Limited Editions Club: The Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1945)

The Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1945)
LEC #168/16th Series V. 4 in 1945
Artwork: Watercolors by Richard and Doris Beer
Introduced by Louis Untermeyer
LEC #321 of 1500. LEC Exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – This month introduces the blog to a new series of Limited Editions Club titles: The American Poets. We’ve covered one of the Heritage reprints of these editions (Edgar Allan Poe, to be precise), but this will be the first time we will get to feature the original LEC publication. The others in this series include the poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, John Greenleaf Whittier, Emily Dickinson, and the aforementioned Poe, paired with illustrators that could couple their creative lyrics with visual flourishes as grand as the written words. Each was bound in a black sheepskin leather with matching embossing and gold stamped text to the material, although a few of the series’ 1500 copies are in variant colors depending on dye availability as most were produced during or shortly after World War II.

Ralph Waldo Emerson isn’t a stranger to the blog, although it has been some time (11 years!) since he last made his presence felt with the Heritage edition of his essays. This is the second and final LEC of his writings, but I feel both editions capture Emerson’s powerful, intelligent spirit in their own respective ways.

The art, meanwhile, is new to us — Richard and Doris Beer, a husband and wife team of watercolorists, tackled this project with a graceful and color-rich approach that doesn’t go heavy on the details but allows the viewer to mentally travel to the locations they depict. While it’s not the grandiose detail of Eichenberg, Parker or Legrand, the Beer duo deliver a beautiful commission that sadly stands alone as they never returned to the LEC canon.

Design Notes – A.G. Hoffman and Robert L. Dothard split the design duties on this edition. Dothard has made an appearance here a few times with The Innocent Voyage, The Aeneid, and the Quarto-Millenary, but I believe this is Hoffman’s first book we’ve covered. Here’s what the Quarto has to say:



Title Page – Louis Untermeyer — who has appeared more on this blog than some authors or illustrators have! — was the editor in charge of this series and provides an introduction along with some commentary.

Colophon – This is #321 of 1500, and was signed by the Beers.

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

Personal Notes – I purchased this from an online bookseller who shared some interesting background on the original owner; they happened to have lived in the same city I do presently and had an impact on its local history! I happened to acquire three books from the same collector at this time so it’s a neat little bonus that I can remember about them all, haha. The only other time I got a remote sense of a collector is of #403 who lived in Carmel, CA, and I have multiple volumes from them (and they had a house full of windows, which is why many of those are sun-faded!).