biggest works: the biggies Hedda Gabler and The Wild Duck leap to the forefront, although An Enemy of the People is also a classic. The Limited Editions Club previously published Peer Gynt in 1955 for the LEC and 1957 for the Heritage Press.
Artistically Fredrik Matheson was recruited to do woodcuts for this edition, and they are quite lovely. This was his only commission, but it’s a memorable one! The LEC features more colors in its prints than the Heritage; a common trend in Helen Macy’s period.
Design Notes – Matheson was responsible for the design along with Arnstein and Agnar Kirste, owners of the Kirstes Boktrykkeri (aka bookprintery, as the Sandglass defines it) of Oslo, Norway, where the book was printed and bound. The text is Garamond. Beyond this, I can’t get into any more specifics due to no LEC letter either in my book or from my fellow collectors. Once one turns up I’ll update this.
Title Page – The title page fails to mention the translators/editor of this set. An Enemy of the People was rendered into English by Eleanor Marx-Aveling, the daughter of Communist Manifesto author Karl Marx. William Archer, the editor of this book, collaborated on Hedda Gabler‘s translation with Edmond Gosse, and Archer’s wife Florence Elizabeth Archer did the honors for The Wild Duck. John Gassner, who is credited here, offers up an Introduction.
Colophon – Matheson signed this copy, and this is #144 out of 1500.
Examples of the Illustrations by Matheson – I’m skipping the Gallery to make the comparisons easier to see.
Page 7 – I really like Matheson’s artwork. His larger prints are full color wood engravings (with each color being a different block, which blows the mind if you begin to think about the craft of such precision on multiple blocks), while the smaller ones are mere monochrome (but still special!). This would be his sole work for the George Macy Company, but he certainly left his mark. The colors are more dynamic in the LEC in contrast to the Heritage; notice the reds and peach tones.
Page 59 – This one, meanwhile, had a lot of blues the Heritage lacks.
Personal Notes – I purchased this at Carpe Diem Rare Books in Monterey, CA when I was last there, alongside the Quarto-Millenary. I essentially got it from free. :) It’s nice to have this back; as I note below in the original post, I lost my Heritage copy to water damage, and now I have the more luxurious LEC to replace it.
Three Plays of Henrik Ibsen – An Enemy of the People, The Wild Duck and Hedda Gabler (1964)
Sandglass Number XV:29
Artwork – Engravings by Frederik Matheson
Translated by Eleanor Marx-Aveling (Enemy), Florence Elizabeth Archer (Wild Duck) and Edmond Gosse and William Archer (Hedda Gabler), edited by William Archer and introduced by John Gassner
Reprint of LEC #364/33rd Series V. 2 in 1964
Front Binding – Unfortunately, the first thing that probably leaps to the eye is the staining the bottom of the binding features — I’m not sure if it was coffee or some other tannish liquid, but considering I got this book for free, I did not complain too much. However, a second mishap splashed water over several of my incomplete tomes, and this received additional damage while I attempted to dry it off.
Design Notes – The Heritage was printed by Kellogg and Bulkeley in Hartford, Connecticut on paper from the Cumberland Mills of Maine, which are owned by the S.D. Warren Company of Boston. The Russell-Rutter Company performed bindery duties, and the boards have a pattern paper meant to resemble a curtain, appropriate for Ibsen, legend of theater.
Title Page – The same as the LEC minus the red.
Page 7 – As you can see, this is less colorful than the LEC, but still nice. The Sandglass gets deep into Matheson’s art career on Page 4.
Personal Notes – I was sad to see this one go. I got this as a gift from my anthropology instructor, who salvaged it from somewhere. Thankfully I now have the LEC!
January 1, 2017 Comments Off on Of Interest: Richard Ellis’ Career
Over at the Devotees forum, user featherwate compiled a nice little history and bibliography of renowned book designer Richard Ellis, who worked on several LEC and Heritage Press titles for George Macy. This reappears here with his permission and slight editing. Thanks Jack!
Richard ‘Dick’ Ellis (1894/5/6-1982 , book architect 
Over a career spanning 60 years, Richard Ellis (familiarly known as RWE), built up a reputation as one of America’s finest printers and book designers, whether working for himself or for such leading names as Random House, OUP and the George Macy companies. One of his earliest commissions came from the distinguished publisher, art entrepreneur and bibliophile Mitchell Kennerley, who asserted that “…he has the surest touch of any book designer and printer in America today .” This magic touch rarely failed RWE and nearly 140 fine items ranging from a massive Dante/Blake Inferno to Richard Aldington’s small but perfectly-formed Balls passed through his hands.
In 1950 George Macy remarked that Ellis “had not had his just share of praise and gratitude”, and he and his successors demonstrated their confidence in him with frequent commissions. The following list is as comprehensive as I can make it; any additions or corrections will be very welcome!
Asterisked titles indicate LEC volumes that were also issued under the Heritage imprint.
1930 Tartarin of Tarascon
As designer :
1945 The Sir Roger De Coverley Papers*
1945 Wonderful Adventures Of Paul Bunyan*
1947 The Red and the Black*
1947 Two Years before the Mast*
1955 The Warden*
1957 The Picture of Dorian Gray*
1958 Barchester Towers* (“Printed by Peter Beilenson in Mount Vernon, New York from the typographic plans of Richard W. Ellis. Illustrations hand-colored in the studio of Richard W. Ellis, NY.”)
1961 The Rise of Silas Lapham
1963 The Ambassadors*
1964 Poor Richard’s Almanacs*
1966 Journey to the Center of the Earth*
1968 Journal of the Plague Year 1665*
1968 Heart of Darkness*
1971 Northanger Abbey*
1973 Candide (as well as designing the book, RWE also oversaw its printing)
1974 The Life of Washington
The Heritage originals
1937 Green Mansions (The Sandglass [1A of June 1937] makes no mention of RWE and ascribes the printing to The Haddon Craftsmen. At the time, however, he was in the Craftsmen’s employ and directed both the printing and binding of the book, which had been designed by Frederic Warde)
1940 The Travels of Lemuel Gulliver
1945 Robinson Crusoe
1948 The Book of Edward A. Wilson
1950 The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
 His birthday, December 7, isn’t in doubt but there is confusion over the year.
 In the 1925 New York Census RWE gave his occupation as ‘typographer’. Shortly afterwards he began to use ‘designer of books’ on his headed notepaper (Source: The Harbor Press Ephemera Collection). By 1940, however, he had acquired the confidence to enter his preferred description — ‘book architect’ — into the US Federal Census; surprisingly, perhaps, this neologism was accepted without comment (it wouldn’t have been in the UK!). But it seems not to have been taken up by others and appeareth not in the OED, the Urban Dictionary or, so far as I can tell, Webster’s. However, its derivative, ‘book architecture’ is a favorite buzzword of agencies offering to teach aspiring writers how to break into print.
 Mitchell Kennerley’s assertion was quoted on page 4 of the Monthly Letter for the 1973 LEC Candide
 It was said of him that in general: “Over the format, the typographic plan, and its execution Richard Ellis demanded complete jurisdiction; now and then he agreed to submit proofs, even more rarely to send trial pages…”. But I suspect that was earlier in his career, and not something he would have tried on too often with the Macys, who were effectively the saviors of his latter years.
Earl Schenck Miers: “Richard Ellis, Printer.” The Journal of the Rutgers University Library, Volume 5 (December 1941)
Frank G. Harrington: “Praise Past Due, A Memoir of Richard Ellis”, Typographeum, 1991
Megan Benton: “Beauty and the Book: Fine Editions and Cultural Distinction in America”, Yale University Press, 2000
December 11, 2016 § 2 Comments
An Iceland Fisherman by Pierre Loti (1931)
LEC #21/2nd Series V. 9 in 1931
Artwork: Lithographs by Yngve Berg
Introduced and translated by Guy Endore
#504 of 1500. LEC Exclusive.
Click to see larger views.
Front Binding – As chosen by the readers, the Limited Editions Club’s An Iceland Fisherman is our featured book this time. It’s been a little while since we’ve gone this far back in the Club’s history; this is from the second series of 1930-31, alongside Vanity Fair and Tartuffe. Unlike those two, this one would arguably be considered a more obscure selection by modern standards. Pierre Loti was the pen name of a French Navy officer named Julien Viaud, who first found literary success with this novel after thirteen years of writing novels for little to no fanfare. Those earlier works too became popular following the release of An Iceland Fisherman, and Loti received several accolades following this book, including the titles of the Legion of Honor and a seat on the French Academy. This would be the sole novel of Loti’s to get the LEC treatment, and the Heritage Press never reprinted this or any other work of his.
For their edition of Loti’s magnum opus, George Macy decided to not turn to France, Loti’s homeland, but to Sweden. Recruiting acclaimed Swedish artist Yngve Berg, designer Akke Kumlien, and publishing house P.A. Norstedt and Soner, the Royal Printing Office of Sweden, this book definitely has a flavor unique to its origin country. Macy doesn’t necessarily go into detail as to why Sweden was chosen for a French novel about an Icelandic Fisherman, but he does at least acknowledge that it is a bit of a curious choice in the Monthly Letter. Berg only illustrated one other book for Macy (Cymbeline in the LEC Shakespeare; thanks to commenter Eric for the reminder). Here, his soft pencil lithographs have a haunting quality that seem apropos for a book such as this. The binding is also very charming, with a simple but stunning grace with its colorful fish motif.
Design Notes – Berg and Kumlien share design duties on this volume, although Kumlien is the primary designer according to the colophon. Van Gelder Zonen of Holland provided handmade white linen rag paper, which was subsequently printed upon with the Cochin font via monotype machines. As noted above, P.A. Norstedt and Soner handled the printing duties of both text and lithograph, as well as the binding. The binding’s spine is white canvas with the author and title stamped in gold inside a green box, and the front and back covered with the aforementioned fish design by Berg.
I neglected to mention that Django6924 was the kind donor of the Monthly Letter. Shame on the blog founder/editor!
Title Page – Macy decried the lack of a good English translation of this novel, so he commissioned Guy Endore to render a new one for the Club. Endore also provides an Introduction unobserved here.
Colophon – This is #504 of 1500, and signed by Berg.
Examples of the Illustrations by Berg (right click and open in new tab for full size):
Personal Notes – There is a slightly sad story attached to this book. If I can breach into the realm of the personal (in a section called Personal Notes!), this was purchased in San Francisco at Green Apple Books this past August or September. That by itself has no emotional attachment, but the trip in question was the last time my ex and I went out on a trip together in what was then perceived to be an attempt to do something fun and try to rejuvenate our marriage. That ultimately did not come to pass, but there is no “alas” or “unfortunately” terms to state. While at the time I wanted to try to repair and maintain our companionship, the subsequent months since this book’s purchase has highlighted how much that desire was falsified by my own insecurity and fear. Since our separation I have regained a lot of lost perspective and understanding on what exactly I want in life, which for a very long while I had forgotten. So, while I do have regret about my marriage ending, it is not a bad thing in the slightest. Instead, it is an opportunity to learn, grow and rediscover, which is what I have been doing ever since.
LEC Monthly Letter