Whitman's Leaves of Grass illustrated by Weston (1942)

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Whitman's Leaves of Grass illustrated by Weston (1942)

1booksforreading
Editado: Oct 18, 2020, 9:53am

In the last couple of days, I have been trying to decide if acquiring LEC Leaves of Grass (1942) is justifiable, and I have decided to focus on two main factors: 1) the price, as most copies in decent condition are offered for more than $1000, and 2) the question - is the book really worth the high prices that are being asked?

Considering historical prices, one can, of course, get lucky in an auction and purchase the book in very good to near fine condition for about $500 - $600; however, in recent years especially, desirable books end up being sold on auctions for prices above the market value.

Counting on luck is not very reliable, so if one wants to get Whitman/Weston/Macy’s Leaves of Grass in near fine condition or better, one must be prepared to pay premium prices. Almost unquestionably, the main factor that drives the prices up for this edition is Edward Weston’s signature on each copy. But here comes the question of value: does this book offer anything else, in addition to the signature, to distinguish it from numerous other editions of Whitman’s poetry and to support such high prices on the market?

Regarding the value, one can read opposite opinions: 1) this edition is one of the best that Limited Editions Club produced; a wonderful production – it is one of the best editions of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and 2) this particular effort to unite art of photography and poetry resulted in (complete) failure.

To learn more about this publication, I looked at a few sources available online and at Grossman's book about the club.

My first article to read was one about “Real American Places” exhibition of 25 of Weston’s photographs from his Leaves of Grass project by Allison Meier (https://hyperallergic.com/324250/edward-weston-photographs-leaves-of-grass/). Meier writes that “Weston took portraits with his huge 8×10 camera of as many different people as possible, from Yaqui Indians, to farmers in Tennessee, to an African-American cook and choirmaster named Brown Jones in Athens, Georgia. Yet when it came to image selection, the publishers did not include this diversity in the book.” She also states that “although Weston believed he did some of his best work on the cross-country road trip for the book project, the book was a failure.” Meier also mentions that the book was badly designed and that the photographs were reproduced on a greenish paper.

Is it correct, fellow bibliophiles? I do not own the book, so I cannot confirm the color of the paper in the book.

There is another article available online about the same exhibition, by Alison Smithson (http://lenscratch.com/2016/12/real-american-places-edward-weston-and-leaves-of-g...), and it includes a short film focused mostly on contributions of Western’s wife, Charis Wilson, to the LoG project. The posting also contains a small essay by Jennifer Watts, Curator of Photography, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Here are some excerpts from Watts’s essay related to the project:
“The book’s designer, Merle Armitage, soon entered the fray. A self-described “impresario,” Armitage was a longtime champion of Weston and a bellicose friend. Armitage sent Macy a screed. He took the publisher to task for his literal-mindedness with regard to two accomplished artists working generations apart. He reminded Macy that it was the timeless spirit (rather than the specificity) of Whitman’s poetry that made Weston the perfect complementary choice. ‘Let us keep before us the reminder that ‘the strongest and sweetest songs remain to be sung,’ he wrote. ‘This quotation by Whitman is the very essence of his meaning, it was the future of America which interested him equally if not more than its present.’ For the time being, Macy demurred. He avowed that the project had room enough to satisfy Weston’s ‘cosmic America’ as well as the publisher’s more down-to-earth concerns… And what of the “faces” that Weston had agreed to make? In spite (or more likely because) of his four decades working as a portraitist, the ratio of people to places is proportionally small. Weston took this one aspect of the job quite literally, searching for ‘types’: Yaqui Indians, a Tennessee farmer, some homespun Texans, two African-American men… No pictures of African Americans were included in the book.”

According to Watts, Weston took about 800 photos during his trip and selected about 70 of these for the book, from which Macy eventually choose 49. (Some other sources say 48 or 50, but, again, since I do not have the book, I cannot verify the final number of photographs.)
Watts writes that Macy eventually insisted on pairing the photos with quotations from Whitman’s poems and that Armitage, who insisted on the contrary approach, was fired as the book’s designer. “Macy informed a horrified Weston that the images would be printed on glossy paper bordered by a green mat. The book was rushed into production, and Weston never saw the proofs. He presented a copy to his friends Sally and David McAlpin with the inscription: ‘No apologies for the illustrations, but for their presentation, my tears.’
Though Weston deemed the book a failure, he considered the photographs an unqualified success.”

In relation to this particular project, Carol Grossman in the History of the Limited Editions Club focuses mostly on Macy’s difficulties during the war years and on his fears of losing subscribers. He was concerned that if LoG “did not get into the current… series, he was not sure he would still be publishing LEC books when it was ready to appear” (page 144). Apparently, the rush to get the book into production was the reason why the book had to go to print without Weston’s approval of the photo reproductions. Macy wrote to him that “it would have been a shame to abandon a book upon which you had done some much work. The fact that we have lost about $7,000 on this one publication is probably not so important as the fact that, once the decision was made to proceed with the book, we had to do the job in a hurry in order that the book might go out while we still had some subscribers for it.” (145)

Grossman’s viewpoint explains how much stress and hardship Macy had in war years navigating his company through extremely difficult and uncertain situation, and this somewhat justifies and explains some of his decisions regarding the LoG.

I was surprised to learn that apparently Macy first offered the project to Grant Wood, who refused the commission. (Weiss, Francine (2013), ‘The Limited Editions Club’s Leaves of Grass (1942) and the American imagetext’, European Journal of American Culture 32: 2, pp. 137-151)

Summarizing Francine Weiss’s conclusions in her article cited above, I infer that the biggest issue for her with the final product was the usage of captions under the photographs (the same issue as for Weston). She says that the book “did not allow Weston’s images to closely or freely interact with Whitman’s poetry. Yet there are a couple of moments in the book where Macy’s design creates a dialogue between Whitman’s poetry and Weston’s photographs and allows for new photo-text meanings to emerge.” (138)
Weiss is also pointing out that though quotations under the photographs in the book are surrounded by quotation marks, the lines quoted are not always consecutive. (143) According to her article, sometimes this is an issue, but in other places it does help to blend the text and images closer together.

I have already quoted one of Weston’s reaction to the book, but I cannot resist to give another example. “Writing to his friend Merle Armitage, who had been fired by Macy from the project before having a final design approved, Weston wrote: ‘My reaction to W. W. Book is quite definite: it stinks” (Weiss, 139-140)

Not all critics disliked having captions in the Limited Editions Club’s Leaves of Grass, but I do not have these sources on hand at the moment.

What are your thoughts about this publication? Maybe, fellow devotees, you can share your impressions of the book if you own it? (And I am already aware of the pictorial review on Books and Vines website.)
Even if you do not own the book, do you find it a desirable book to acquire, given the right price?

I am sorry for such a long post!

2skyschaker
Oct 18, 2020, 1:12am

>1 booksforreading: "the photographs where reproduced on a greenish paper." - yes it is true, but it does not spoil anything. The grass is green, and the design of the book uses a hint of green in paper. The quality of paper was not the best, like all books printed 1940 - 1945: WWII took the best resources from the contry, including the best paper.
I enjoy this publication. I got it 11 years ago for $900, its condition is NF+/NF+. LEC published during WWII is very hard to get in F/F condition. ABEBOOKS offers a few copies, and each has a flaw or two. And yes, the price went up, because of the name of Weston and his nice signature. Not so many books signed by Weston are on the market, I assume, hence the price. Generally, the edition is very attractive and nice looking.

3kdweber
Oct 18, 2020, 1:30am

Also there were only around 1000 copies of the book printed due to the declining membership at that time. Luck does sometime happen, I recently acquired a copy of this title in Fine/Mint condition in a NF slipcase for $800. Over the years I've looked at a lot of copies in only VG condition that were offered at over $1000. I don't think those copies are worth it. The photos are great but the binding is pretty meh. As >2 skyschaker: pointed out, paper wasn't the best over the war years. The greenish tint doesn't bother me.

4featherwate
Oct 18, 2020, 11:52am

>1 booksforreading:
"My Dear George: I took Leaves of Grass home last night and have changed my mind in regard to my comments, as I think, in justice to you, something should be said.
You and your associates have succeeded magnificently in turning out the world's most deluxe grass seed catalogue. Sincerely. Merle."

5booksforreading
Oct 18, 2020, 1:40pm

>4 featherwate:
Thank you! I have seen this quote, but it seems to me a sarcastic comment. George wanted to print a deluxe edition of Leaves of Grass, and Merle is telling him that he succeeded producing a deluxe grass seed catalogue. Is this how you read it too?

>3 kdweber:
I thought that, since the colophon says 1500 copies were produced, LEC did eventually print all 15 hundred copies. I did not realize that this was not the case. I should have read Grossman more carefully.

>2 skyschaker:
Thank you for your reply and for pointing out my typo in "were"! It is now corrected.

6MobyRichard
Oct 18, 2020, 2:52pm

>1 booksforreading:

The LEC Leaves of Grass doesn't really seem worth $1000, considering you have the Peter Pauper limited Leaves of Grass for much, much less and the Grabhorn Leaves of Grass for not that much more if you are willing to accept some defects.

7WildcatJF
Oct 18, 2020, 3:07pm

I'd like to get this at some point as I love Leaves of Grass, but it's not as much of a priority thanks to that hefty price tag.

8kdweber
Oct 18, 2020, 6:27pm

>5 booksforreading: Per Grossman, they gave everyone their regular subscriber number but there were many holes. Thus, my copy is #1300 but no, they never printed more only the ~1000 for current members. The Folio Society pulled the same trick when they downsized the limitation of the Letterpress Shakespeare to 1000 copies.

9Django6924
Editado: Oct 19, 2020, 9:37am

I don't have the Weston LOG and have never actually seen it so I can't give an educated opinion as to its relative quality, but as you and others have pointed out, the general standard was not at high during the war years due to lack of the best materials and the lack of experienced pressmen. As for its worth, other than to say when it comes to collecting, it's the old story of supply and demand, and there was a comparatively limited supply of this particular edition and there is a high demand for photographic examples of Weston's works signed by him. Other than that, I see no plausible reason for the prices it seems to bring.

Now signature has never been a major factor for me, but that's me, and others find it very important. This is something each collector must decide. As for it being the best edition of Whitman's work; although I can't say with certitude, I doubt it is as complete, well edited and thorough as the 1997 Doubleday/New York Library Collector's Edition which uses the 1891--92 Deathbed Edition and has a wealth of other material. The Library of America edition does contain the complete first 1855 edition as published as well as the final edition plus much else. My collection includes my own favorite of all the illustrated editions of LOG I've seen: the 1940 Doubleday Doran edition with Lewis C. Daniels' illustrations done in a WPAesque style that seems to me just right for Whitman. It's hard to find a Fine edition of this with slipcase. It seems not to have been sufficiently appreciated, which I find inexplicable considering the quality of the design (by Richard Ellis), the beautiful printing by the Haddon Craftsman of very good paper, and again the illustrations, which for me are superior to the highly regarded Boyd Hanna woodcuts for Peter Pauper Press, or even the stratospherically-priced Grabhorn edition with Valenti Angelo's drawings, which seem, to me, too anemic for Walt Whitman. Probably just my taste.

At any rate, I have the LOA, the Doubleday/New York Library Collector's Edition, and the 1940 Doubleday Doran edition--and spent under $100 for all. Considering I much prefer the illustrations by Daniels, and the comprehensive editions meticulously edited in the two others, I feel the Weston LOG is not worth what they are asking for it. If it included more of his photos and they were beautifully reproduced--I don't know. I live in Pasadena, CA and I saw the exhibition of some 100 out of 500 of these photos at the Huntington Library a few years ago, and they are magnificent, but these were contact silver prints made from the 8"x10" negatives, and I can't imagine they would be nearly as amazing reduced in size and reproduced through the mechanical processes available then (photogravure?).

10booksforreading
Editado: Oct 22, 2020, 3:30pm

Thank you all for sharing your opinions! This is very helpful!

12booksforreading
Oct 22, 2020, 8:30pm

>11 dlphcoracl:
Thank you!
I already own Peter Pauper Press edition (I think that it is impressive, though it is very heavy), and, as I mentioned in my original post, I am aware of the positive pictorial review of the 1942 LEC on the booksandvines website. I am struggling with questions, outlined in my original post, that are not addressed in the above-mentioned review. I was especially surprised to discover that Weston himself thought that LEC edition was not good.

Do you have your opinion about 1942 LEC? What do you think? Does the design, pictures, and text work well together?

13dlphcoracl
Oct 22, 2020, 8:43pm

>12 booksforreading:

I share Edward Weston's view.

Weston was deeply disappointed in the LEC 1942 edition for reasons I have outlined previously on the Fine Press Forum (see link below). The photographs are magnificent but this LEC edition is "promise unfulfilled". It could have been and SHOULD have been so much more.

https://www.librarything.com/topic/305993

14WildcatJF
Oct 22, 2020, 9:05pm

I covered the 1929 LEC against the later Heritage edition here: https://georgemacyimagery.wordpress.com/2020/05/10/heritage-press-leaves-of-gras...

15booksforreading
Editado: Oct 22, 2020, 11:22pm

>13 dlphcoracl:
Thank you very much! I had completely missed your review about this book when you posted it! Unfortunately, your photos there are no longer visible; however, your review is very thoughtful and informative. It seems that you think that, though the book was a failure, it is still a pleasure to read, the photographs are reproduced nicely and are contributing a lot to the enjoyment of one's reading experience, and the book "is still a gem".
I completely understand what you are saying in that review and in the post 13 above.

>14 WildcatJF:
Nice review of these two editions! Thank you! Now I will have to keep an eye for the 1929 LEC edition and (possibly) for the Heritage Press edition. :(

16astropi
Oct 23, 2020, 1:30am

>13 dlphcoracl: could you please share the original source which discusses how Weston was "deeply disappointed" with this edition? Thank you.

17dlphcoracl
Editado: Oct 23, 2020, 3:45am

>16 astropi:

1. http://lenscratch.com/2016/12/real-american-places-edward-weston-and-leaves-of-g...

2. The Letters Between Edward Weston and Willard Van Dyke by Leslie Squyres Calmes, Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona, 1992. See: Letter 54 dated 8 March 1943. Weston writes:

"I suppose that by "the book" you mean Leaves of Grass. Yes, it has been published - and stinks to high heaven, a low ebb in book making. My photographs are fairly well reproduced - most of them, but their presentation would wrap you in tears. Look if you must via the Limited Editions Club, Inc., 595 Madison Ave. Oh yes, despite my warnings all the photographs were trimmed - only a 1/4 inch to be sure, but often fatal."

18booksforreading
Oct 23, 2020, 9:34am

>16 astropi:
I have provided several sources that quote Weston in my original post above.
Unfortunately, there is no doubt that Weston's and Macy's visions of this project clashed, and Weston strongly disapproved the final result.

19Django6924
Oct 23, 2020, 11:30am

In my opinion, I think photographs are seldom the best choice for illustrating a literary work, and it is unfortunate that Macy's first thought, to use Grant Wood to do the illustrations, did not come to fruition. Although I think Weston's photographs are wonderful in themselves, I don't feel they are always relevant to Whitman's poetry.

https://monovisions.com/real-american-places-edward-weston-and-leaves-of-grass/

20astropi
Oct 23, 2020, 11:47am

Thanks for the links. I appreciate it. It's an interesting read. Also, as to >17 dlphcoracl: first link, I read through it and thought it certainly had some positives

But, said Watts, “this is an important body of work that has been unjustly overlooked and clearly deserves its due. There are masterpieces in the mix, every bit the equal of Weston’s best work. How could it be otherwise? The Whitman effort came after a lifetime of honing a prodigious talent. The challenges of the project notwithstanding, Weston’s mastery shines brilliantly through.”

>15 booksforreading: I think it's easy to look at this and just "oh, Weston didn't like, so yeah it's a failure" but that's not correct in my opinion. Despite some obvious flaws, I think you should consider getting this edition. Weston has his opinion, but he was not a bookmaker. He was an artist, entitled to his opinion, and clearly he had a riff with the LEC so he was never going to be positive about the experience. Judge for yourself I say. I've seen a few Leaves in my time, I think this would be #2 in my list after the Arion Press edition which is insanely expensive, assuming you can even find a copy.

21dlphcoracl
Oct 23, 2020, 1:59pm

>19 Django6924:

I am of a very different opinion with regard to photographic illustration of great works of literature and poetry. When properly done, the results are stunning and greatly enhance the works in a way more conventional illustrations do not. Your comment that "photographs are seldom the best choice for illustrating a literary work" is somewhat ironic because the finest examples are from the later editions of the LEC when owned and directed by Sidney Shiff. The photographs beautifully complement the works and no one has ever reproduced world class photography for private press book illustration as meticulously and carefully as Sidney Shiff. Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman, The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono and The Heights of Machu Picchu by Pablo Neruda immediately come to mind, and there are several others as well.

Weston's photographs may not be perfectly matched to Whitman's long poem but cumulatively they capture the spirit and exuberance of the work. My fervent dream - one that will never be realized - is for a current private press to obtain the rights to the entire body of Edward Weston's photographs from this LEC project, select a new and different group of photos, and then reproduce them with the care and attention they deserve, perhaps printed separately and then tipped-in on a fine hand made paper with the poem printed with top notch letterpress technique.

22astropi
Oct 23, 2020, 3:13pm

>21 dlphcoracl: Some of my favorite books are indeed illustrated by photographs, so count me among those that think they are often the best illustrations when done properly. I can think of no finer example than the LEC "All the King's Men" what a masterpiece! In fact, I think it's a pity that more books don't use photogravures which technically aren't photographs, but are best when used in combination :)

ps One day I would love to have The Man Who Planted Trees.

23Django6924
Oct 23, 2020, 3:17pm

>21 dlphcoracl:

As I said, it's my own opinion, but I have never been impressed by any literary work I've seen which used photos for illustrations. I have not seen the three you mention, and there always are exceptions which prove the rule, but I found the Schiff-produced edition of Rimbaud with Mapplethorpe's photos unsatisfying (indeed, I think that is one work I prefer to see unillustrated, and the only one of his poems that would lend itself to illustration would be "The Drunken Boat"), and I have remarked elsewhere that the photographs I have seen in various Arion Press publications most annoying.

Again, personal taste.

24dlphcoracl
Oct 23, 2020, 5:14pm

>23 Django6924:

Re: Arion Press

Agreed. Their illustrations have never been a strong point and Andrew Hoyem's choices of abstract art for illustrating their editions of modern poetry - a poor idea to begin with since poetry does not really need illustrations - were especially inappropriate.

25booksforreading
Oct 24, 2020, 8:36pm

I agree with Django6924 that most of photographic illustrations of classic literary works that I have seen did not resonate with me. There are some exceptions (for me), including Arion Press's Hound of Baskervilles and LEC's Open Road. One example of a strange illustration choice I can think of is Mrs. Bridge by Arion Press: I really did not think that photographs of little toy figures and sets in various arrangements should work well for this work, but, strangely, I remember that as I was reading the novel, the illustrations somehow became somewhat symbiotic with the text, and I must say that they did not bother me as much as I thought that they would...

I do not own The Man Who Planted Trees and The Heights of Machu Picchu that dlphcoracl mentions above, so I cannot comment on them, but I will trust his opinion.

26Django6924
Oct 24, 2020, 9:35pm

I remember seeing pictures of the Arion Mrs. Bridge and thinking they were one of those exceptions that proves the rule. Of course there was a degree of artistic inspiration involved that was beyond what I have seen in most of their photographic illustrations: the choice of the toys, the design of the settings, and the period-style color were all most appropriate for the story.

Incidentally, this is one AP I probably would have bought had I the money when I discovered it, because there was a personal link: when I was a graduate student in Kansas City, Missouri I had a job at a wine and spirits store on the Brookside Plaza where Evan Connell was a customer.

27jveezer
Oct 29, 2020, 8:12pm

I agree that they did fit the Connell book nicely. I think photos worked admirably in Arion's A Journey Around my Room and in their Age of Innocence as well.

And I am currently reading the Folio Society Walden and am enjoying the photographs by Herbert W. Gleason very much.

28Django6924
Oct 29, 2020, 10:45pm

>27 jveezer:

One of these days I hope to see the LEC Walden with Steichen's photographs. His work has always been a particular favorite, and his more romantic style is, I think, well suited to the book.

29RickFlair
Mar 21, 7:03pm

Does the 1940's Doubleday edition use the deathbed text? Is the deathbed text the most desired?

30Django6924
Mar 22, 1:14am

>29 RickFlair: "Does the 1940's Doubleday edition use the deathbed text?"

The answer to your question is: sometimes. Christopher Morley has selected his favorite poems and versions of the poems from the many editions. I am not enough of a Whitman specialist to pick out all of the poems in this 1940 edition (my favorite, incidentally) from the original editions, although it uses "Song of Myself" from the 1855 edition, as does the editor of the New York Public Library edition (Doubleday, 1997--my second favorite edition). Just about everyone agrees the revisions Whitman made to "Song of Myself" for the "Deathbed edition" lose some of the poetry of that first expression in 1855. However, the later poems are from the "Deathbed edition."

"Is the deathbed text the most desired?

I don't think so, and many others don't think so either. As I said, most feel that the original "Song of Myself" from 1855 is poetically superior; which do you prefer?

1855--"I celebrate myself"

1891--"one's self I sing"

The Deathbed Edition is important because Whitman felt it was his last, mature expression of his thought, but I feel the Whitman of that earlier version is the way I like to think of him. Others may prefer the "good gray poet" of the Deathbed edition, and, of course, some of Whitman's greatest poems are from the later editions: "Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking," "Passage to India" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed" in particular.

In short, I think the best way to read Whitman is the way the editors in the 2 editions above present him, choosing the versions from each edition in the way the reader wants to see Whitman. Morley in his preface to the 1940 Doubleday says that each reader should, ideally, comprise his own Leaves of Grass. That seems sound advice for those who have the time to winnow through the various versions.

There is an interesting parallel here to FitzGerald's translations of The Rubaiyat: FitzGerald did four different versions, and was making changes to a 5th version when he died. I have an old edition which has all five, and it's very interesting to see how some quatrains from the 1st (1859) and last (1889) versions change. Sometimes I prefer the earlier version, such as the very 1st quatrain, and sometimes I prefer the later version, as in the most famous quatrain:

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!


The possibility of reading each edition and picking the quatrains you like best from each is much less daunting than tackling the same task with Leaves of Grass.

31RickFlair
Mar 22, 1:43am

>30 Django6924: great information thank you. I think I will go with the doubleday edition since I do like the illustrations and it is very affordable. The LEC version with the photographs seems really nice but those are all so crazy expensive.

32abysswalker
Mar 22, 1:38pm

>31 RickFlair: just to put this out there, my favorite edition is the New York Heritage Press reprint (bound in buckram) of the Nonesuch collaboration. It has the excellent Rockwell Kent illustrations, which best capture the feeling of the poems without falling into the folksiness that a lot of people want to read into Whitman (but I don’t think is there). It took me a little while to find an edition in the condition I wanted, but they don’t go for that much.

I prefer this to many of the super deluxe private press royalty treatments which I think make a similar mistake but in a different direction. The presentation of the poetry should be both humble and beautiful in my opinion.

33RickFlair
Editado: Mar 25, 1:05am

>32 abysswalker: I thought the Nonesuch collaboration was a special limited edition run. Here is one on abebooks now and you can see it was limited to only 1000 copies. It's very expensive. Is this the one you have?
https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=30710959982&searchurl=pn%3...

34Django6924
Mar 25, 10:40am

>33 RickFlair:

The edition on ABE is the leather-bound limited edition with Kent's signature. You can get a clothbound edition of the same book, minus signature for much, much less. Mine is Like New and I paid $25 for it (the price is still penciled on the ffep). It says "The Heritage Press/New York" on the title page and does not mention Nonesuch. The Sandglass says it was printed by The Lakeside Press, which also printed an expensive limited edition of Moby-Dick illustrated by Kent, which was reproduced by the Folio Society.

35abysswalker
Mar 25, 10:50am

>33 RickFlair: echoing what Django wrote, though I’d note that the binding seems to be buckram (which I see as a plus compared to many other kinds of cloth due to durability).

Construction-wise, I actually prefer the Heritage Press reissue of this over the 1000 copy Nonesuch limited edition because the binding of the Nonesuch is very fragile. Even if you can find a copy in decent shape, it would be hard to keep it in such condition if you also want to read it. And of course you will be paying a substantial premium for the first-thusness and rarity of the edition.

36RickFlair
Editado: Mar 25, 2:54pm

>34 Django6924: Great. What Sandglass number is associated with the printing at the Lakeside Press and why is it desired over the other normal Heritage New York editions? I like the Kent illustrations a lot but seems to me that Kent has illustrated all of the HP editions. Did the Nonesuch printing just come with a better binding? Here is a HP with the Kent illustrations and I do notice that the cover seems to be a lighter shade of green.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/164117302151?&ul_noapp=true&autorefresh=true

37Django6924
Mar 25, 5:37pm

>36 RickFlair:

Well, again a definitive answer would probably require a trip to the Ransom Center in Texas and access to the George Macy collection there; I can provide the following thanks to Michael Bussacco's Heritage Press checklist and his Sandglass companion:

The first Heritage issue of Leaves of Grass was in the second series (that is, not part of the First Series of 6 works which inaugurated the Heritage Club) and had a Sandglass number 2A, indicating it was the second book issued, July, 1937. Printed at the Lakeside Press, under the supervision of William Kittredge, it uses the Doubleday "complete text"--probably the Deathbed Edition. It was printed on rag paper, with a binding planned by Kent of "a smooth grass green Bancroft linen, originally intended by its manufacturers to be used as window-shade cloth." The books which went to Club members say on the title page "for Members of the Heritage Club" and there were copies sold through bookstores that were just marked "Heritage Press." This dual marking (and marketing) was a common feature in the first few years of the Heritage Club. There is a colophon

My copy has Sandglass 11N, indicating it was the 11th book issued in Series N, which would make it issued in April 1950 (the Sandglass itself has the date "May 2 1950" stamped on the top in purple ink). The binding is exactly the same grass green Bancroft linen and is so described in the Sandglass. There is no mention in the Sandglass of the paper, and I suspect it is part rag, part alpha cellulose--a very nice paper anyway, and the letterpress is exceptional. There is no colophon, and although Kittredge and the Lakeside Press are mentioned in describing the genesis of the book, the 11N Sandglass omits the statement from Sandglass 2A, "In close collaboration, Kent and Mr. Kittredge planned the physical properties of the edition of Leaves of Grass of which your copy is winging its way to you"--which seems to imply that although this copy of the book follows Kent's and Kittredge's plan, it was probably produced by a different printer than The Lakeside Press.

I suspect, but can't be certain, the leather-bound limited edition signed by Rockwell Kent had as its source the 2A edition of the book. In the earliest days of the Heritage Club, books would often be offered in a leather-bound edition as well as cloth-bound, but since the leather-bound variant is NOT listed in Mr. Bussacco's checklist, it was probably marked with the Nonesuch imprint on the title page. After Macy came to the rescue of the Nonesuch business in the late 1930s, there was a Nonesuch Fellowship, "A Society of the Patrons of the Nonesuch Press," under Macy's aegis, and as well as the Ten Great French Romances, it seems probable that another book offered to the Nonesuch Fellowship would have been a special Limited Edition of the leather-bound, signed Whitman to justify $4.50 cost per book to the members of that Fellowship (regular Heritage Club Members were charged $2.50 per book in those years. Much of this is due surmise on my part and I now that there are some Devotees who have the leather-bound signed edition, and perhaps they can provide any information.

Even cloth-bound and lacking the artist's signature, the 2A edition would be more desirable and expensive due to the rag paper and the presence of the colophon. Although I would love to have that edition, my 1950 copy is very nice and I can't criticize it in any way.

38RickFlair
Mar 25, 6:06pm

>37 Django6924: Wow, incredible information! Can anybody access Bussacco's Heritage Press checklist and Sandglass companion?

39Django6924
Mar 25, 6:13pm

You have to buy them, if they are available, on Amazon.

40kdweber
Mar 25, 6:23pm

My NF (minor rubbing on the bottom of the spine) in a NF slipcase of the leather bound, Kent signed edition does not seem fragile. I've had no qualms about reading from it. The title page says The Heritage Press: New York on one line and London: The Nonesuch Press on the next line.

41abysswalker
Mar 25, 6:43pm

My copy also came with Sandglass 11N.

The late afternoon lighting was good, so I took a few pictures:


















(You can click through to the image hosting site to embiggen.)

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