Limited Editions Club: The Tempest by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

The Tempest by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Watercolors by Edward A. Wilson. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #897 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

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Front Binding – Let us return once more to the LEC Shakespeare series, with the last play I currently have in my collection, the fantastical comedy The Tempest. One of Shakespeare’s later plays in the canon, this one is a bit like Midsummer’s Night’s Dream in terms of featuring supernatural characters alongside its human cast, but this particular work goes more into the tragic side of things. It’s one I haven’t read or seen yet, so I should remedy that soon!

Edward A. Wilson was the illustrator for this play, and he did so quite wonderfully. This is perhaps his finest work thus far on the blog, but there are a couple contenders I have not covered yet. He was one of the most frequent artists called upon by the LEC (#2 overall for the LEC!) and Heritage Press, as this post covers. He studied under the legendary Howard Pyle, who was a masterful artist in his own right, and you can see some of that legacy here in The Tempest.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text, while Wilson’s watercolors were printed via collotype in gray ink by Georges Duval, with two colors printed from lithographic stones by Fernand Mourlot. Watercolors were then applied by stencil by the atelier Beaufume.

Title Page – As with the entire set, Herbert Farjeon handled editing duties for the text.

Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, as we’ve discussed before, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This is from the 897th set.

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

Personal Notes – This is the final LEC Shakespeare I received from a very kind fan of the blog who had some duplicates and was generous enough to pass them along to me to cover. It’s taken a little over a year, but the set is finished at last and I am very thankful to have these in my collection.

Limited Editions Club: The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Drawings by Gordon Ross. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #1505 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

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Front Binding – After some interlude we once more are back to the LEC Shakespeare, this time with one of the comedies, The Merry Wives of Windsor, starring the comedic Falstaff from Henry IV after the request of Queen Elizabeth for the knight’s tale to continue into one of budding love. Shakespeare obliged, and according to accounts at the time the Queen was so enthused with the prospect that she “commanded it to be finished in fourteen days; and was afterwards…very well pleased with the representation,” per the LEC newsletter for this edition. As the letter notes, Falstaff arguably had such a moment in Henry IV, when he departs Doll Tearsheet’s side to help Henry’s cause, but that’s neither here nor there — we have this delightful comedy to enjoy regardless of Falstaff’s whimsies.

For this play, George Macy tapped the artistic talents of Gordon Ross, who has not been seen on this blog for quite some time, although it is not for lack of effort or interest! Ross relished the opportunity to illustrate Windsor, especially enjoying drawing Falstaff’s horse and working to improve the look of the stout man from “gross toper sunk in a tavern chair” into the more dynamic and able character Shakespeare wrote. Personally, I think he succeeded! My very old Pickwick Papers post goes into his bibliography for Macy.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text, while Ross’s illustrations were printed in collotype in black and sanguine by Georges Duval, then hand-colored for the title page (sadly, I do not know who did it).

Title Page – As with the entire set, Herbert Farjeon handled editing duties for the set.

Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, as we’ve discussed before, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This is from the 1505th set.

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

Personal Notes – As with the rest of the LEC Shakespeare covered over the past year or so (Henry IV Part 1 notwithstanding), this was sent to me by a very nice fan of the blog who has been beyond kind in sharing his duplicates with me to document. I cherish these books and am beyond appreciative.

Limited Editions Club: Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Drawings by Gordon Craig. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #195 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Another LEC Shakespeare for you today, this time my personal favorite play: Macbeth. Having been in a production of the “Scottish Play”, it is one I personally enjoy on a level beyond the text. This is the first of the Bard’s tragedies we’ve covered from the series. It was likely performed in 1606 for the first time, and stands as the shortest of this subset of Shakespeare’s theater. It also have quite the mythology surrounding it, in particular never saying its name if you are involved in a production lest you wish to bestow the infamous “curse”. Curiously, my production was beset by some bizarre circumstances, including the sudden and severe illness of one actress and a technician breaking their ankle on stage during dress rehearsals. I’m not the superstitious type, but it was a weird coincidence…

Gordon Craig (aka Edward Gordon Craig) marks his debut to the Limited Editions Club and George Macy’s canon, but this would be his sole contribution. Among collectors today Craig’s artwork is not revered; I personally find his drawings satisfactory enough but they lack the pizazz of many of the other illustrators for this series. This was his second artistic rendering of Shakespeare, handling a publication of Hamlet before. He is far better known for his acting career, where among his acclaimed roles he was the title character for our play in question. For his work here he focused on the costuming (per Macy’s request) with his lithographic crayon drawings, which are quite nice from that perspective. He was also an accomplished wood-engraver, and I wonder how that approach might have been received.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text, while Craig’s illustrations were printed by Fernard Mourlot.

Title Page – As with the entire set, Herbert Farjeon handled editing duties for the set.

Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This is from the 195th set.

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

Personal Notes – Of the five LEC Shakespeare a fan of the blog provided me, I have to admit from a literary perspective this was the most exciting for me. I adore this work, and it’s nice to have the LEC edition of it, even if the art is not my favorite.

Limited Editions Club: The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Watercolors by Pierre Brissaud. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #897 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Our previous LEC Shakespeare editions have both been from the Bard’s histories — let’s mix it up a bit and highlight a comedic effort from the playwright, The Two Gentlemen of Verona. This is one of Shakespeare’s earlier efforts, originally composed in 1594 or so, and features some of his favorite methods of comedic effect, the act of hidden identity (Julia disguising herself as a male page to lead Proteus, whom she loves) and setting up the main characters to suddenly come at odds over a particular subject (in this case, the duke of Milan’s daughter Silvia), to ultimately have all of the odds and ends come to a close in a jolly manner. It may not be as highly revered as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it’s still a great piece of humorous theatre.

Its artist will not be a new face to you if you’ve followed our coverage of these books for some time, as it is Pierre Brissaud, appearing in his first Limited Editions Club release. Brissaud is one of my favorite illustrators in the Macy canon, and this book showcases his talent quite well with its exquisite reproductions of his watercolors of scenes of the play. The Newsletter makes an interesting comment about his upcoming commissions, which I find fascinating: Cyrano de Bergerac, of which I’ve discussed thoroughly in its own post, is mentioned here as his next project for release for the Heritage Press! This does seem to fit in with the details I’ve laid out in that post, but it’s still a bit of a surprise. However, this is not unexpected; George Macy happily had the Heritage Press publishing its own spins on classic works at this point of its history along with LEC reprints, so I guess I have more of a definitive answer for that particular publication history. Of course, that was delayed due to World War II’s genesis, but it was ultimately issued as both a LEC and Heritage title in 1954. Another title impacted by the War was his next project, Madame Bovary for the Nonesuch Press. That commission would go on to be a LEC and join the Heritage/Nonesuch French Romances series, but it was in the works already at this early phase. Brissaud’s bibliography is in my post for Cyrano de Bergerac.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text and illustrations, while Brissaud’s watercolors were reproduced via collotype plates by Georges Duval and then colored by Beaufumè of Paris.

Title Page – As with the entire set, Herbert Farjeon handled editing duties.

Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This is from the 897th set.

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

Personal Notes – This was one of five LEC Shakespeare volumes sent to me by a fan of the blog. As noted with King John I was taken aback by the kind offer and very thankful to have these added to my library, especially this one, given how much I love Brissaud’s work.

LEC Newsletter and Ephemera

A neat curio included in my copy is a secondary letter discussing the design of a box to hold the LEC Shakespeare; I’ve included it below.

Limited Editions Club: King John by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)

King John by William Shakespeare (1939-1940)
LEC #118/11th Series in 1939-1940
Artwork: Drawings by Valenti Angelo. Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon.
Part of the LEC Shakespeare series.
LEC #245 of 1950. LEC exclusive.

Click images to see larger views.

Front Binding – Hello friends, we’re back with a small series of posts continuing our look at the LEC Shakespeare. As I noted in my Henry the IV Part I post, this is a 37 volume achievement of publishing within the annals of the Limited Editions Club. I’ve also made a list of the series and its illustrators. If you want more background on the entire set, I recommend looking at both of those earlier posts; for today I’m going to focus in on this particular play, King John.

King John falls into the genre of histories, although it lacks the broad appeal of Shakespeare’s Henry the IV, Henry V and Richard III in terms of popularity and production in the modern day. It was hugely popular in the Victorian era, however. This is based on the life of John Lackland, the king of England from 1199 to 1216. It is written entirely in verse, a very uncommon trait in Shakespeare’s canon (Richard II is the only other).

Our illustrator this time is Valenti Angelo, whose artistic style works beautifully with the play itself. Much like Salome, Angelo hand illuminated each of his drawings with gold accents, and it really makes each example pop with an energy and vigor befitting the text.

Design Notes – Bruce Rogers designed the LEC Shakespeare. A. Colish printed the text and illustrations, which Angelo subsequently added in illuminations in gold.

Title Page – As with the entire set, Herbert Farjeon handled editing duties for the set.

Colophon – For the LEC Shakespeare, Macy upped the limitation count to 1950 from the usual 1500. This is from the 245th set.

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

Personal Notes – This was one of five LEC Shakespeare volumes sent to me by a fan of the blog. This was an incredibly kind gesture and one I greatly appreciated. I am very happy to add more of this beautiful publication series to my collection, and look forward to sharing the rest with you soon!