Heritage Press: All Men are Brothers by Shui Hu Chuan (1948)

January 17, 2014 § 4 Comments

All Men are Brothers by Shui Hu Chuan (1948)
Sandglass Number 9M
Artwork: Illustrations by Miguel Covarrubias
Translated by Pearl S. Buck, introduced by Lin Yutang
Reprint of LEC #191, 18th Series, V. 6, in 1948 in 2 volumes.

Click images for larger views.


Front Binding – Finally, after four years of operation, Miguel Covarrubias makes his debut on my blog. Yikes.

Covarrubias is quite a big deal in the world of 2oth century art, and he also had a hand in Maya archaeology (which is something I’ve studied at my university), so I’ve heard quite a bit about him both in my book collecting and academic pursuits. All Men are Brothers, a Chinese novel that stands as a world classic, was Covarrubias’ final commission for the George Macy Company in 1948, one that dragged Macy through a very prolonged suffering as Covarrubias took his sweet time to illustrate the work (for more details, check the Announcement letter for the Heritage Decameron: here and here). Perhaps this was the straw that broke Macy’s back, as Covarrubias would not see another job from the Company, and he passed away in 1957, a considerable lapse of time that he easily could have performed multiple commissions. Regardless of my musings of Macy’s possible office decisions, Covarrubias’ career with the publications of the Limited Editions Club numbers five:

Batouala by Rene Maran (1932, no Heritage)
Typee by Herman Melville (1935, Heritage edition)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1938, Heritage edition)
The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico by Bernal Diaz (1942, no Heritage edition. However, the Heritage Press did reuse the illustrations for their exclusive The Conquest of Mexico by W.H. Prescott; thanks to Django6924 for the clarification)
All Men are Brothers by Shui Hu Chuan (1948, Heritage edition)

Covarrubias also created an exclusive Heritage edition of Green Mansions by W.H. Hudson. Django6924 has some additional details:

The Heritage Press exclusive of “Green Mansions” with the Covarrubias illustrations was first issued by the Club in Series A (in fact it was the first Heritage Press book issued after the initial 6 books). Series A began in June, 1937 with “Green Mansions.” I believe the 1936 copyright date is for the illustrations as the LEC had copyrighted the text when they issued the LEC version with E.A. Wilson’s illustrations in 1935.

As for the book itself, All Men are Brothers is one of the few Chinese titles issued by the LEC in its run. Confucius was popular enough to warrant two editions of his Analects in 1933 and 1970, but that, alongside this book, is it. The Sandglass provides some details on the history of this particular book, for those curious about its past. The “Robin Hood” comparisons are interesting to me, as I happen to like the mythos of Sherwood Forest’s outlaw.

Design Notes – There is no mention of a designer, which usually means Mr. Macy was the one in charge (which Django6924 confirms). It is a rather large volume, at 8.25 x 11.5 inches. Original Old Style 12-point is the font, with calligraphy performed by Jeanyee Yong serving as headlines/chapter titles. Covarrubias did all of the Chinese symbols that appear in the artwork. The art was done as line-drawings that were turned into engravings, and then Covarrubias colored the prints via bold paints apropos for the work. These colors were then converted to rubber plates to be printed. Wong was also called in to perform the writing on the spine and front binding. The bindery is absent. For contrast, devotee Parchment passes along his LEC colophon, which is loaded with the production details for that edition:

LEC Colophon


Slipcase – It’s hard to tell here, but the case is yellow as the Sandglass notes.


Title Page – Pearl S. Buck, probably the best-known Euro-American author to write about China, and the author of The Good Earth, had her sole LEC contribution be the translation of Shui Hu Chuan’s text here. It was not done for the LEC, as John Day originally published it in 1933, but the Sandglass exudes respect for the four years of hard work and care Buck applied to the English rendering of this novel. Lin Yutang, a noted Chinese translator/writer in his own right, provides the introduction. This book really is a cavalcade of talent!

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

Personal Notes – This is a book I’ve coveted for a long, long time. I picked it up at last from the Oakhurst Library collectible sale last September, and I have no regrets. A masterful book all the way around.

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


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