For the fourth video for the George Macy Imagery Video Series, I begin looking into the First Series of the Limited Editions Club. For this episode, I discuss Two Medieval Tales, Tartarin of Tarascon, and The Fables of Jean de la Fontaine!
Plutarch’s Lives (1941, 8 volumes in total, V. I and VIII utilized for this post)
LEC #128/12th Series V. 11 in 1941
Artwork – Decorations by W.A. Dwiggins
Introduced by Emil Ludwig, translated by James Amoyt (Greek to French) and Thomas North (French to English), edited by Roland Baughman
LEC #N.M. of 1500
Click images to see larger views.
Front Binding (V. I and VIII) – Plutarch’s Lives, or as the title page reads, “The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans Compared Together by that Grave, Learned Philosopher and Historiographer Plutarch of Chaeronea”, is one of the earliest biographies we still have access to today. Plutarch details and compares the lives of various prominent Greek and Roman citizens within this set. The Limited Editions Club unveiled an eight-volume set, designed by W.A. Dwiggins and utilizing the translation of Sir Thomas North, for release in 1941 in the 12th series. On the outside it’s fairly sterile. The brown stripes you see are from the slipcover my university applied to the outside to protect it. The vibrant blue cloth features eight unique stamps by Dwiggins, one per volume, on the spine. It was printed by the Southworth-Anthoensan Press in Portland, Maine. I don’t have a Monthly Letter, so that’s about as far as I can go design-wise.
This was the sole work of Plutarch commissioned by the LEC, which is appropriate, considering it’s the best-known of his surviving works. The Heritage edition condenses this set from eight books to just two, and the binding mimics the title page of this edition (minus the color). It’s even white!
As for Mr. Dwiggins, I haven’t detailed his career yet, so let’s get cracking! His full name was William Addison Dwiggins. He was a prominent book designer, type designer (Caledonia and Electra are his), and illustrator, and was a busy man working for Alfred A. Knopf in the 1920’s and ’30’s, heavily influencing the direction of book design. He coined the term “graphic designer” in 1922 to describe his work. For George Macy, Dwiggins did illustrations on top of book designing, but I may not detail every single book he had a hand with right off the bat. I’m going off of Bill Majure’s list, which only tells me which books he put his name in via signature. So consider this a tentative list. Dwiggins was involved in the very first series, doing work on Alphonse Daudet’s Tartarin of Tarascon in 1930. Droll Stories by Honore de Balzac came next in 1932. 1936 saw Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel see release. This set came next in 1941. He also had a hand in one of the club’s ultra-limited releases, Towards a Reform of the Paper Currency, which only had a limitation of 452 copies when it was released in 1932. That’s all Majure lists of Dwiggins’ output, but I can add two more to that list. He had a hand both in decoration and book design on The Shaving of Shagpat (1955) and The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan (1947). He passed away in 1956.
Title Page – Much like The Shaving of Shagpat, Dwiggins renders Plutarch’s Lives with his trademark decorations. These are the only illustrations in the book. James Amyot and North get full translation credit, while Roland Baughman serves as the LEC editor for this edition. Emil Ludwig, biographer and author of Napoleon, offers an introduction.
Signature Page – This is one of those special runs of a LEC that is not numbered but initialed. I wish I knew who N.M. was, but alas, this is the first book with those initials I’ve come across, and all of the other LEC’s at my university library were numbered. Dwiggins provides his signature.
Page 3 – An example of Dwiggins’ pre-chapter headers, which are all the colorful flourishes the book gets beyond the decadent title page.
Personal Notes – I checked this out from my university to document it for the blog, but I would not decline owning it myself. I have seen one set out in the wild, and the slipcase is a ginormous orange box that seems like it would shatter if the circumstances were right. I think two slipcases would have been ideal, but I didn’t design the book! I’ll see about getting the Heritage printing (oddly enough it too is at my university library) on here once the next semester starts.
If you have the Monthly Letter, I would greatly appreciate hosting it and expanding the contents of this post! Please drop me a line in the comments here or through my thread at Librarything. Thanks!
While I’ve yet to cover most of the exquisite LEC Shakespeares, I’ve had a devil of a time trying to find a complete list of the illustrators for the 39 volume set. Well, I’m happy to present to you that very coveted list, in a typed form, so that it’ll be available to LEC collectors looking for books from their favorite illustrators. All of the books were designed by Bruce Rogers.
All’s Well that Ends Well – Drawings by Richard Floethe, printed in color by A. Colish
Antony and Cleopatra – Wood engravings by Enric-Cristobal Ricart, pulled by R.& R. Clark and hand-colored by Jean Saude
As You Like It – Watercolors by Sylvain Sauvage, hand-colored by Mourlot Freres
The Comedy of Errors – Wood engravings by John Austen, pulled and printed in 5 colors by R.& R. Clark
Coriolanus – Tempura paintings by C. Pal Molnar, lithographed in 15 colors by Mourlot Freres
Cymbeline – Lithographs by Yngve Berg, pulled by the Curwen Press
Hamlet – Dry-brush drawings by Edy Legrand, printed in collotype/black/gray by Georges Duval
Henry the Fourth Part I – Color lithographs by Barnett Freedman, pulled by the Curwen Press
Henry the Fourth Part II – Watercolors by Edward Bawden, hand-colored by Jean Saude and printed in collotype by Georges Duval
Henry the Fifth – Pencil drawings by Vera Willoughby, lithographed by Mourlot Freres
Henry the Sixth Part I – Lithographs by Graham Sutherland, pulled by the Curwen Press
Henry the Sixth Part II – Lithographs by Carlotta Petrina, pulled by George C. Miller
Henry the Sixth Part III – Colored line drawings by Jean Charlot, printed in 3 colors by A. Colish
Henry the Eighth – Wood engravings by Eric Gill, pulled by A. Colish
Julius Caesar – Wood engravings by Frans Masereel, pulled by A. Colish
King John – Line drawings in three colors plus gold by Valenti Angelo, printed by A. Colish
King Lear – Brush drawings by Boardman Robinson, printed in collotype in black/2 grays by Georges Duval
Love’s Labour Lost – Crayon and wash drawings by Mariette Lydis, printed in collotype in black/gray by Georges Duval
Macbeth – Color drawings by Gordon Craig, lithographed by Mourlot Freres
Measure for Measure – Color lithographs by Hugo Steiner-Prag, pulled by Mourlot Freres
The Merchant of Venice – Watercolors by Rene ben Sussan, printed by both Mourlot Freres and Georges Duval, hand-colored by Maurice Beaufume
The Merry Wives of Windsor – Color drawings by Gordon Ross, printed in collotype in black and sanguine by Georges Duval, then hand-colored (does not state by whom…Ross, maybe?)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Watercolors by Arthur Rackham, lithographed in 4 colors by Mourlot Freres, hand-colored by Maurice Beaufume
Much Ado About Nothing – Watercolors by Fritz Kredel, printed in collotype by Georges Duval and hand-colored by Jean Saude
Othello – Wood engravings by Robert Gibbings, pulled by A. Colish
Pericles, Prince of Tyre – Wood engravings by Stanislas Ostoja-Chrostowski, pulled by A. Colish
Richard the Second – Wood engravings by Agnes Miller Parker, pulled by A. Colish
Richard the Third – Lithographs by Fritz Eichenberg, pulled by George C. Miller
Romeo and Juliet – Color line drawings by Ervine Metzl, printed in 2 colors by A. Colish
The Taming of the Shrew – Line drawings by W.A. Dwiggins, printed in sanguine by A. Colish
The Tempest -Watercolors by Edward A. Wilson, printed by both Georges Duval (collotype) and Mourlot Freres (2 colors), hand-colored by Maurice Beaufume
Timon of Athens – Wood engravings by George Buday, pulled by A. Colish
Titus Andronicus – Watercolors by Nikolai Fyodorovitch Lapshin, lithographed by Mourlot Freres
Troilus and Cressida – Wood engravings by Demetrius Galanis, pulled in black/terra cotta by Dehon et Cie
Twelfth Night, or What You Will – Watercolors by Francesco Carnevali, lithographed by Mourlot Freres
The Two Gentlemen of Verona – Watercolors by Pierre Brissaud, printed in collotype (key gray) by Georges Duval and hand-colored (not stated, Brissaud, perhaps?)
The Winter’s Tale – Drawings by Albert Rutherson, hand-colored by Jean Saude and printed in key-black by the Curwen Press
Note that this set is completely unsigned, so that bit of novelty is lost. However, a set of Shakespeare’s poetry followed the release of the plays. They were deliberately matched to the binding style of the rest, and this one is signed by Rogers. Hope this list aids you somehow or another!
The Shaving of Shagpat by George Meredith (1955)
LEC # 267, 24th Series, V. 5
Artwork: Pen and brush drawings by Honore Guilbeau
Introduction by Sir Francis Meredith Meynell
#787 out of 1500
Click images to see a larger view.
Front Binding – George Meredith is perhaps better known for The Ordeal of Richard Feveral and The Egoist over this particular work, the satirical The Shaving of Shagpat, but the Limited Editions Club chose this as a counterpart to their earlier printing of The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan by J.J. Morier. Both books feature a similar binding style, done by W.A. Dwiggins, so they go together quite nicely on a shelf. Here’s the announcement letter with all the details on its creation:
This would be the only work of Meredith’s that they would publish, but at least they did a splendid job of it!
Title Page – The artistic combination of Dwiggins’ decorations and Honore Guilbeau’s drawings is an ideal one. I was quite taken with how well the two blended their talents, and am looking forward to seeing the earlier Hajji Baba, which Guilbeau also did illustrations for. She also did Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, which I will be putting up in a couple weeks. Guilbeau started off her LEC career by winning the Club’s third competition to have their art printed with a new work, for Hajji Baba in 1945. Dwiggins really enjoyed her work, saying “when this book appears, it will establish that gal as a woman who really knows how to make pictures! I can’t remember when I have seen drawings for a book that pleased me so much.” High praise, there, and I think she deserves it. Guilbeau has a nice chat about how she got into art in the Newsletter below – it’s pretty interesting.
Sir Francis Meredith Meynell, godson to George Meredith and founder of the Nonesuch Press, another mammoth in the collectible book industry, provides a preface to the work. And it’s a rather pretty title page Dwiggins created, isn’t it? The Newsletter calls it “one of the best he has ever drawn”, and I wouldn’t argue.
So…why was this book printed, you ask. Well, let me give a brief summary. Professor Gilbert Highet, who taught at Columbia University, asked George Macy and the LEC staff if they had ever read Meredith’s Shaving of Shagpat, and why didn’t they produce a lovely volume celebrating it? The reply was, well, no, we hadn’t read it, and thus why we haven’t made a book of it, but the curiosity got the better of them and Macy did read it. He enjoyed it immensely, chuckling all the while. Macy decided that yes, this was indeed a book we needed to print up, and reunited Dwiggins with Guilbeau, asked Meynell to reminiscence about the tale and his godfather, and it was off to the races. Shagpat so happens to be Meredith’s first published novel, written at the tender age of twenty-five. George Eliot, famous for her novels The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner and Middlemarch, adored the work so much she reviewed it three different times for three different publications. The Newsletter has a little too much fun with its “George All the Way” retorts, FYI.
Signature Page – Copy #787, signed by Honore Guilbeau.
Page 1 – Dwiggins also provided nice initial letters to the beginning of each chapter, which is very nicely done.
Page 27 – Now for Guilbeau’s pen-and-brush drawings, which are simple and elegant. They are a beautiful fit for this work set in the Arabian mythos.
Page 37 – Notice the diversity of color on these pages. Lovely stuff, and had to run through the printer four times to get each color in.
Page 53 – Love the eyes on the woman in this one.
Personal Notes – I must admit, this book was an absolute gamble on my part. Having not seen Guilbeau’s artwork before, I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not. I ordered it online through my current bookselling employment for $40 (which I saved about $15 to $20 on due to store credit), and I was very relieved to see it arrive in very good condition and featuring such artistic wonders inside. No complaints.