Of Interest: A Smattering of Non-Macy Books with LEC Illustrators #1

August 12, 2013 Comments Off on Of Interest: A Smattering of Non-Macy Books with LEC Illustrators #1

Hello all! Today I will be sharing five (!) books with you. These are non-Macy editions of several classic works, illustrated by some of the more prominent LEC illustrators. Three will be debuting today: Eric Gill, Boardman Robinson and Edward A. Wilson. The remaining two feature artists I’ve recently covered on the blog, Fritz Eichenberg and William Sharp. These are not my books; my good friend Lois was kind enough to let me borrow them to photograph them. Unfortunately, most of these are reprints of Random House or Doubleday editions, so I do not have designer info for them. With that in mind, I’ll be quickly summarizing their attributes, offering a brief opinion, and providing images for them. With that, let’s begin!

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg, translated by Constance Garnett, published by Garden City Publishing Co. in 1948 from the 1944 Doubleday edition.

Eichenberg does not utilize the engraver’s tools for this commission; instead, he goes with his linework, and it’s a good match. I do greatly prefer his wood and stone cuts, but I think his penmanship is also pretty spectacular. Compare this to Freedman’s LEC/Heritage take.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, illustrated by William Sharp, published by Garden City Publishing Co. in 1948 from the 1944 Doubleday edition.

Sharp takes on Collins’ famous novel with a combination of his styles used for the Macy editions of Tales of Mystery and Imagination and the biographical works of Rousseau and Pepys here. There are full page illustrations that remind me of the Poe commission, as well as many supplementary in-text drawings a la the biographies. There’s some astounding stuff in here, I must say. I haven’t seen Dignimont’s spin for the LEC, but I have covered his work for The Wanderer.

Favorite Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by Edward A. Wilson, introduced by Henry Seidel Canby, published by Doubleday in 1947

This may be some of Wilson’s best work I’ve personally seen. Of course, I’ve yet to share any of his Macy contributions with you, but I plan on remedying that when I get the time. Excellent printing, too! Wilson did too many LEC and Heritage books to list here, but I’ll include three that I own for reference; Treasure Island, Westward Ho! and A Journey to the Center of the Earth. The LEC edition was illustrated by Boyd Hanna.

Troilus and Cressida by Geoffrey Chaucer, illustrated by Eric Gill, translated by George Philip Krapp, printed by the Literary Guild in 1932 from the 1932 Random House edition.

Gill does a rather fine job here if you ask me. His woodcuts evoke the essence of the work of Chaucer quite well, and they embellish every page. There’s a few full-size pieces, too. I’d like to see the Random House issuing! Gill did the original LEC Hamlet and A Sentimental Journey of France and Italy. The LEC Troilus lacks conventional illustration, but is decorated by George W. Jones.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, illustrated by Boardman Robinson, translated by Constance Garnett, published by Halcyon House in 1940 from the 1933 Random House edition.

I must admit that Robinson does not do much for me. His style clashes with my personal tastes. I’ve seen his LEC commission for Spoon River Anthology (a tragic copy that was overpriced for its shoddy condition, despite author Edgar Lee Masters contributing his signature) and despite being a big fan of the work, his art doesn’t really mesh with me. He also did the LEC Moby Dick. Contrast this to the two Macy editions of Karamazov.

Of Interest: Fritz Eichenberg’s Conceptual Work

July 7, 2012 Comments Off on Of Interest: Fritz Eichenberg’s Conceptual Work

Fritz Eichenberg is one of my favorite illustrators, and today I wanted to share with you some of his “behind-the-scenes” material included in his marvelous collection of woodcuts and lithographs, The Wood and the Graver. This is a must for fans of Eichenberg, as it includes personal recollections of most of his LEC and Heritage Press output, plus a generous smattering of his exquisite art from the George Macy Company and beyond. I’ll share some of his memories with you at a later date, but for now, enjoy the pictures. :)

This shot may look familiar to anyone who has seen Eichenberg’s Crime and Punishment Heritage or LEC. This is a posed shot Eichenberg did of himself in order to aid capturing the tense moment seen on the title page in both books. Here’s the finished product:

While we’re talking about this engraving, here’s a glimpse into the carving process:

This gives you the briefest understanding of the time and dedication it takes to be a wood engraver. The text expands upon that significantly. How about some sketchwork? Since we’ve been discussing Crime and Punishment, we’ll begin there:

The final woodcut appears on page 250 of the Heritage and Page 323 in the LEC.

This comes from The Idiot, but I do not know the page number right off hand. It’s like the one Dostoevsky I don’t have. XD

This too is from The Idiot.

The last sketch I have for you now is from the Heritage Gulliver’s Travels. Alas, I can’t aid you with a page number here, either.

The last two pieces are not conceptual, but are actually variants of art seen in The Brothers Karamazov. At the same time, Eichenberg had a commission for another Dostoevsky work for an alternate publisher, The Grand Inquisitor. Unlike Karamazov, which used stone lithographs, he did Inquisitor with wood engravings. I can do a comparison of one of them at the moment, and I’ll see about eventually refreshing the post with the final version of all of these sketches once I have The Idiot and Gulliver’s Travels in my possession. (There is a Dostoevsky pun there). Anyway!

And the other:

Hope you enjoyed this peek into Eichenberg’s creation process!

Limited Editions Club – The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1933, 1961 [Heritage])

April 22, 2012 § 7 Comments

Welcome to our first comparison post of two differing versions of a work. Here we will discuss the original LEC Brothers Karamazov done in 1933 to a later Heritage reprint of the 1949 LEC. Both have the same translation, but feature distinctly different design and artistic traits unique to their editions. For this post I will focus on the 1933 LEC first, and then move onto the Heritage. Let’s start, shall we?

Note – I have just added the Monthly Letter to the King-illustrated Karamazov, but I have not updated the text to reflect the knowledge within. That will come.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1933, 3 volumes)
LEC #50/5th Series V. 2 in 1933
Artwork – Portrait Illustrations by Alexander King
Translated by Constance Garnett, Introduced by Avrahm Yarmolinsky
LEC #919 of 1500

Click images for larger views.

Front Binding (1933 LEC) – Since all three are unique (and lovely!) in their bindings, I snapped each one individually. I like the green/orange/blue shades and the crazy rib-like boards. D.B. Updike of the Merrymount Press handled printing duties (and potentially design duties as well, but I’m not sure of that). That’s unfortunately all I can tell you about the book’s creation.

Luckily, I do have plenty to tell you about the author’s history with the LEC (since I forgot to do so in my prior Dostoevsky posts on Crime and Punishment and The House of the Dead!). Fyodor Dostoevsky is the giant of giants in Russian literature, and with very good reason. The George Macy Company thought of him highly, and lavishly produced several editions of his works over their tenure, with future owners Cardevon and Sid Shiff joining in the fun as well. This set was the beginning of the long-lasting relationship in 1933, with the Heritage Crime and Punishment following in 1938 with Fritz Eichenberg’s woodcuts. The LEC would reprint that in 1948 as a 2-volume set. A revisit to The Brothers Karamazov followed in 1949, again featuring Eichenberg’s art, this time in stone lithographs. It’s clear that the Club caught Dostoevsky/Eichenberg fever from there, because all but one of the remaining publications unite the two again and again: 1956’s The Idiot, 1959’s The Possessed, 1974’s A Raw Youth (under Cardevon), and Sid Shiff’s concluding production of The House of the Dead in 1982. The only other case Eichenberg was not involved was the short story combo The Gambler and Notes from Underground, released in 1967 and starring Alexande Alexeieff as its illustrator. No wonder Eichenberg seems to be known in our circles as “the Russian illustrator”; He also did art for the works of Tolstoy (Resurrection, War and Peace), Pushkin (Eugene Onegin) and Turgenev (Father and Sons).

But enough with Eichenberg for the time being. His time will come in the second half of this monster of a post. Let’s focus on Alexander King, who is making his debut on our blog with this post. King deserves notoriety as being the very first illustrator for the Club, giving the 1929 Travels of Lemuel Gulliver his artistic flair. He next gave Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones his talent on 1931, with this set following that in 1933. Alas, that would be the end of the Macy connection. King was far more than an illustrator, though; he became a media sensation on The Tonight Show in later years, as well as writing several books, both fiction and non. He was a bohemian who got deep into drug addiction, multiple marriages and had several health problems, but he managed to leave his mark in the entertainment world. It’s fitting that he helped launch the decadent press that we love so well in a way.

Spines

Title Page – Constance Garnett is often the go-to for Russian translation for the Club, and this is a shining example of that practice (if not the first instance of that practice!). Avrahm Yarmolinsky is the introductory presenter here, an act he would do again for Eugene Onegin. The later 1949 printing reuses both Garnett and Yarmolinsky’s respective talents, which makes it all the more curious why they reprinted it. Well, Eichenberg’s work is spectacular in that, which is good enough for me!

Signature Page – Copy #919, with King’s signature.

Page 1 – King’s style is more cartoonish than Eichenberg’s, but it works. His portraits elude an intriguing sense of characterization, that they do.

Page 82

Page 129 – I like the exaggerated eyes.

Personal Notes – Checked out from my UC library. Wouldn’t mind owning it!

Monthly Letter:

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1961)
Sandglass Number: III: 33R
Artwork: Lithographs by Fritz Eichenberg
Translated by Constance Garnett, Introduced by Avrahm Yarmolinsky
Reprint of LEC #197, 19th Series, V. 1 in 1949

Front Binding – Another splendid binding. Apparently The Brothers Karamazov has that effect on book designers. Here we get a great illustration of Dostoevsky done by Eichenberg; note the crucified foot to the right of his head. Both sides feature this stunning rendition of the author. Thanks to a Sandglass, I can tell you some design info on this one. The text is set in Original Old Style font, composed by E.L. Hildreth & Company. Printing was handled by the Duenewald Printing Corporation of New York on paper supplied by Finch, Pruyn and Company. Binding was by Russell-Rutter (man, that shop could have stayed alive just because of Macy’s interactions with them).

So, now I can blab about Fritz Eichenberg all I want. I noticed that I have utterly failed to list out every book he had a hand in for George Macy and the subsequent owners of the LEC, and I’d like to rectify that now. It all began with the Heritage Press. The 1938 Crime and Punishment set Eichenberg off on a long and storied career few other illustrators can match. He next performed his craft in the massive LEC Shakespeare set, rendering the grotesque Richard the Third. Eugene Onegin was next in 1943. The LEC Crime and Punishment followed in 1948, although I don’t think he did anything new for that re-release. The Brothers Karamazov came out in 1949. Fathers and Sons was next in 1951, and Hawthorne’s King Midas and the Golden Touch, released as part of a greater set of Evergreen Tales, went out in 1952. Goethe’s The Story of Reynard the Fox was shipped in 1954. A third Dostoevsky novel, The Idiot, was released in 1956, with another, The Possessed, coming out in 1959. Tolstoy’s Resurrection was unveiled in 1963. A second Tolstoy collaboration came under Cardevon’s ownership, with 1972’s Childhood, Boyhood, Youth. Dostoevsky’s A Raw Youth continued the chain in 1974. While Eichenberg did not illustrate the book’s pages, he did contribute a print to Villon’s Lyrical Poems in 1979. 1981 saw Eichenberg tackle Grimmelshausen’s The Adventures of Simplicissimus for Sid Shiff. 1982 saw the final Dostoevsky work the Club printed, with Eichenberg naturally attached, in The House of the Dead. The last LEC Eichenberg made illustrations for was Georges’ The Diary of a Country Priest in 1986. Almost a fifty year run! And I haven’t even touched on his two other Heritage exclusives, War and Peace and Gulliver’s Travels. In total, Eichenberg provided his incredible artwork for 15 LEC’s and 3 Heritage Press books, plus a bonus LEC print for the Villon (those numbers include Crime and Punishment in both their tallies, mainly because I’m not sure if Eichenberg did any further work for the LEC edition). Impressive, isn’t it?

Spine

Slipcase

Title Page – A little more snazzy than the 1933 edition, if I may say so.

Page 8 – The Sandglass lavishes most of its attention onto Eichenberg, in particular his creation of the stone lithographs for this novel. Definitely check it out, as a summary does not do the praise justice. These definitely are among his most breathtaking illustrations.

Page 14 – If there was ever any doubt of Eichenberg’s talent, may this spectacular piece wash it away. Among my favorites of his.

Personal Notes – This came in the massive lot I recently obtained from the Oakhurst Library. This was one of the books I got for free. Yes, you read that right. And it’s one I’ve coveted for years, and now it is mine, complete and in marvelous condition. :)

Sandglass

Well, that was a lot of information! I look forward to the next time I get the chance to do a comparison like this. Either way you go for this book, I think you’ll be rewarded handsomely. :)

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