Limited Editions Club: The Life of King Henry IV, Part I by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

May 28, 2016 Comments Off on Limited Editions Club: The Life of King Henry IV, Part I by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

The Life of King Henry IV, Part I by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Lithographs in color by Barnett Freedman. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #507 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.


Front Binding – This post brings my blog its first glimpse into the fabled LEC Shakespeare; a 37 volume opus of book publishing that stands as some of the finest in the canon of the Limited Editions Club. I’ve covered the series loosely before, posting a list of the series and its illustrators some time ago. However, I didn’t expect to stumble upon the a part of the set any time soon; most of my book haunts prior to my move lacked any of the LEC Shakespeare, and I’ve only come across one other book before this one in my travels, and I didn’t have the money to purchase it then. And yet here we are, with a “complete” edition of Henry the Fourth, Part I.

The goal of the LEC Shakespeare was to celebrate the greatest author in the English language with a deluxe printing of all of the Bard’s plays and poems, designed by the masterful Bruce Rogers, printed by the leading experts in publishing, and featuring some of the finest artistic talents in book illustration decorating each volume in its own unique way. George Macy wanted this series to be the 20th century’s definitive publication of Shakespeare, and based on this admittedly limited exposure to the series, the goal was met. This edition of Henry IV Part I is a culmination of amazing design, artwork, and printing synergy.

Rogers’ is perhaps the LEC’s greatest designer, and this set is among his finest. The binding is a lovely recreation of Elizabethan era fabric and motifs. The font choice and layout is ideal for a book of this size. And the execution of these design plans were delightfully executed by printing house and bindery A. Colish.

However, the real standout of this book is the stunning reproduction of Barnett Freedman’s lithographs. Freedman hasn’t been my favorite artist in the Club’s canon, as noted in my earlier discussion of his work in Anna Karenina. Here, though? My goodness, the reprinting of his color lithographs is stunning. His auto-lithographs were pulled by the Curwen Press, and Freedman ignored the top and bottom margins, making his oblong prints stylistically stand out not only in craft but in composition. The colors were stone-specific, as is the case with the lithographic process, so once again marvel at the expertise of both artist and printer to make these separate components unite so successfully. The quality of these prints is literally beyond anything else I’ve seen of Freedman’s, and arguably above several other LEC volumes. It’s divine. The colors are crisp, luscious and deep; the artistry of Freedman’s linework nigh-perfect. And that may be the greatest strength of this set — the attention to printing detail is exceptional.

Before moving on, let us recap Shakespeare’s publication history with the Clubs here. Amazingly, I haven’t done that yet! William Shakespeare had 41 unique publications in the LEC, if I were to include the 37 plays in this series as individual works (again, the complete LEC Shakespeare is here). The other LECs include:
Hamlet, illustrated by Eric Gill, 1933.
Poems and Sonnets, 2 volumes, designed by Bruce Rogers, 1941 (these are designed to match the 1939-1940 plays).
The Life of Henry V. Illustrated by Fritz Kredel, modeled after the Olivier film, 1951.
Poems, illustrated by Agnes Miller Parker, 1967. (I have a Heritage copy on the blog)

The Heritage Press had five exclusive Shakespeare publications as well.

Romeo and Juliet, illustrated by Sylvain Sauvage, 1935. This is one of the “First Six” Heritage Press books, and some copies are a deluxe edition signed by Sauvage.
Sonnets, illustrated by Valenti Angelo, 1941.
The Complete Histories, Tragedies and Comedies of Shakespeare, illustrated by John Farleigh, Agnes Miller Parker and Edward Ardizzone (respectively), 1958.

If you want to know more about this particular set, you can’t go wrong with the extensive report of fellow enthusiast Chris at Books and Vines.


Title Page – I don’t really know if my camera can do these illustrations justice. They really are gorgeous, but I don’t think I have the optimal lighting setup to convey this correctly. The text is taken from the First Folio and some Quarto insertions, and Herbert Farjeon served as editor.


Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This volume came from the 507th set.

Examples of Freedman’s Illustrations (right click and open in new tab for full size):

Personal Notes – This came from the Bookstore in Chico, CA. Only 38 more to go…but I’m happy to have this one. It is a little worn on the outside, but the inside is exquisite.

Shakespeare Commentary

Updated 10/2/2017 by JF


Curios: The Most Popular Authors in the LEC/Heritage canon

March 27, 2015 § 2 Comments

I’m beginning a new tradition here at the Imagery; once in a while, I’d like to present some interesting bit of research or trivia to you. Today, I’ll share the top authors who were published most by the two major arms of the Macy Companies and their successors. I will separate the two presses at first, and then merge the results to see who wins the coveted (imaginary) “Most Popular” status!

Limited Editions Club:

1) William Shakespeare, with 41 individual releases! I’m counting each book in the LEC Shakespeare as its own entity.
2) Mark Twain, with 12 individual releases.
3) Charles Dickens, with 9 individual releases.
3) Robert Louis Stevenson, with 9 individual releases.
5) Fyodor Dostoevsky, with 8 individual releases.
5) Alexandre Dumas, with 8 individual releases.
5) Joseph Conrad, with 8 individual releases.
8) James Fenimore Cooper, with 6 individual releases.
8) Nathanial Hawthorne, with 6 individual releases.
10) Gustave Flaubert, with 5 individual releases.
10) Leo Tolstoy, with 5 individual releases.
10) Oscar Wilde, with 5 individual releases.
10) Anatole France, with 5 individual releases.
10) Victor Hugo, with 5 individual releases.
10) Jane Austen, with 5 individual releases.
10) Jules Verne, with 5 individual releases.
10) William Makepeace Thackeray, with 5 individual releases.
10) Sir Walter Scott, with 5 individual releases.

Heritage Press:

This is not as simple to document, as there remains an incomplete bibliography of the Heritage Press output. But, relying on the research I’ve done here, I’ll do my best. I’ll only be doing a Top 5 due to the less frequent original publications of this Press.

1) Charles Dickens, with 14 individual releases!
2) William Shakespeare, with 5 individual releases.
3) Mark Twain, with 3 individual releases.
4) Anatole France, with 2 individual releases.
5) Henry James, with 2 individual releases.
5) Washington Irving, with 2 individual releases.
5) Charles Lamb, with 2 individual releases.
5) Homer, with 2 individual releases.
5) Nathaniel Hawthorne, with 2 individual releases.


1) William Shakespeare, with 46 books to his name in the canon!
2) Charles Dickens, with 23 books.
3) Mark Twain, with 15 books.
4) Robert Louis Stevenson, with 9 books.
5) Fyodor Dostoevsky, with 9 books (I’m including the Heritage Crime and Punishment as a separate release).
6) Alexandre Dumas, with 8 books.
6) Joseph Conrad, with 8 books.
6) Nathanial Hawthorne, with 8 books.
9) Anatole France, with 7 books.
10) James Fenimore Cooper, with 6 books.
10) Leo Tolstoy, with 6 books.
10) Oscar Wilde, with 6 books.
10) William Makepeace Thackeray, with 6 books.

This list is subject to change, as there may be a Heritage exclusive somewhere I may have missed.

Of Interest – Books & Vines’ Intensive LEC Shakespeare Posting

October 1, 2012 § 3 Comments

Fellow Macy Devotee and book lover Chris Adamson (aka busywine) has done a wondrously thorough, enriching and illuminating post on the complete LEC Shakespeare set issued in 1941 at his Books & Vines blog. Pictures of all of the 37 plays and the two Poems/Sonnets that came the year after are included, and it’s the best way I can recommend getting an idea of how exquisite these books truly are. With my odds of landing that set slim at best for a few years, I will suggest this post to everyone if asked about this set. Check it out!

Heritage Press – The Histories of William Shakespeare (1958)

October 29, 2011 § 2 Comments

The Histories of William Shakespeare (1958)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Wood engravings by John Farleigh
Introduced by John G. McManaway
Heritage Press Exclusive – The LEC released all of the histories as individual books, along with the remainder of Shakespeare’s plays, through 1939 and 1940.

Click images for larger views.

Front Binding – All of the original releases of the Heritage Dramatic Works of Shakespeare (my designation) have this design on their boards.  Alas, I do not know who came up with this motif – if you happen to know, please drop me a line.

Shakespeare was the most printed of the George Macy Company’s authors, with each of his plays receiving a LEC edition (a few got two), plus his sonnets and poems.  The Heritage Press also had quite a few exclusives of the Bard – a set of sonnets, Romeo and Juliet, and these three compilations of plays broken up by the three major styles of drama – comedy, tragedy and history.  Edward Arizzone (sp) performed artistic flourish to the comedies, Agnes Miller Parker the tragedies, and John Farleigh the histories.

While on the subject of Farleigh, now’s a good time to get a little into his illustrious illustration career.  Farleigh is a master woodcutter with a unique style compared to his contemporaries, and he did a few commissions for George Macy, including this – he also produced art for the LEC Back to Methuselah by George Bernard Shaw (1939), and Prometheus Bound and Prometheus Unbound, a combination of Aeschylus and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s plays, printed for both the LEC and the Heritage Press in 1965.  He is best known for another Shaw work done outside of the Macy canon – The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God in 1932, which received a fair amount of consternation back in the day for being such a bold book that tackled race, religion and sex in one fell swoop (not to mention Farleigh’s somewhat risque renderings of the tale).

Title Page – James G. McManaway supplies the introduction for this set, and Farleigh gets a chance to flaunt his interesting wood engraving style.  Nice title page!

Page 9 – A piece from King John.  I like the addition of red to the woodcut – it adds some vibrancy to the violence rendered here.  Each play gets a solo woodcut.

Page 185 – This is from King Henry IV Part 1.

Personal Notes – I like Farleigh and Shakespeare, so finding my own copy is high on my list!  This particular copy was from a library.

If you have a Sandglass for the Heritage New York printing, please drop me a line here or through the comments at my thread about this blog at the George Macy Devotees @ LibraryThing!  I could use extra insights into this book.  Thanks!

Heritage Press – Sonnets by William Shakespeare (1941)

July 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

The Sonnets of William Shakespeare (1941)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Decorations by Valenti Angelo
Heritage Press Exclusive – The LEC never put out a specific collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets, instead compiling all of Shakespeare’s poetic verse into two separate editions: one designed by Bruce Rogers as part of the LEC Shakespeare series (although published after all of the plays) in 1941, and another in 1967 featuring Agnes Miller Parker’s art as part of the British Poet series.  I have the Heritage edition of that latter book here for view.

Click the images for larger views.

Front Binding – Whenever Valenti Angelo is involved in a book, they seem to have striking bindings.  From the Arabian Nights Entertainments to Salome to The Song of Roland, Angelo’s exquisite touch is noticeable and delightful.  This is no exception.  Blue and peach inks merge with black to create a dynamic frontispiece on creme cloth boards.  I’d love to own this – alas, this is a library copy.  That also means I need some aid on finding out info on the designer and the book’s creation.

Title Page – A sharp, beautiful title page that gets the point across quickly.  Lovely book.  I believe John T. Winterich introduced this book, like he tended to do with Heritage Press exclusives in their early days, but I don’t remember right off hand if that’s true or not.

Sonnet 1 – Angelo provides a nice little flourish to each sonnet at the top.  Simple, but effective.

Sonnet 2

Sonnet 3

Personal Notes – From my local library, hopefully to be in my collection soon!

Any and all info on this book’s design process would be very useful!  If you have a Sandglass or LEC Newsletter, please drop me a line here or through the comments at my thread about this blog at the George Macy Devotees @ LibraryThing!  Thanks!

Heritage Press: Poems of William Shakespeare (unstated)

January 11, 2011 § 2 Comments

Poems of William Shakespeare (unstated, likely 1967)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Wood Engravings by Agnes Miller Parker
Edited and introduced by Peter Alexander
Part of the Heritage Press’ British Poet Master series (my designation)
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #398/35th Series V. 12 in 1967

Click images for larger views.

Front Binding – The boards are adorned with a repeating motif by Agnes Miller Parker that symbolizes the art of writing pretty well.  Django2694 has some designer info and LEC comparisons:

OK, thanks to my LEC bibliography, I can supply the name of the designer of the A.M. Parker-illustrated Poems of Shakespeare–John Dreyfus, who would also have been responsible for the design of the Heritage edition. The LEC version was printed at the Cambridge University Press in 1967. It was in a single volume, like the Heritage volume. It was quarto-sized, with quarter red maroon cowhide binding, gold-stamped black spine label, henna cloth sides inlaid with a black leather embossed portrait of Shakespeare on the front cover.

Spine – Like the later Yates, the spine is styled in a way to make all of the British Poets look similar (and nice on a shelf next to each other!).  This is also a library copy, as the unfortunate marker writing demonstrates.

Title Page – Shakespeare’s entire collection of poetry is included in this set, including Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucerne, all of the Sonnets, A Lover’s Complaint, The Passionate Pilgrim and The Phoenix and Turtle, plus a Glossary.  Peter Alexander edited the book, as well as giving it its introduction.  A very nice engraving by Parker illuminates the page.  This was donated in memory of the Sam(p)sons, who also gave the Livingston library the Yates I have.

Page 45 – Parker’s illustrations adorn the poetry as headers or between the lines – there are no full page pieces in this book.

Page 185

Personal Notes – Like Yates, I got this at the Anthropology Club book sale for $1, alongside a Robert Browning book in the same series.  I’d like to upgrade to a complete copy, as I’m a big fan of Parker’s.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with william shakespeare at The George Macy Imagery.