Trivia: The Most Popular Authors in the LEC/Heritage canon

I’m beginning a new tradition here at the Imagery; once in a while, I’d like to present some interesting bit of research or trivia to you. Today, I’ll share the top authors who were published most by the two major arms of the Macy Companies and their successors. I will separate the two presses at first, and then merge the results to see who wins the coveted (imaginary) “Most Popular” status!

Limited Editions Club:

1) William Shakespeare, with 41 individual releases! I’m counting each book in the LEC Shakespeare as its own entity.
2) Mark Twain, with 12 individual releases.
3) Charles Dickens, with 9 individual releases.
3) Robert Louis Stevenson, with 9 individual releases.
5) Fyodor Dostoevsky, with 8 individual releases.
5) Alexandre Dumas, with 8 individual releases.
5) Joseph Conrad, with 8 individual releases.
8) James Fenimore Cooper, with 6 individual releases.
8) Nathanial Hawthorne, with 6 individual releases.
10) Gustave Flaubert, with 5 individual releases.
10) Leo Tolstoy, with 5 individual releases.
10) Oscar Wilde, with 5 individual releases.
10) Anatole France, with 5 individual releases.
10) Victor Hugo, with 5 individual releases.
10) Jane Austen, with 5 individual releases.
10) Jules Verne, with 5 individual releases.
10) William Makepeace Thackeray, with 5 individual releases.
10) Sir Walter Scott, with 5 individual releases.

Heritage Press:

This is not as simple to document, as there remains an incomplete bibliography of the Heritage Press output. But, relying on the research I’ve done here, I’ll do my best. I’ll only be doing a Top 5 due to the less frequent original publications of this Press.

1) Charles Dickens, with 14 individual releases!
2) William Shakespeare, with 5 individual releases.
3) Mark Twain, with 3 individual releases.
4) Anatole France, with 2 individual releases.
5) Henry James, with 2 individual releases.
5) Washington Irving, with 2 individual releases.
5) Charles Lamb, with 2 individual releases.
5) Homer, with 2 individual releases.
5) Nathaniel Hawthorne, with 2 individual releases.


1) William Shakespeare, with 46 books to his name in the canon!
2) Charles Dickens, with 23 books.
3) Mark Twain, with 15 books.
4) Robert Louis Stevenson, with 9 books.
5) Fyodor Dostoevsky, with 9 books (I’m including the Heritage Crime and Punishment as a separate release).
6) Alexandre Dumas, with 8 books.
6) Joseph Conrad, with 8 books.
6) Nathanial Hawthorne, with 8 books.
9) Anatole France, with 7 books.
10) James Fenimore Cooper, with 6 books.
10) Leo Tolstoy, with 6 books.
10) Oscar Wilde, with 6 books.
10) William Makepeace Thackeray, with 6 books.

This list is subject to change, as there may be a Heritage exclusive somewhere I may have missed.

Heritage Press: The Short Stories of Oscar Wilde (1968)

The Short Stories of Oscar Wilde (1968)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Paintings by James Hill

Introduced by Robert Gorham Davis
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #406/36th Series V. 8 in 1968

Click images for larger views.

Front Binding – A pink fabric covers this book, but lacks any additional embellishing.  I did perform a bit of Photoshop to remove a library sticker from the top right corner.  I know nothing else about this book’s design.

Title Page – James Hill provides the visual materials for Wilde’s short stories, and his work is very…retro ’60’s, for lack of a better word.  I think it works, but it’s definitely trapped in a particular era.  Robert Gorham Davis offers an introduction.

Page 252 – One bizarre “boy within a frog” motif, here.  I do like Hill’s paintings – they are certainly a trip.

Pages 237-238 – Just some cool stuff.  I’d love to own this book.  Shame Hill only worked on this one book for the LEC.

Personal Notes – This is the third Oscar Wilde title I’ve covered on the blog, and amazingly, it’s another stunner.  Seems that the George Macy Companies knew who to best pair Wilde up with.  We’ll see if that streak continues!  Anyway, I got this from the Mariposa library on loan.

If you have any insights into the creation of this book, LEC or Heritage, please let me know through the comments here or at my thread about this blog at the George Macy Devotees @ LibraryThing!  Thanks!

Heritage Press: The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde (1937)

The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde (1937)
Sandglass Number V:17
Artwork: Stone lithographs by Zhenya Gay
Introduced by Burton Rascoe
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #87/8th Series V. 5 in 1937

Click the picture to see larger images.

Front Binding – This is bound with leather product, as the Sandglass calls it – put together by combing off-cuts of skins into a hopper alongside plastic materials.  It’s called leatherlen, and is said to outlast standard leather.  The gray is intentional, meant to simulate a granite block.  It was stamped twice with two different dies, one sunk in to create the wall, and another embossed upon the cover for the bars.  Quite distinctive.  Designed by John S. Fass, who also designed the LEC edition of this book, as well as the LEC’s of Herman Melville’s Typee and Apulieus’ The Golden Ass.  He created his own press, the Hammer Creek Press, in 1950, and went on designing his own limited editions.  As usual, thanks to Django2694 for the info!

Zhenya Gay only worked on two Limited Editions Club titles, but she most certainly left a lasting impression with this and Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, done in 1930 as her first commission.  Following this Gay would cease her involvement with the George Macy Company, but she kept up illustrating for many more books, focusing on children’s titles and becoming keenly fascinated with animals, quite the switch from illustrating two of the darkest and more adult-oriented books in the Macy canon.

As for Oscar Wilde, I get into his publishing history in my Salome post.  I will state here that this was the first work of Wilde’s done by the LEC or Heritage Press, and what a book it is.

Title Page – Gay was an ideal choice for this book’s illustrations.  Her haunting style fits the dark poetry Wilde crafted while in Reading Gaol perfectly.  The type was designed by John S. Fass, and the Heritage edition duplicates the LEC pages via photography of the original proofs.  The type itself is Egmont, imported from Holland and created by S. H. de Roos.  Burton Rascoe provides the introduction.  Lastly, the paper was supplied by the International Paper Company, and is supposed to last for two centuries at minimum.  This was a book meant to last, it seems.

Page 1 – Among my favorite illustrations in any Heritage/LEC book.  Incredible.

Page 27

Personal Notes – This I picked up at my hometown’s library in Mariposa, I believe. The cover caught my eye, and the amazing art committed me to a purchase.  I still consider it one of the better books by the press, after acquiring so many others following it.

Unlike Salome, which did little for me, I did enjoy this work a lot.  It’s by no means a happy piece, but it does provide a fascinating glimpse into a man watching another’s final days before his death, and is an exquisitely designed book.


Updated 9/17/2011


Heritage Press: Salome by Oscar Wilde (1945)

Salome by Oscar Wilde (1945)
Sandglass Number 3NN
Artwork: Decorated and hand-illuminated by Valenti Angelo.
Translated from the French by Lord Alfred Douglas, and introduced by Holbrook Jackson
Heritage Press Exclusive – The LEC put out a 2-volume set for Salome in 1938 that is discussed below.

Click on the images to see full-size.

Dsc_0024 (2)

Front Binding – I’ve gotten a new copy of this book so I’ve updated the binding to showcase what a non-faded edition looks like. Even before opening this book you can tell it’s something special. Its charming boards (this design is on both sides) make for a strong impression. Illustrator Valenti Angelo was also responsible for the design of the book.  As for how the binding was made, I’ll let Django6924 explain:

The black cloth binding was purchased by the Macy companies before WW II and had sat in warehouses until its use in Salome. It was made by Interlaken Mills in Arkwright, RI, a specialist in making cloth for book covers. Salome was issued in October, 1945.

Oscar Wilde seemed to be a favorite for the George Macy Company. The Ballad of Reading Gaol came first in 1937, followed by the LEC Salome. This edition for the Heritage Press followed in 1945. The Picture of Dorian Gray was released in 1957, followed by his Short Stories in 1968. Two of his plays, The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Wintermere’s Fan, were the last, released in 1973. That covers the majority of his popular literary output.

Valenti Angelo was one of the more productive of Macy’s artists, producing eleven Limited Editions Club books and three unique Heritage Press books, which is very impressive. He was busy elsewhere, too, as I’ve seen his name attached to quite a few books outside of the Macy sphere. So far, our blog features The Sonnets of Shakespeare, A Thousand Nights and a Night, The Song of Roland, Selections from the Koran and this particular book, but there’s plenty more to come. He has a simplistic yet charming style that well suits the books he works on.

Since I’ve omitted it before, here’s a complete chronology of Angelo’s work. For the LEC, it began with A Thousand Nights and a Night in 1934, where he did 1001 illustrations! Next was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables in 1935. The LEC Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam followed in 1935 (quite different than Arthur Szyk’s spin, I imagine). The Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yazdi was released in 1937. 1938 brought The Song of Roland. Vathek: An Arabian Tale was mailed out in 1945. The lovely Sonnets of the Portuguese came next in 1948. The stunning Koran was released ten years later in 1958. The Book of Psalms came out in 1960, followed up by The Book of Proverbs in 1963. The last was another Hawthorne work, Twice-Told Tales, published in 1966. The editions Angelo exclusively did for the Heritage Press include Salome, The Sonnets of Shakespeare (1941), and The Song of Songs (1935), the latter of which was one of the six titles in the 1st Series of the Press and features a limited set of copies with Angelo’s signature.





Title Page – If this doesn’t floor you, I don’t know what book would. Gorgeously decorated yellow pages that have been specially cut (the top is uncut, giving each page added thickness), and EVERY single page in this book has an amazing border similar to this, all done by Angelo. Salome herself is boldly colored in a way that suits the page background, too. The gold was hand-illuminated by Angelo himself in early printings. The text is Garamond Bold, and works with the pages perfectly. A masterwork.

Page 20 – 21

Page 37

Personal Notes – I had heard of the beauty of Salome from Django6924 before owning it, and my ex-wife managed to uncover the first copy I owned at an antique mall in Merced. I was eager to see why Django thought of it so highly, and I was certainly not disappointed. This is among the most stunning books the Heritage Press put out, without question. I paid $8 (half off that day!) for it. That’s way more than I would usually fork out for a sun-faded HP book with no Sandglass or slipcase, but this was an exception well worth making. Since then I have acquired a complete edition from Bookbuyers in Monterey (which is where the binding photos now come from for this post).

Despite its exquisiteness, though, I found the play itself to be a little too repetitive for my liking. My loss, perhaps?

Django6924 was able to fill in a lot of the missing gaps, so enjoy his explanation behind the creation of this majestic book:

The Sandglass gives much biographical information about Mr. Angelo, but what will be of particular interest here is that he got his start in the book business illustrating books for the Grabhorn Press in San Francisco, and did indeed illustrate a Salome for them years before–an exceedingly rare edition, obviously, as I have never seen a copy of it online or in any bookstore.

Also interesting is the considerable space given in the Sandglass to the LEC Salome, which was, in fact, two books–the one illustrated by (Andre) Derain (most unusually on black paper) and printed in French (which is how Wilde wrote it). The second Salome (housed in the same slipcase), featured Lord Alfred Douglas’ translation into English–the version by which the play is most familiar to we English-speaking types. This volume is illustrated with the well-known drawings Aubrey Beardsley had made for the English publication of his translation.

The Introduction by Holbrook Jackson was used in both LEC and Heritage Press editions.

The Sandglass goes on to point out that this Salome resulted from the success of the similar hand-illuminated Heritage Press Song of Songs, that was one of the first 6 books issued by the Heritage Press. That book, too, is a treasure, especially if you find one of the earlier editions bound in red leather.

Thanks, Django!

Sandglass (courtesy of Django6924):

Updated 7/30/2017 – JF