Bill Majure is a former Limited Editions Club bookseller who recently retired from the trade, but in the process of running his business compiled a most excellent set of resources on the Club, including a complete bibliography and brief history. As Majure is no longer running his shop, there have been times I’ve gone to reference the site to find it down, its security certificates out of date, or otherwise inaccessible. While the site is live as of 4/14/19, it is possible it may disappear someday, and I feel as a site dedicated to the works of the LEC that I should archive his hard work here as a backup. I’m including it here for reference purposes.
The following is entirely his work save a couple notes at the very end of the checklist, which he did provide originally but I do not have in my document; I am merely providing the list as a resource for collectors to use. Sadly, the HTML involved in the process has made many of the sentences break in odd places. To resolve this, I have completely overhauled it as a PDF. I have also made some slight revisions to the checklist to correct misspellings, punctuation and adding in occasional detail or clarification to books I personally own or have seen.
A huge thank you to Bill for producing this research, and I sincerely hope you do not mind my hosting it.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LIMITED EDITIONS CLUB
The Limited Editions Club was founded in 1929 by George Macy (1900-1956) to publish finely made and finely illustrated limited editions of the classics of literature – and of a few carefully selected contemporary titles (such as Batouala by Rene Maran).
Most of the books were beautifully illustrated with original artwork by leading book illustrators. In most cases, the illustrators handsigned each copy of the books that they illustrated for the LEC. Some books were published unsigned due to the unexpected death of the artist before publication, as happened with the The Arabian Nights illustrated by Arthur Szyk, Comus illustrated by Edmund Dulac, and the Arthur Rackham illustrated Wind In The Willows.
George Macy also commissioned some major fine art artists to illustrate LEC books with original etchings, lithographs, etc., which were bound into the books; artists such as Matisse, Picasso, Derain, Laurencin, and other members of the Paris School. He also commissioned a number of American masters of that period, largely from the Social Realism and American Regionalism schools of art. Included were Reginald Marsh, Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Steuart Curry. In addition, he commissioned major photographers, including Edward Weston and Edward Steichen, to illustrate LEC books. The artists and photographers handsigned all copies of the books that they illustrated.
Some LEC books were signed not only by the artist, but also by famous book designers and by the authors, such as The Complete Poems of Robert Frost (1950), which was signed by the poet, Robert Frost; the book-designer, Bruce Rogers; and the artist/illustrator, Thomas Nason. And most copies of the books, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, were signed by Alice Hargreaves, the original Alice, Lewis Carroll’s niece. A small number of LEC books were issued unillustrated, and were usually signed by the book-designer and/or the printer.
The two most sought after (and valuable) LEC books published under Macy’s leadership are Lysistrata, illustrated and signed by Pablo Picasso, 1934; and Ulysses, illustrated and signed by Henri Matisse, 1935. A limited number of the copies of Ulysses were also signed by the author, James Joyce.
The LEC issued up to twelve books each year (it varied) to a small group of subscribers. During ownership by the Macy family, LEC books were usually limited to 1500 copies, but with several exceptions. The original subscription price in 1929 of an LEC book was $10, discounted by 10% if the subscriber paid a year in advance.
After George Macy’s death in 1956, his wife, Helen, took over and directed the operations of the LEC until her death in 1968. From 1968 until 1970, the club was operated by her son, Jonathan Macy, and other family members. In 1970, the LEC (together with The Heritage Press and The Heritage Club), was sold to Boise Cascade Corporation. Boise Cascade sold it to Ziff-Davis Publishing Company. Ziff-Davis sold it to Cardavon Press. Cardavon operated the LEC unsuccessfully for most of the 1970’s, finally putting it on the block for sale.
Cardavon had raised the limitation to 2000 copies, and had sold The Heritage Press & The Heritage Club to The Danbury Mint (a sister company to The Easton Press) to generate needed cash. The Heritage Press and The Heritage Club were, respectively, the publisher and distributor of inexpensive, unlimited, and unsigned reprint editions of books which had previously been published by the Limited Editions Club. As a result of that sale, today The Easton Press has the reprint publishing rights for those LEC titles.
The current owner of the LEC, Sidney Shiff, acquired it from Cardavon in 1978. Over the next decade, Mr. Shiff gradually changed the focus of the club, and eventually began producing only Livres d’Artiste illustrated with original artwork by major “fine art” artists, rather than book illustrators. And he also gradually reduced the number of copies printed. As of 2004, the limitation per edition was 300 copies, and the annual subscription rate was $5,000 for from one to four books per year.
The books from the later Shiff years are for serious collectors of fine art, as well as for collectors of fine literature published in fine press editions. The artists commissioned by Mr. Shiff include such lofty names as Jacob Lawrence, Balthus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elizabeth Catlett, Francesco Clemente, Ellsworth Kelly, Sean Scully, Alice Neel, and others.
The Limited Editions Club has not published any books since the 2010 publication of The Declaration of Independence, which was illustrated with a single frontispiece photogravure by Robert Frank.
After Sidney Shiff’s passing on March 18, 2010, his wife, Jeanne Shiff, became president of the publishing company.
At this time (March 2012), there has been no indication of future books in the publisher’s pipeline. Our sense of things is that the LEC will not be publishing any books in the foreseeable future.
(Admin Note: The Limited Editions Club will no longer be publishing any titles)
Limited Editions Club Staff, Prospectus For the First Twelve Books, New York: Limited Editions Club, 1929.
Burton, William. “The Decline And Fall Of The Limited Editions Club”. American Book Collector (July/August 1980).
Limited Editions Club Staff, Bibliography of the Fine Books Published by The Limited Editions Club 1929-1985. New York: Limited Editions Club, 1985.
Fleming, Margaret W. “Limited Editions Club.” Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 46: American Literary Publishing Houses, 1900-1980. Detroit: Gale Research, 1986.
Lacey, Peter. “CEO at Leisure; Artists Books as Collectibles.” Chief Executive U.S. (July/August 1992)
Grossman, Carol. “East Side Story: Two Faces of the Limited Editions Club”. Biblio (March 1999).
Click the following for the Checklist: LEC Checklist PDF
A Limited Editions Club Letter was issued with each book, containing detailed notes from the publisher about the book with which it was issued. Even though not issued on strictly a monthly basis, most of the Letters were titled, “The Monthly Letter of The Limited Editions Club”. The title was discontinued in later years, as publication of new books became less frequent.
The ordering of the titles in the checklist is chronological, in the date order published.
Some Limited Editions Club Bibliographies & Guides:
Quarto-Millenary: The First 250 Publications And The First 25 Years
(1929 – 1954) Of The Limited Editions Club. New York: Limited Editions
Bibliography Of The Fine Books Published By The Limited Editions Club
1929-1985. New York: Limited Editions Club, 1985
Limited Editions Club. 111.3 APG (Author Price Guide Series).
Dickerson, MD: Quill & Brush, 2004. – Caution: The 2004 edition of that price guide does not reflect the evolution of the internet marketplace and the prices at which the books are now regularly bought and sold over the internet.
The LEC published ten special publications not part of the subscription series, which were sold separately. The first eight are designated in the two bibliographies published by the LEC (in 1959 & 1985) as S-1 through S-8. Two additional special publications are not listed in either of the bibliographies, and I have designated them as S-9 and S-10.
S-1: Dwiggins, W. A. TOWARDS A REFORM OF THE PAPER CURRENCY. Bound in half black leather with gold stamped titling, and decorated paper covered boards. 1932. 32 pages plus a 2 page stub insert. 452 copies. Issue price was $5.84. Sold at cost. Orders were solicited from LEC subscribers on terms specifying that the final number of orders would be divided into the total cost of publication to determine the selling price.
S-2: THE DOLPHIN, A JOURNAL OF THE MAKING OF BOOKS. 1933. Number 1. 390 pages. 1200 copies.
S-3: THE DOLPHIN, A JOURNAL OF THE MAKING OF BOOKS. 1935. Number 2. 345 pages. 2000 copies.
S-4: THE DOLPHIN, A HISTORY OF THE PRINTED BOOK. 1938. Number 3. 558 pages. 1800 copies.
S-5: THE DOLPHIN, A PERIODICAL FOR ALL PEOPLE WHO FIND PLEASURE IN FINE BOOKS. Number 4. Issued in 3 parts in 1940 & 1941. Part 1 – 12000 copies.
Part 2 – 3000 copies. Part 3 – 3000 copies.
S-6: Boccaccio, Giovanni. 1940. THE DECAMERON. Two volumes. Illustrated and signed by Fritz Kredel. 530 copies issued. The first English translation of 1620. Issued at $12.50. August 1940.
S-7: Grahame, Kenneth. THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. 1940. Introduction by A. A. Milne. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Issued without the artist’s signature due to his death before publication. Signed by Bruce Rogers, the book designer & typographer. Limited to 2020 copies. Issued at $15 Sept. 1940.
S-8: Steinbeck, John. THE GRAPES OF WRATH. 1940. Two Volumes. Illustrated & signed by Thomas Hart Benton. 1146 copies. Issued at $15. October 1940.
S-9: BIBLIOGRAPHY OF THE FINE BOOKS PUBLISHED BY THE LIMITED EDITIONS CLUB 1929-1985. New York: Limited Editions Club, 1985. 1800 copies in goatskin with marbled paper covered boards.
S-10: MONTHLY LETTERS: THE FIRST FIFTY MONTHLY LETTERS, 1929-1933. New York, Limited Editions Club, 1987. 550 copies in goatskin with marbled paper covered boards.
The nine publications in the following list were printed and distributed for promotional purposes. They were not offered for sale.
PROSPECTUS FOR THE FIRST TWELVE BOOKS. 1929. Hardcover.
Dill, Francis and Porter Garnett. THE IDEAL BOOK. 1932. Hardcover. Contains two essays which jointly won an essay contest held by the LEC. Some copies bound with paper covers. 500 hardcover copies.
LeGallienne, Richard. THE PHILOSOPHY OF LIMITED EDITIONS. 1933. 14 pages. Paper covers. 2000 copies distributed as a New Year’s momento.
Robert, Maurice & Frederic Warde. A CODE FOR THE COLLECTOR OF BEAUTIFUL BOOKS. 1936. 55 pages. Hardcover.
Jackson, Holbrook. OF THE USES OF BOOKS. 1937. 29 pages. Hardcover. Helen Macy handset the type. 1500 copies sent as a New Year’s greeting to the members.
SHAKESPEARE, A REVIEW AND A PREVIEW. 1940. Hardcover. Issued as a marketing prospectus for the planned 37 volume set of Shakespeare’s Plays.
Ransom, Will (editor). TEN YEARS AND WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. 1940. Hardcover. Essays and a bibliography of the publications in the first ten years of the LEC.
A RECORD OF THE PROCEEDINGS AT THE LIMITED EDITIONS CLUB’S DINNER TO CELEBRATE THE TWENTY FIRST BIRTHDAY OF THE CLUB AND THE FIFTIETH BIRTHDAY OF ITS FOUNDER. 1950. Hardcover. 35 Pages.
THE SILVER JUBILEE DINNER PARTY. 1954. Hardcover. A record of the publisher’s 25th anniversary dinner celebration.
PUBLICATIONS FROM THE MACY FAMILY
George and Helen Macy printed six bound volumes which were sent to associates, friends, and relatives as special occasion greetings from the family. They include:
Howitt, Mary. THE SPIDER AND THE FLY. 1939. Hardcover. Helen Macy handset the type. Printed and sent as a New Year’s greeting from the Macy family.
Horace. THE COUNTRY, THAT’S THE PLACE TO LIVE! 1940. Hardcover. Translated from the Latin by George Macy. Helen Macy handset the type. Printed and sent as a New Year’s greeting from the Macy family.
Macy, George. THE COLLECTED VERSES OF GEORGE JESTER. 1941. Hardcover. 134 pages. A small printing of George Macy’s poetry sent as a Christmas momento from the family.
NOW THAT CARL IS 60. A BIRTHDAY BOOK FOR CARL VAN DOREN. 1945. 36 Pages. Paper covers.
Untermeyer, Louis. THE LOWEST FORM OF WIT. 1947. 23 pages. Hardcover. Sent as a Christmas greeting from the family.
Hunt, Leigh. TABLE TALK. 1948. 30 pages. Hardcover. Sent as a Christmas greeting from the family.