Heritage Press – The Story of Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost (1935)

September 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

The Story of Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost D’Exiles (1935)
Sandglass Number 3K (not the original printing’s)
Artwork: Illustrated by Pierre Brissaud
Translated by Helen Waddell, with a note by the author
Heritage Press Exclusive
Special Limited Edition, with a special exclusive print on the title page signed by Brissaud – only 1500 of these exist.

Click images for larger views.

Front Binding – The Heritage Press began in 1935 with a fine set of six books exclusive at the time to that imprint (with some remaining so), but George Macy decided to celebrate his second major printing business by creating 1,500 limited edition copies of those six, and gave the LEC membership first crack at them.  I’ve gone into more detail about these on The Pickwick Papers (due to Dickens’ David Copperfield being in that initial salvo), but I’ll summarize — Manon Lescaut is one of those, with the aforementioned Dickens, plus Romeo and Juliet, The Scarlet Letter, A Shropshire Lad and The Song of Songs.  For these limited versions, the bindings are distinctly different from the standard printing and feature a signature of the artist somewhere within, usually with an exclusive print.  This copy of Manon Lescaut is one of those 1,500 copies.  The Sandglass I got with it is, unfortunately, not the proper one for the limited edition, but it states that T.M. Cleland is responsible for the design.

Cleland illustrated for Macy on top of designing lovely books (see Monsieur Beauclare), but in this case French watercolorist Pierre Brissaud was recruited for the task.  Brissaud began his Macy contributions here, and he would have been the original Cyrano de Bergerac (1936) artist if it weren’t for the chaos leading into World War II that sent Brissaud into hiding during the German occupation.  Luckily, Brissaud survived and resumed his output for the Macy houses in 1950, which the Cyrano link above goes into more detail.

As for the boards, they are a lovely blue marble with a delightful spine made of leather – see below:


I did get a slipcase for this, but it’s not all that amazing and it’s a bit fragile, so I refrained from photographing it.

Title Page – For Manon Lescaut, Brissaud’s signature is on the title page with an exclusive print that is, to my knowledge, not in the reprints.  I looked at a variety of standard printings while browsing and did not see this reprinted at all.  Later illustrations were bumped up into its place, and one even had the left side blank.  I’m not 100% sure of the publishing era of any of those, but I’ll try to check next time I’m at the same shop.  This print is distinctly different from the rest of Brissaud’s watercolors gracing the book – it’s far sharper and more colorful.  The effective shading is just wonderful.

The Nonesuch Press assisted Macy with the printing duties for the limited run – the later Sandglass makes no mention of who printed those editions.  The Nonesuch Press was tightly knit with the George Macy Company for a considerable time – Macy briefly owned the press from the late 1930’s to the 1950’s, and was good friends with Sir Francis Meynell, its founder.  Nonesuch collaborated with Macy on a set of Dickens for the Heritage Press and a series of some French romances, among other things.  Meynell also provided an introduction to George Meredith’s The Shaving of Shagpat, which is fitting since he was the author’s godson.  His mother was well-known suffragist and poet Alice Meynell.

Cleland went with A. Colish’s Fournier type, which Colish set at 14-point.  The standard print used Collins Manufacturing Company paper, but I’m not sure who provided it for the limited set.

Page 6 – I need to get the rest of Brissaud’s work – I adore it all.  I like the dogs in this piece – it adds a lot to the overall liveliness of the painting.

Page 20

Personal Notes – As I was perusing my favorite shop, I noticed this book and thought that it was something unique.  I had no idea how unique it was until I began comparing it to other editions (of which there were ample supply), and Brissaud’s signature just didn’t seem real to be in a Heritage book (I had not done the research on the first six prior to this discovery!) in such a prominent place…but yet there it was, and it was $15!  The boards were luscious compared to the others, and that title page art was so bold…I knew I had something special.  I checked on it in the hotel room and was delighted to see my instinct was right – I did pick up a special printing of an exquisite book.

Sandglass (later printing):


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