Limited Editions Club: The Evergreen Tales series (1948-1952)

The Evergreen Tales series (1948-1952)
Edited by Jean Hersholt, with different illustrators for each volume
Five different sets of three books were issued between 1948-1952; more individual details below.
All are LEC exclusives.

Hello dear readers! Today brings a very unique post to the blog: a comprehensive look into one of George Macy’s many projects under the LEC banner, the “Evergreen Tales” subseries. At present I own sets 1, 2, 3 and 4, and will update this post accordingly when I acquire set 5. This is falling outside of my usual format for my posting given that I will be covering this as an enterprise versus a post per three book set.

Before beginning each set proper, I thought it would do some good to look into the entirety of said enterprise first. This is going to be very generalized as unfortunately there isn’t a lot of information on the creation of this series available to me at the time of writing. As of this moment there isn’t a copy of any of the five sets’ Monthly Letters accessible, a Google search for the sets only gives me options to purchase them, and the Quarto doesn’t get into specifics on its creation from my perusal of it. So, some basics: at some point Macy decided that he wanted to reprint individual tales of children’s literature from several sources in a separate collection. Having done some work in this field with the early editions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Book #20) and Andersen’s Fairy Tales (#138 and #195), alongside some publications of Pinocchio (Book #88), the Alice in Wonderland titles (Books #36 and #65), Aesop’s Fables (#47), and Twain’s Tom Sawyer (#114), and some others, Macy was well equipped to tackle this concept. He recruited Jean Hersholt, who had served as the translator and editor for both the aforementioned Andersen’s, to serve in an editorial role on this project. Hersholt is a bit of a fascinating person — I’ll let the Wikipedia page cover much of his biography as this is already going to be a massive post. For our purposes, I’ll note he was an actor, radio personality and avid Andersen fan, with his massive collection of titles being donated to the Library of Congress upon his death in 1956. His work on the original Andersen volumes were praised at the time as being definitive; it’s little wonder Macy called him back to assist with this endeavor. Hersholt provided brief introductions to each tale on top of his editorial and occasional translation duties.

The other major selling point was the recruitment of some of the premiere book illustrators of the era to get their chance to shine alongside these fairy tales. Some of them were already titans in the Macy oeuvre: Fritz Kredel, Arthur Szyk, Edy Legrand, Sylvain Sauvage, and Fritz Eichenberg had several prior editions by the Club at this point. Some illustrators like Henry C. Pitz, Rafaello Busoni, Malcolm Cameron, and Edward Ardizzone either got their start here or were relative newcomers to the LEC canon. Robert Lawson and Everett Gee Jackson were brought back after an extended hiatus from a LEC publication, while William Moyers, Edward Shenton, Ervine Metzl and Hans Bendix began and ended their Macy careers with these editions.

It is important to note that these did have a higher limitation number than usual — 2500, in fact. Finding a complete set with the same limitation number is difficult nowadays! Most were signed by Hersholt, and a few did get the illustrators to sign. An exhausting fact is that the Evergreen Tales had Hersholt sign 2500 copies (plus additional ones for special individuals) for 15 individual books: that’s 37,500 signatures in four years! Note that my “Ali Baba” is not signed by Hersholt, which I touch on below. My third set has Jackson and Ardizzone’s signatures in their respective books, although I know of some of the other sets being signed by their illustrators (my first and fourth sets are not), as you’ll see below. Another thing of curiosity is Hersholt’s dedication to the families these sets went to. In my fourth set the signature includes a dedication note to the “Cutler” children. Other limitation numbers feature this dedication as documented here on Librarything — note that the photos are from the first, second, third and fifth sets, most within the normal 1500 copy limitation. The second “Ugly Duckling” example falls outside of the 1500, though, and is inscribed while mine is not.

Thanks to Django6924, tag83 and astronauteric for the above images. It seems the colophon was a chaotic element with these sets, and one truly will not know if they will purchase a set with illustrator signatures or an additional inscription from Hersholt! Before moving away from this topic, I want to spiral back that I discovered that the fifth set of #1993 ended up with another Devotee, and he noticed the fifth set was still in the original glassine wrappers sent out to protect the books. My fourth set was received the same way. Seems the Cutlers weren’t all that interested in these books by the time the last two were issued in 1952. Shame I don’t know where the second set ended up.

Another question I have on these is how they were shipped to subscribers. For instance, the 18th series considers each Evergreen Tale book to be its own unique release for the twelve books issued that year. However, the 19th series did not do that for the second or third set, with the Evergreen sets counting as their own release alongside ten others. The fourth and fifth sets do the same. So perhaps this first set was issued separately? Or there was a two month gap with the understanding that you’d get three books all at once for the first set? Hopefully I’ll find that out someday.

The other thing to note is that even in the Quarto the designer details are sketchy. I can say five are definitively assigned to Macy himself (“Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” in Volume 1, all of Volume 2, and “The Ugly Duckling” in Volume 3), with one, “The Tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” in Volume 3 designed by Ernest Ingham. The other nine are quiet on the matter. Given the consistency with these volumes, it’s likely that Macy handled several others within this set, but I cannot state that as a certainty.

I’m not sure if five sets were the intended cutoff point for the series, but given both Macy and Hersholt’s deaths in 1956, I’m sure that future plans for more Evergreen sets were possibly in the cards but folded as the two faced their medical issues. Helen Macy never returned to the concept over her tenure, and thus 15 classic pieces of children’s tales were enshrined under this banner.

Okay, so now that we’ve gone over some of the murky background of the development of the Evergreen Tales, let us begin our look into the books themselves. My Volumes 1, 3 and 4 all came from the same limitation number, #1993 of 2500. My set #2 came from a different number, #1888. I’m going to keep my words to the point for these to keep this post from being too exhausting.


Volume 1: Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, The Three Bears, The Story of Joseph and his Brothers
Illustrated by
Fritz Kredel, William Moyers, Arthur Szyk
LEC #193/18th Series V. 8 in 1948
#1993 of 2500

Click images to see larger views.

Spines – Let’s begin our journey into the Evergreen Tales with the very first set. This is, out of the three I have, probably the most stunning on the binding front, courtesy of the excellent Arthur Szyk having one of his pieces bound into the cover of his take on “Joseph and his Brothers”. The other two are quite playful as well, as you’ll see below:

Front Bindings (in the order they are listed on the slipcase label)

Along with Szyk, Fritz Kredel and William Moyers were the other artists on this set. We recently covered Szyk’s gorgeous art with the LEC edition of The Book of Ruth (which also includes his bibliography). Kredel, meanwhile, was last seen in Barchester TowersLEC update in 2018. Both would continue to see commissions following this. Szyk ended a fabulous run of LEC and Heritage Press commissions over three years with this, and would have his art for The Arabian Nights Entertainments posthumously published in 1954. Kredel would have several more extending into the 1960s; for his entire LEC/Heritage bibloiography, see here. Moyers, meanwhile, only illustrated this book for the LEC.

The Quarto provides the following production details:

As the front binding gallery suggested, I’m going to combine the three books into a gallery for each of my usual post breakdowns just to save on space a little bit.

Slipcase

Title Pages – “Aladdin” was translated by Hersholt. “The Three Bears” is pulled directly from English poet Robert Southey, who created the iconic tale. “Joseph and his Brothers” comes from the King James version of the Bible. All note a 1949 publication year, but given the gap between November to January for these titles, it’s hard to say when exactly these came out.

Colophon – These are #1993 of 2500, and Hersholt signed the colophon for all three.

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


Volume 2: Saint George and his Dragon, Beauty and the Beast, Dick Whittington and his Cat
Illustrated by
Edward Shenton, Edy Legrand, Robert Lawson
LEC #202/19th Series V. 6 in 1949
#1888 of 2500

Click images to see larger views.

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Spines – Compared to the other three sets that came from the Cutler family, my second set is a little more faded and appear to have been read more often (there’s also a strong smoky smell in these ones, so I’ll need to apply some baking soda treatment to these to absorb it out). I feel that this set is a bit of a bridge between Set #1 and #3 in terms of the quality of the bindings. “Dick Whittington” and “Beauty” remind me more of the third, while “Saint George” harkens back to the more lush aesthetics of the first.

Front Bindings (in the order they are listed on the slipcase label)

This set brings together two well established LEC illustrators along with a fresh artist who only contributed to this set of Evergreen Tales. Edy Legrand (“Beauty”, last seen here with 2020’s post on Travels in Arabia Deserta) and Robert Lawson (“Whittington”) had both had a LEC under their belt by the time this commission arrived; Legrand had the grandiose LEC Shakespeare Hamlet, while Lawson designed and illustrated The Crock of Gold in 1942. Legrand would continue on with several more commissions through the 1960s (see The Nibelungenlied for his complete Macy bibliography), while Lawson would end his run here. The other artist was Edward Shenton, whose watercolors enrich “Saint George”.

The Quarto provides the following production details:

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Slipcase

Title Pages – “Beauty” was originally written by Madame Le Prince de Beaumont and translated by P.H. Muir, “Whittington” was retold by its illustator Robert Lawson, while “Saint George” was retold by William H.G. Kingston. This is the only set without a more extensive literary touch from Hersholt, as he either retold or translated one of the books in the other four Evergreen Tales releases.

Colophon – These are #1888 of 2500, and Hersholt signed the colophon for Whittington along with artist Robert Lawson. For my set, the other two were unsigned.

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


Volume 3: Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves, The Ugly Duckling, The Sleeping Beauty of the Wood
Illustrated by
Edward Ardizzone, Sylvain Sauvage, Everett Gee Jackson
LEC #203/19th Series V. 7 in 1949
#1993 of 2500

Click images to see larger views.

Spines – Set three features three very well known tales from vastly different sources. We have Charles Perrault’s “Sleeping Beauty”, Andersen’s “Ugly Duckling”, and the Arabic “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”

Front Bindings (in the order they are listed on the slipcase label)

The bindings reflect these differences as well — I do find that these are a bit of a step back from the first set, but I do like the classy “Sleeping Beauty” one the most of these.

Sylvain Sauvage is my personal highlight here — this is the third posthumous publication the LEC issued after his death in 1948, and if memory serves this is the last I’ll be able to cover here. The last time Sauvage was discussed here was The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard last month! Zadig covers his bibliography for the two Clubs. Edward Ardizzone makes his LEC debut with “Ali Baba”, as well as his GMI debut as well, haha. As of today I don’t have anything else of his in my collection, but when I do, I’ll cover his bibliography. Lastly, we come to Everett Gee Jackson, whose prior LEC contribution was for the American folktale The Wonderful Adventures of Paul Bunyan in 1945, and his style works well for “The Ugly Duckling”. We’ve featured his other commissions before, the most recent being The Popoh Vuh in 2017. I’ll let his publication history from an earlier post on Paul Bunyan talk about the rest of his career with Macy.

The Quarto provides the following production details:

Note that “Ali Baba” was designed by Ernest Ingham and printed in London; this is a key I’ll get to shortly.

Slipcase

Title Pages – “Ali Baba” was translated from the original Arabic into French by J.C. Mardrus, and subsequently translated into English by E. Powys Mathers. Hersholt translated Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling” from Danish to English (probably pulling from his earlier LEC Andersen), while P.H. Muir translated Perrault’s “Sleeping Beauty” from French into English.

Colophon – These are #1993 of 2500, and Hersholt signed the colophon for all but “Ali Baba”. I wonder if this was because it was handled by a different designer and published in London versus the US as the others? Ardizzone did sign that book, however. Jackson joined Hersholt on “Ugly Duckling”. Unfortunately, Sauvage had passed away well before the time this set was issued. This shows how early these were in the production cycle — Sauvage died in 1948, and these were not issued until late 1949, but it’s a healthy amount of illustrations!

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


Volume 4: King Midas & the Golden Touch, Pandora’s Box, The Emperor’s New Clothes
Illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg
Rafaello Busoni, Ervine Metzl
LEC #222/21st Series V. 2 in 1952

Click images to see larger views.

Spines – There is a lot less color diversity in this set than the other two I own, but that’s okay when the bindings are considerably nicer than the last set:

Front Bindings (in the order they are listed on the slipcase label)

“King Midas” in particular is my favorite in this set and second overall; it’s so classy! “Pandora” has a textured binding in contrast to the others feeling slick to the touch, and “Emperor” is perhaps the most avant-garde in the entire Series, with a distinct rebellious orientation that defies layout conventions.

Fritz Eichenberg was called in for “King Midas”, which he does with splendor. He abandons his usual woodcutting techniques for colored lithographs, which works very well for the tale. Of course, I’ve covered Eichenberg plenty on the blog before as he is one of my favorite all-time illustrators; he was last seen in the Heritage reprint of Reynard the Fox back in 2017, with a look at his career in The Brothers Karamazov post. Rafaello Busoni got his second LEC commission here following The Red and the Black in 1947, which is conveniently the last time I covered him as well way back in 2011 (I need to update that post with Busoni’s bibliography!). Ervine Metzl only contributed his artistry to “Emperor” to the LEC.

The Quarto provides the following production details:

Slipcase

Title Pages – “King Midas” and “Pandora’s Box” both come from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys, called there “The Golden Touch” and “The Paradise of Children”. “Emperor”, meanwhile, is another Andersen tale translated by Hersholt.

Colophon – These are #1993 of 2500, and Hersholt signed the colophon for all three to the Cutler children. Unfortunately, I know nothing about the Cutlers, but I can at least suspect that these three sets with the same limitation all went to that family.

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


Volume 5: Bluebeard, Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk
Illustrated by
Hans Bendix, Henry C. Pitz, Malcolm Cameron
LEC #228/21st Series V. 8 in 1952

Forthcoming!


Personal Notes – I bought the first set from Powell’s Books online when they had a sale, and I wanted to give this a test as they had the third and fourth sets available as well but didn’t apply to the sale. When I received the set, I was incredibly pleased by the condition and I took the risk in the hopes all of them would be so nice! And hey, I was right! These have always been on a wish list for me since I saw the second set at Carpe Diem years ago, and while I couldn’t afford that set then I knew I wanted to have them all eventually. As of today, I’m 60% there! Haha. It’s super cool that these three are all from the same limitation, too!

In 2021 I acquired the second set from a library non-profit with an Amazon storefront for a remarkably good deal. While it’s a bit sunned and has a smoky smell, the interiors are in excellent condition, so I’m happy to be one step closer to having all of these lovely sets!

Heritage Press – The Chronicle of the Cid, translated by Robert Southey (1958)

The Chronicle of the Cid, translated by Robert Southey (1958)
Sandglass Number VI:23
Artwork: Illustrations by René Ben Sussan
Introduced by V.S. Pritchett
Reprint of LEC #289, 26th Series, V. 10, in 1958.

Click images for larger views.

cidhp-binding

Front Binding – First of all, it’s nice to return to writing about these books. The last few months have been remarkably hectic, stressful and harried. While there are some things I still need to do for my future, I desperately needed an outlet to write. Sharing the beautiful titles George Macy and his family produced is a fine way to accomplish that.

Anyway, let’s focus in on The Chronicle of the Cid, our selection for today. The Cid (pronounced “Sid” in English; “Theed” in Spanish) is essentially the Spanish equivalent of King Arthur in terms of hero and myth. The Spanish legend was rendered into the English language by Robert Southey, a productive (if not exactly prodigious in terms of the modern English pantheon) poet and essayist, which he finished in 1808, some 700 years after the death of The Cid (aka Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar). This was the sole work Southey had produced by the George Macy Company and its subsequent presses.

We get to introduce René Ben Sussan to the blog readership today, a man who certainly devoted a fair amount of his artistic time to George Macy’s books. Here is a biography of the commissions Ben Sussan took on for the presses:

The School of Scandal, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 1934 (LEC)
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens, 1938 (Heritage only, part of the Heritage Dickens series)
Old Goriot, Honore de Balzac, 1948 (LEC, was part of the Heritage/Nonesuch French Romances series, and that edition came out in 1949)
Volpone, or the Fox, Ben Jonson, 1952 (LEC)
The Rivals, Richard Brinslet Sheridan, 1953 (LEC)
The Chronicle of the Cid, Robert Southey, 1958 (LEC/Heritage)
Eugenie Grandet, Honore de Balzac, 1960 (LEC/Heritage)
The Memoirs of Casanova, 1972 (LEC)

Of note is the two-for-one issue of The Rivals and The School for Scandal for the Heritage Press. One seller lists a Sandglass of VI:18, which GMD member featherwate passed along some info on:

Sandglass VI:18 is from November 1953, and says:
“a most unusual book, a book in which Sheridan’s two great comedies are printed together, the text and the illustrations being borrowed from that edition of The School for Scandal which The Limited Editions Club published in 1934, and from that edition of The Rivals which The Limited Editions Club distributed to its lucky members only last year.”

Only last year should mean 1952, but according to Bill Majure’s guide, the LEC Rivals did not come out until September 1953 – only two months before the two-in-one HP volume. Maybe it had been intended to come out in 1952, but had been delayed. 1953 was an unusual year: it saw LEC members receiving three plays (the first two of them illustrated by ben Sussan!) in the space of five months: Volpone in July, The Rivals in September and Cyrano in November. That sounds as if there had had to be some last-minute reshuffling of the LEC Twenty-third Series. If anyone has the Prospectus for that series it might provider [sp] a clue…

Ben Sussan has a rather distinctive style that, for me at least, can clash with my perceptions of artistic aesthetic. However, I feel that with The Cid his gouache drawings fit in quite nicely with the text. The color choices, linework and blending of medieval and modern sensibilities are wonderfully executed, and out of the books I’ve seen of his art, this is the pinnacle.

Design Notes – Ben Sussan also designed the book, utilizing frequent Macy designer Jan van Krimpen’s Romulus Bold as the primary font. This was set at the Enschedé, a printing house in Holland, and the Heritage edition was taken from vinylite moulds of the LEC text by New York’s Ferris Printing Company. The Warren Paper Company of Maine supplied the paper. Ben Sussan’s work was reprinted by Kellogg & Bulkeley of Connecticut, and the books were bound by the ever-present Russell-Rutter Company, who seemingly bound 90% or so of the Heritage Press catalog. The binding features Ben Sussan’s lovely Moorish pattern that sold me on this book before I even opened it.

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Slipcase

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Title Page – V.S. Pritchett was called upon to write up an introduction.

Examples of the Illustrations by Ben Sussan (right click and open in new tab for full size):

Personal Notes – I purchased this from Bookbuyers in Monterey a few years ago on store credit, if memory serves. The distinctive binding, as I mentioned before, caught my eye. I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, but the Sandglass does a splendid job of making it sound intriguing!

Sandglass (right click and select Open in New Tab to see full size):

Updated 11/14/2014 by JF