The Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France (1953)
LEC #239/22nd Series, V. 7
Sandglass Number I:19
Artwork: Etchings by Pierre Watrin
Introduced by Desmond MacCarthy, and translated by Mrs. Wilfrid Jackson
#1431 of 1500
Heritage Press reprinted this edition, both compared below.
Click images to see larger views.
Front Binding – Today brings an older post back from 2011, The Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France. Having come across the LEC edition, it’s time to finally compare the Heritage against it to see how they stack up. One thing you’ll notice is that the LEC (right) is slightly larger than the Heritage edition (left). It’s not a huge difference, but it is enough of one that it does impact the interior of the Heritage reprint, which we’ll get to.
Let’s discuss the author for a moment. Anatole France, the satirical French author who you see all too little reprinting of these days, is the subject of today’s post. The Revolt of the Angels was the last one printed by the Limited Editions Club, following At the Sign of the Queen Pedauque (1933), The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard (1937), Penguin Island (1947), and Crainquebille (1949). The first two were illustrated by Sylvain Sauvage (who would also do a special Penguin Island for the Heritage Press, among several others), while Malcolm Cameron and Bernard Lamotte supplied illustrations for the last two, respectively. The Heritage Press also did another of his works, The Gods are a-Thrist for the Heritage French Romances line. Django6924 has this to add about France’s popularity within the Macy Companies:
It is interesting that the Macy companies gave so much attention to Anatole France, who, though a Nobel Prize winner, was certainly not in the upper echelon. Five of his novels found representation in the LEC and one additional Heritage Press only edition of The Gods are a-thirst. This puts him ahead of Thomas Hardy, one of the better represented English novelists (Conrad eventually pulled ahead of France, but a majority of his works were printed after Macy’s tenure–during the time George Macy was in charge, only Dickens was better represented among novelists.)
This particular book has a bit of interesting history to it, as the Club was wanting to publish a fine edition, but were not receiving sample illustrations that they felt matched the book’s spirit. In fact, they go on record saying that they were “disappointed with these sample drawings”. While in Paris, France’s (the author, not the country) original publisher, Calmann-Levy, was about to unleash their own collector’s edition of Revolt, with etchings done by Sauvage protege Pierre Watrin. Watrin’s work fit the Club’s imagining of their book so perfectly that they gained reprinting rights for the art, and had them reproduced via gravures.
This was Watrin’s only work for the LEC, which was, as mentioned above, not unique to it. Blog commenter and fellow Macy Devotee featherwate had plenty to say about Watrin’s career following this book:
What the Sandglass doesn’t reveal is that during the seven years that elapsed between Watrin’s etchings appearing in the Calmann-Levy limited edition of the Revolt (1946) and their re-appearance in the LEC/HP editions of 1953, the artist himself seems to have largely abandoned serious book illustration to become an animation artist (and later director). He worked on one of the most famous of French cartoon features, Le Roi et L’Oiseau [English title: The King and the Mocking Bird], which began production in 1948 and was finally completed in – wait for it! – 1980; the delay was caused by studio bankruptcy and arguments over rights. The best-known of his other films is The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (1976), which he co-directed with Asterix’s creators Goscinny and Uderzo.
It was an interesting change of career for someone who was a star pupil of Sylvain Sauvage and according to the Sandglass had in only eight years established a high reputation as an illustrator and theatre designer. I have to say that most of the few illustrations of his I have found reproduced on the internet are pretty mundane compared to his etchings for Revolt: bread-and-butter pictures in children’s books and strip-cartoon histories of various French provinces (and let’s not overlook Space Mission Health Hygéa 7, a bizarre-sounding medical guide for teenagers[?] issued by the French government).
At http://www.flickr.com/photos/62235807@N02/ I’ve posted a still from Le Roi; the film is in colour but this b&w portrait hanging on a wall seems to have the same graphic wit as Watrin’s etchings for Revolt. I like to think of it as his work.
And I’m sure that’s more than you ever wanted to know about the life and work of Pierre Watrin!
Design Notes – Saul and Lillian Marks handled design and publishing duties for the LEC edition via their Plantin Press, while Ferris Printing Company produced the Heritage edition. Django6924 had this to say about the Marks:
The Revolt of the Angels was another production from Saul and Lillian Mark’s Plantin Press in Los Angeles…In the Monthly Letter on another of the several books from Plantin, Macy wrote that the presswork “was the finest since John Henry Nash went to his reward.” This was the ultimate in praise, as Macy felt that for quality, Nash was unmatched by any printer alive.
The LEC edition has the following particulars (per the Quatro-Millenary:
The LEC’s silk-finish cloth appears to be of sterner stuff than the binding material for the Heritage; the boards are covered in a “silky material of a midnight-blue color” according to the Sandglass, but the ink that stained it is incredibly sensitive to fading in the sun, as I’ve seen at least five different copies all afflicted with a grayed, dull spine. Shame, too, as it’s otherwise a nice book. Both feature a sword adorned with angel wings stamped into the front boards in silver leaf, shared with the spine.
The Heritage had its gravures handled by the Photogravure and Color Company in New York, like its LEC forebear. Paper was supplied by the International Paper Company. Russell-Rutter handled the binding of this version.
Spines – The Heritage is on top, and demonstrates how badly the fabric tends to sun for this edition. In contrast, the LEC is a vibrant blue.
Title Page – Mrs. Wilfrid Jackson, who spent much of her time translating the works of France it would seem from a quick Googling, seems the right person for the job translating this work. Desmond MacCarthy serves up an Introduction.
Colophon – This LEC is #1431 of 1500. Watrin did not provide his signature, probably due to the several year gap in releases and the fact Macy did not commission him specifically to do this book.
There isn’t much difference between the production quality of the two editions internally beyond two key things: the paper in the LEC feels higher quality between your fingers, and the text is slightly compressed in the Heritage. An example of this can be seen below:
Page 23 – The top is the Heritage, the bottom is the LEC. The Heritage’s font is a tad denser, while the LEC has a thinner crispness to it. The illustrations are well copied, considering the same company handled both editions on that front (and both were photogravures in the first place).
As for the art, the LEC was wise to gain the rights to reprinting Watrin’s work, as he has a distinct style that seems to work well.
Page 30 (Heritage) – There’s some in-text art as well.
Page 83 (Heritage top, LEC bottom)
Page 103 (LEC)
Personal Notes – This is one of the most common Heritage Press books I’ve seen, as least where I used to live. Two of my old bookshop gigs had one, I bought this documented one at a local library sale…it’s sort of bizarre how often I used to see this. I also have spotted it in the Bay Area a lot.
Compared to France’s other books (which are rarer for me to find), Revolt seems to follow me around. :p I bought the copy I have now at Second Time Around in Merced (the last shop I worked at), which had a slipcase and was generally a nicer condition. Since the initial writing of this post I’ve gotten the LEC of this one as well as the aforementioned Gods Are A-Thrist, and snagging the rest of France’s LEC and Heritage output is high on my list to acquire!
I also happen to have a delightful Penguin Island and The Revolt of the Angels printing by Dodd, Mead in the late 1920’s that is illustrated wonderfully by Frank C. Pape. He did a series of France’s work for that publisher following France’s Nobel Prize win. Unfortunately, Pape never collaborated with the George Macy Company.
Another interesting thing that happened with this book for me is the inclusion of a second Sandglass, for the Heritage Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, a book I have never laid eyes on (and not for lack of trying!). It is some relief to know that if I ever do stumble upon one I won’t need it to have a Sandglass inside it as a determining factor (although I’d probably buy it on the spot considering how scarce it is). Curiously, the second copy I bought had a Sandglass for Washington Irving’s History of New York if I remember correctly. So, look inside copies of Revolt for unexpected Sandglasses!
Updated 8/18/2019 JF