August 5, 2012 § 7 Comments
Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (1970, Connecticut)
Sandglass Number XI:39
Artwork: Illustrations by Grant Wood
Introduced by the author
Reprint of LEC #89, 8th Series, V. 7 in 1937.
Click images for a larger view.
Front Binding – Sinclair Lewis has made an appearance on our blog before, but not as the author of a Limited Editions Club work! Main Street was the sole offering of Lewis offered by the Club, and it would take over 35 years for the Heritage Press to reprint its contents. Lewis was also involved in Macy’s third publishing arm The Reader’s Club as one of its judges, selecting and writing introductions for the Club’s brief run in the 1940’s. Main Street is probably his best known novel, so it was an apt choice way back when to select it!
The name Grant Wood may not immediately ring any bells. It’s a fairly common sounding name. However, this Grant Wood is exceptionally well known. You may recognize this painting:
This artistic classic, American Gothic, is by Grant Wood, the very painter recruited to illustrate Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street for the Limited Editions Club back in 1937. It’s a marvelous pairing of author and artist, that it most certainly is. Wood would not rejoin the LEC for any further commissions, but he did do a splendid job on this one! Django6294 chipped in this tidbit on the Wood/Macy relationship:
Incidentally, Jerry, that he didn’t do more than one commission for Macy wasn’t due to lack of enthusiasm on either side: Macy was effusive in praise of the illustrations and Wood had received a very generous price for this work, winning an LEC Prize for Illustration which came with a commission to illustrate one of the Club’s books (other winners were Thomas Benton and Reginald Marsh). But Wood was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer soon after the book was published, and died within 3 years, just short of his 50th birthday.
The LEC was designed by William A. Kittredge of the Lakeside Press in Chicago. The Lakeside Press is best remembered for its exceptional Moby Dick, illustrated by Rockwell Kent. They did their own fair share of classic printing themselves. I had a Walden from them briefly that I traded in for the LEC Twenty Years After. It was a really nice book, but I don’t have any room to start collecting EVERY well-made book made earlier this century. :p Anyway! It was Kittredge who decided to print the text and artwork on tan colored paper over the usual white, and that carried over to the Heritage printing. Caslon is the font of choice, and font fans will want to pour over the Sandglass, as it goes into its history in detail. For the Heritage edition, Tapley-Rutter served as its binder, and it was reprinted by the Connecticut Printers. The cover, resembling denim, is enhanced by pryoxylin to give it extra strength. The LEC original was chosen as one of the 200 books of its decade selected for Outstanding Design by the American Institute of Graphic Arts, one of seven total from the LEC! So you’ve got a treat waiting for you if you find either edition!
Title Page – Here’s a taste of the tan paper. Lewis introduced his own work.
Page 42 – Wood is a fine choice, doing some exceptional portrait work for the main characters. Stunning stuff.
Personal Notes – I got this with my 70+ book haul from the Oakhurst Library, and I’m tickled to have it. I’ve not seen hide nor hair of this book anywhere else, so I’m delighted to have it in my library.
I suppose I should explain this book haul a little better, because I’ve said 50 book haul before. This was a two-part acquiring. The first half was when I went to the library itself to see what my friend John had in store for me, which exceeded my wildest dreams. Someone donated 70+ books, and all of them were Heritage Press books. It was mindblowing to realize that I had the chance of doubling my library! As I went through them all, I plucked key books that I knew I would have difficulty finding elsewhere, and I believe Main Street was among those. I gathered up about 20 books or so. John told me to take those (for free!), and he would talk to the higher-ups about the rest of the lot. I was stunned to walk away with a plethora of Heritage books for free, but I didn’t argue! A month later John called me to say that the manager of the library sales told him to sell the remainder of the books (50, magically) for $50 as a lot if I wanted them. I DID, so I managed to scrounge up the cash and made my way to John’s residence, where he was storing the books. It was a somewhat dangerous drive to his house, as the weather took a nosedive into hailing and occasional snow. His road is a dirt road of the bouncy, undergrated sort. I managed to get there safely and pick up the rest of the lot, handed him the fifty dollars and, with mild regret to not spend any time with him, hurried back home. So, that’s the story of my massive Heritage haul, and why I say 50 books sometimes. It truly was more like 70 or 80. And I STILL WANT MORE. What a curse. XD
October 2, 2011 Comments Off on The Readers Club – The Days of the King by Bruno Frank (1942)
The Days of the King by Bruno Frank (1942)
Foreword by Sinclair Lewis
Artwork – Woodcuts from Adolf von Menzel
Translated by H.T. Lowe-Porter
Exclusive to the Readers Club
Click images to see larger views.
Front Binding – All Readers Club books came with a dust jacket, but this particular copy is missing its clothes. The Readers Club seemingly had two logos – one for the front binding that was a little simpler and a second, more complicated piece on the title page. All of the books I’ve researched and featured a picture of the boards have this on the front, so that makes it easy to find!
Spine – The Macy touch is saved for the spine it seems, as this has a classy one. Author Bruno Frank, judge Sinclair Lewis and deceased illustrator Adolf von Menzel get some props here, as well as a “RC” to further indicate its “Readers Club” ties.
Editorial Committee of the Readers Club – Before the title page is this announcement of the key figures of the Readers Club (save George Macy). Clinton Fadiman seemingly was the least involved according to what I’ve found, but the others popped up quite a bit. Lewis seemed to be the figurehead, despite Alexander Woollcott’s prominence as the Chairman – I’ve seen far more forewords from Lewis in my research than any other. Since I keep referencing it, here’s my research, BTW.
Title Page – Von Menzel’s illustration leaps out at the reader here, but it seems his part of the book was a rarity to the Readers Club. Either that or most books lacked that explanation on the binding/dust jacket and most ABEBooks vendors fail to mention them. Frank’s biographical novel is translated by H.T. Lowe-Porter.
Page XI – My favorite piece of art from this book.
Page 11 – This is nice, too.
Personal Notes – My current book shop employment has this book, but I didn’t buy it due to my overall lack of interest in building up a Readers Club collection (they aren’t as nice as Heritage or LEC titles). Nice of my boss to lend it to me to document, though!
September 24, 2011 § 3 Comments
Very much overshadowed by the Limited Editions Club and the Heritage Press is George Macy’s third venture into book publishing under his George Macy Company umbrella – The Readers Club. What you are about to read is compiled from many tidbits of information scattered about the web, and the sources will be at the end.
First of all, courtesy of olepuppy at the George Macy Devotees is this meaty bit of information:
A History of Book Publishing in the United States,vol. III, The Golden Age Between Two Wars, 1920-1940 contains several paragraphs about George Macy with references and anecdotes. One paragraph p.504 relates to the Readers Club:
“In March 1941, Macy inaugurated his third venture, the Readers Club, a dollar reprint operation designed to give buyers books that Macy thought had never won the popularity they deserved. Again, other publishers for the most part found little merit in this idea, but Macy persuaded Sinclair Lewis, Clifton Fadiman, Carl Van Doren, and Alexander Woollcott to constitute his board of judges, and on the strength of these names as well as the books they selected, and with the further help of Macy’s high-powered advertising, 140,000 members were enrolled in the first six months. The first selection, E. H. Young’s ‘WILLIAM’, went to 40,000 subscribers. Later choices went as high as an 84,000-member acceptance. As an innovation in book club mechanics, Macy gave his judges one-cent-a-copy royalty for every volume sold.”
From that base, let’s fill in some of the gaps. Woollcott served as the executive chairperson. It would seem that the Club printed 45 individual volumes within its timeline (which, alas, I do not know when it met its end – I’d wager 1943, the last year I have in my checklist below). I do not know with any certainty if letters of some sort or a slipcase were issued with these books – the two I have seen do not have either. They did come with dust jackets judging by this particular copy of The Last Frontier. The books are bound in a somewhat plain fashion, with a “Readers Club” logo on the front and a more elegant spine with a “RC” featured somewhere. The judges provided the forewords to the majority of the titles – Sinclair Lewis for example did the honors for The Days of the King and The History of Mr. Polly. This fact is prominent on the spines and dustjackets of the books I’ve seen. Below is a list that I’ve compiled on the books printed (title followed by author, illustrator [if applicable], the provider of the foreword and year):
William by E.H. Young/?/Carl Van Doren/1941
The History of Mr. Polly by H.G. Wells/?/Sinclair Lewis/1941
The Last Frontier by Howard Fast/?/Carl Van Doren/1941
The Murderer’s Companion by William Roughead/?/Alexander Woollcott/1941
Twelve Against the Gods: The Story of Adventure by William Bolitho/?/Alexander Woollcott/1941
The Fortunes of Richard Mahony: Australia Felix, The Way Home, Ultima Thule by Henry Handel Richardson/?/Sinclair Lewis/1941
The Asiatics by Frederic Prokosch/?/Carl Van Doren/1941
The Days of the King by Bruno Frank/Adolf von Menzel/Sinclair Lewis/1942
Charles Dickens, The Last of the Great Men by G.K. Chesterton/?/Alexander Woollcott/1942
Anel Pavement by J.B. Priestly/?/Sinclair Lewis/1942
Henry Ward Beecher: An American Portrait by Paxton Hibben/?/Sinclair Lewis/1942
Billy Budd, Benito Cereno and the Enchanted Isles: Three Shorter Novels by the Author of Moby Dick by Herman Melville/?/Carl Van Doren/1942
Rendezvous and Other Long & Short Stories About Our Navy in Action by Alec Hudson/?/Carl Van Doren/1943
Tommy and Grizel by J.M. Barrie/?/Clinton Fadiman/1943
Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev/Fritz Eichenberg/Sinclair Lewis/1943 (Heritage Reprint)
The Golden Violet: The Story of a Lady Novelist by Joseph Shearing (Majorie Bowen)/?/Sinclair Lewis/1943
The Young Melbourne by Lord David Cecil/?/Carl Van Doren/1943
Note that this is by no means definitive – I’ve picked what I can from the internet, but any additional insights would be very welcome. I have a special thread at the George Macy Devotees seeking info on the Reader’s Club – drop me a line there or leave me comments here.
Now, since this is an arm of the George Macy Company, I will document books as I stumble upon them here, but I do not plan on making them a part of my personal collection. They are a little too plain for my taste. Expect The Days of the King sometime in the near future.