Welcome to the ninth video for the George Macy Imagery Video Series, where I share some books from the first series of the Limited Editions Club alongside Heritage Press exclusive variants that did their own thing with the same piece of literature. Covered in this episode are Leaves of Grass and The Decameron!
The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (1940)
Sandglass Number 11L
Artwork: Woodcuts by Fritz Kredel
Introduced by Edward Hutton, translated by Anonymous in 1620
Also printed as a special two volume LEC in a limitation of 530 copies, signed by Kredel. The LEC first published The Decameron in 1930, #7 of Series 1, featuring the artwork of T.M. Cleland and the modern English translation of Frances Winwar (see below).
Click images for larger views.
Front Binding – The Decameron is our next highlight of the Heritage Press. A little background on the book’s publishing history is in order! In the very first series of the Limited Editions Club, The Decameron was produced with T.M. Cleland’s design and decorative skills and a modern verse translation by Frances Winwar. I’ve appended this post to feature that edition below.
When the Heritage Press got going, George Macy wanted to revisit The Decameron for that readership. Macy had released a limited run of The Decameron as a special offering to LEC members in 1940, on which this edition is based. He appointed Mr. Fritz Kredel, a man who needs little introduction on this blog by now (but in case you do, here’s a post with his extended tenure working for the Macys), to render period-appropriate decorations to serve as illustrations for this new work. However, despite having copyright over Winwar’s translation, Macy felt that the period-apropos work of Kredel clashed with the modernity of Winwar’s words. So, he went way back to the very first English translation of the text, done anonymously in 1620, to serve as a proper contrast to Kredel’s woodcuts. It also returns two chapters omitted from 1620 that were considered too “racy” back then with a simple modern English translation (no idea if it’s Winwar’s or not). Ultimately, 530 copies of the premium Kredel Decameron were issued to LEC members in 1940, making it the rarest limitation of any Macy-era LEC. There is no Heritage edition of the earlier Cleland/Winwar collaboration.
I’ve included a special bonus in the Sandglass section of the post; an official announcement issued in 1948 regarding the switch of some of the titles in the Heritage program. Now, one will notice rather quickly that 1940 is not the same year as 1948. I can’t explain the inner workings of the Company, but it would appear to me that the LEC edition shipped out in 1940, and that a potential Heritage edition may have been benched until 1948, as Macy sure is making it sound like The Decameron was not issued to the Heritage Press until then. Regardless, it’s a glimpse into the scheduling background that readers rarely get to see in the publishing world, and worth a look for those curious about Macy’s operations.
A final note on the author before we touch on the design; Giovanni Boccaccio published other works beyond The Decameron, but that was all the LEC or Heritage Press offered. Still, it’s always an honor (in my view) to get your work printed twice by the same high-end publishing house.
Design-wise, the design of the type for this edition was handled by Mr. Macy himself. Kredel was the designer of the boards. Cloister (main text) and Centaur (title page and other decorative uses) are the fonts. West Virginia Paper Company supplied the paper. That’s as far as the Sandglass and book goes in revealing design elements!
Title Page – A lovely title page that was supposed to reflect the era of the Italian Renaissance; Kredel hit it out of the park, I’d say. Despite that, it’s interesting they refer to Boccaccio as John here. Edward Hutton has much to say on the work and the translation in his Introduction.
Examples of the In-text Decorations by Kredel (right click and open in new tab for full size):
Personal Notes – I got this as part of my volunteering at Second Time Around Used Books in Merced. The condition is a little rough, and the slipcase is barely together, but the bonus ephemera and scarcity of this book (I’ve only seen this particular copy in a store) made me snag it. I look forward to reading it sometime.
Sandglass and Announcement Letter (right click and open in new tab for full size):
The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (1930)
LEC #7/1st Series V. 7 in 1930
Artwork: Decorations by T.M. Cleland
Introduced by Burton Rascoe, with a modern English translation by Frances Winwar
LEC #1098 of 1500. This edition is a LEC exclusive.
Click images to see larger views.
Front Binding – Now for the new content, the original 1930 edition of The Decameron! This was the seventh offering from the Limited Editions Club, and a high quality release that truly shines the spotlight on one of the more illustrative of Macy’s many book designers. Unlike the Heritage, it was issued in two volumes.
Not much more to add to Baccaccio’s comments from before, but we can talk a little about the aforementioned designer, T.M. Cleland, who got his start with this very book. His decorations are perfect for this edition, and highlights the very things I find most enjoyable about his work: an exquisite sense of placement. His title page is as usual spectacular, and his decorations suit the beginning of each “chapter” beautifully. You can definitely see the talent that would embellish many more LECs in the future here.
Design Notes – Cleland designed the book, as I noted. From the Quarto:
Title Page – Astounding. I love Cleland’s title page designs; they bring me so much joy. Frances Winwar delivered a brand new modern translation to Macy for this edition, while Burton Rascoe wrote up an introduction.
Colophon – This is #1098 of 1500, and Cleland signed the colophon.
Examples of Cleland’s illustrations (right click and open in new tab for full size):
Personal Notes – I got this on the same trip to Moe’s in Berkeley as the Jorrocks book I just wrote up on. This was definitely one of the high points of that trip!
Example of the text/decorations
Updated 4/12/2020 by JF
Hey, remember the trivia category? Well, I’m bringing it back. This time, let’s examine who George Macy and the subsequent owners of the Limited Editions Club commissioned the most over the Club’s long tenure!
10) Sylvain Sauvage (7)
Sauvage illustrated several French classics for the LEC, including Cyrano de Bergerac, The History of Zadig (pictured), and two works of Anatole France, The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard and At the Sign of the Queen Pedauque. He also handled As You Like It in the LEC Shakespeare.
9) Rene ben Sussan (8)
ben Sussan had two commissions of Honore de Balzac, rendering the worlds of Old Goriot and Eugenie Grandet as part of his eight titles for the LEC. He also had a hand in English drama, providing art for Jonson’s Volpone, the Fox and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Pictured is The Chronicle of the Cid.
8) John Austen (8)
Several British works were illustrated by Austen: Vanity Fair (pictured), The Comedy of Errors, The Faerie Queene, The Pickwick Club, and The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle. He also branched out a little with Aristophanes’ The Birds.
7) Agnes Miller Parker (8)
The sole woman on our list, Parker’s exquisite woodcuts brought life to all of Thomas Hardy’s novels printed by the Club, as well as The Faerie Queene (pictured), Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard, Richard the Second, and The Poems of Shakespeare.
6) T.M. Cleland (8)
A talented designer as well as artist, Cleland’s artistic gifts were displayed a little less frequently, but often enough to earn a place on our list. Some of his works include The Decameron, The History of Tom Jones, The Way of the World, She Stoops to Conquer and The Life and Times of Tristan Shandy, Gentleman. Pictured is Monsieur Beauclaire.
5) Valenti Angelo (12)
The simplistic yet stylistic grace of Angelo graced a dozen books of the LEC, and several of them are masterworks of literature: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, The House of the Seven Gables, The Books of a Thousand Nights and a Night, Songs of the Portuguese, and several religious texts, like The Koran, The Book of Proverbs and The Book of Psalms. Pictured is The Song of Roland.
4) Lynd Ward (13)
Ward’s thirteen contributions mark him as one of the most prominent illustrators for Macy, and he didn’t even work on the LEC Shakespeare like the majority of the others on this list! Ward’s commissions ranged from non-fiction works such as Rights of Man and On Conciliation with America to fantastical works such as Beowulf and Idylls of the King to contemporary works like The Innocent Voyage (pictured) and For Whom the Bell Tolls.
3) Fritz Eichenberg (15)
The gifted Eichenberg worked the longest stretch of any of our artists; his first commission was 1939’s Richard the Third for the LEC Shakespeare to 1986’s The Diary of a Country Priest. One of the few to work under late Club owner Sid Shiff, Eichenberg’s output left the LEC a lasting legacy that is difficult to ignore. Best known for his work on the Russian legends of literature, including Eugene Onegin, Crime and Punishment (pictured), Fathers and Sons, and Childhood, Boyhood, Youth.
2) Edward A. Wilson (17)
Wilson was productive, to say the least; he even had his own Heritage volume detailing his artwork! Among the many classics he brought visual splendor to are Westward Ho!, Treasure Island, The Tempest (pictured), Robinson Crusoe, Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
1) Fritz Kredel (20)
And finally we come to Fritz Kredel, the king of illustrating for the LEC with a massive twenty volumes! Many collections of fairy tales were conjured by Kredel, including both Andersen (pictured) and the Brothers Grimm. Two Shakespeares, two Trollopes, two Twains, Thackeray, Darwin, Austen, Plato and Heine were among the literary giants Kredel decorated for Macy, and his talent was certainly up to such a diverse palette of books.
Next time, we’ll explore the most frequent Heritage Press artists in terms of their exclusives. We’ll see how many of these artisans cross over!
She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith (1964)
Sandglass Number V:34
Artwork: Illustrations and Decorations by T.M. Cleland
Introduced by Louis Kronenberger
Reprint of LEC #358, 32nd Series, V. 8 in 1964
Click images for larger views.
Front Bindng – It’s the return of Oliver Goldsmith! We last saw the multifaceted author for the Heritage exclusive The Vicar of Wakefield, and this will be the concluding post on his Macy career, as this classic play was the sole LEC offering of Goldsmith’s work (which got a Heritage edition as well, which is what we’re covering at present).
T.M. Cleland also makes another return to the blog, with this as his final commission before his death. He did double duty on this book, both rendering it with illustrations and decorations AND designing the overall look of it. Cleland’s career is delved into in my Monsieur Beaucaire post. It’s unfortunate that I generally dislike the artistic style chosen for this book, an apparent favorite of the LEC during the 60’s. The illustrations are little vignettes of the action being depicted in the text, but the execution of them rubs me the wrong way. I feel the same about Serge Ivanoff’s Tartuffe and the Would-Be Gentleman. There’s something about the overall look that doesn’t delight my imagination. My loss, I suppose.
Anyway, enough of my grumbles. Cleland worked with Bell as the primary font, which was then set by the Thistle Press. Connecticut Printers handled the printing on vellum-finish ivory paper from Monadnock Mill, and the bindery of choice was the old standby Russell-Rutter. Cleland’s art was printed in a unique way; each drawing in the text was done individually by color, so Cleland actually did 115 or so drawings to make up the nineteen illustrations in the book. He also did a splendid title page decoration (as he is aught to do), which is visible below.
Title Page – Cleland will always stand as one of the best title page designers in my book; this is yet another stellar example. See Monsieur Beaucaire for another. Louis Kronenberger steps in to introduce this work, which is his apparent third unification with Cleland; the two also collaborated (indirectly) on The History of Tom Jones and The Way of the World.
Examples of the Illustrations by Cleland (right click and open in new tab for full size):
Personal Notes – I picked this up at a little shop in Jamestown, California. The name escapes me at present, but I’ve gotten a couple of good books from this place. I’ll have to write it down next time I visit and update this. I clearly have this work for the text.
Sandglass (right click and select Open in New Tab to see full size):
The Essays of Michel de Montaigne (Volume 1 and Handbook [LEC], Volume 2 [HP], 1946)
Sandglass Number: Unknown
Artwork: Decorations by T.M. Cleland
Introduction by Andre Gide, translated by George B. Ives, with additional notes by Grace Norton
LEC #176, 17th Series, V. 2 in 1946
Click images for larger views. The LEC edition will be on top/left, the Heritage bottom/right (unless otherwise stated)
Front Binding – Michel de Montaigne is one of the legends of the literary essay, helping pioneer the concept of Skepticism and pretty much creating the definition of the essay as a major form of writing. He has inspired numerous authors over the centuries, and his ideas continue to influence us today. He was a Frenchman of noble blood, and was viewed more or less as a statesman who liked to write more than a serious author in his own time – his style, which included autobiographical anecdotes along with more philosophical inquires, was not en vogue in the mid to late 1500’s when he lived, and his work has a fairly modern feel to it that makes him easier to understand than some of his contemporaries.
In 1946 the Limited Editions Club decided to publish the Essays in a lovely four volume set, three containing Montaigne’s work and a fourth with notes on the work from the translator, George B. Ives, and additional comments from Grace Norton. T.M. Cleland served as both designer and illustrator for the work, and he attached his signature to the LEC edition. For those wishing to know more about him, I have detailed out Cleland’s career with the Macy’s here. When the Heritage Press did their edition, they condensed the books down to three, splitting Volume 2 into two parts and keeping the notes as a separate work. Regarding the LEC, I checked out two, the first and the Handbook, for the purpose of this blog. All four have the same binding style. I picked up the Heritage Montaigne Volume 2 for documentation on the cheap.
A curious thing I noted about the George Macy editions of the work is that they didn’t commission a new translation or introduction. Andre Gide offers his thoughts on Montaigne, but this first appeared in 1939 by Longmans Green and Co. Ives’ translation is from Harvard University Press, printed in 1925. While this isn’t completely unusual, it’s a little odd that they didn’t recruit somebody to do either of those tasks. The LEC edition was printed by The Aldus Printers.
Title Page – Furthering my belief that Cleland was a master at title pages. Lovely stuff. I am under the impression Grace Norton’s contributions are unique to this edition, but I have no proof of that.
Drastically different lighting I had on these, I must say.
Signature Page – This is number 1122, and Cleland provides his nom de plume.
Page 3 (LEC) – The chapter heads have pretty decorations at the head of each, and I’ve provided two examples of this for each edition. There are no further illustrations.
Page 29 (LEC)
Page 817 (HP)
Page 1453 (HP)
Personal Notes – Picked up for a song at a library book sale, although part of that reason is that it’s a poor library copy. The book itself is in good condition, but it’s full of writing and stamps. :( I’ll be selling it off soon. The LEC version was checked out from my university.