The most desirable Heritage Press? (by asking price)

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The most desirable Heritage Press? (by asking price)

Jun 8, 9:45pm

For many years, booksellers and collectors alike have dismissed the Heritage Press books, not because they were poorly made, but because there were so many produced that the supply far exceeded the demand (that there should have been a decrease in demand for well-produced editions of the classic works of literature is a sorry comment on the way things have devolved the past three-quarters of a century--but that's a different topic).

Lately, I have seen the prices on some HP books increasing, and the supply of the most desirable issues dwindling. I thought it might be interesting to see which HPs are being sought after, and the kinds of prices they are bringing when they can be found (depending on condition, of course).

Naturally we ought to exclude specially-signed issues, such as the oft-mentioned HP Romeo & Juliet with Ms. Hepburn's signature, as well as Arthur Szyk's Ink and Blood which was in reality just an Limited Editions Club book with the HP name on it. There is also no point in mentioning the fancy rebound editions of HP, something I have seen quite often over the years.

I'll start this thread with the example of the three HP volumes of Sherlock Holmes. Not an HP exclusive, as is the aforementioned Romeo & Juliet, this is the reprint of the eight-volume Limited Editions Club Holmes. Currently, on ABE, the complete LEC books range from a high of something over $930 to a low of $495, and there are only 4 sets available. On the same website, there are five sets of the 3-volume complete Holmes, with prices ranging from $250 to $75. For many years I saw in a bookshop in Glendale, CA, a 3 volume HP set in Fine condition with Sandglasses and intact glassine for $40. I thought one day I might get the Limited Editions Club editions to complement my Annotated Sherlock Holmes, but only 3 years ago decided the HP would fulfill that desire just fine. When I went back to purchase them the books were gone, and, alas, so was the bookshop.

Are any other members here trying to find a desirable HP, and would you like to share your story?

Jun 8, 11:24pm

I too seek the Sherlock Holmes set. I haven't quite managed to snag them yet.

One that keeps eluding me seems to be "Dracula". I've tried to be very picky about condition and price. It doesn't seem to be a winning combination yet.

I don't collect LEC, just HP, so I am constantly looking online. I've seem some real oddities lately in pricing. Or what I consider oddities.

What would you consider desirable HP?

Jun 9, 12:16am

>2 literatefool: "What would you consider desirable HP?"

First of all, I would say all of the HP exclusives--those from the First Series and Series A though F, which would include those books which were issued jointly by the Nonesuch Press.

I am a fan of the first HP Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Thanks to the very great generosity of a member here, I now have the Limited Editions Club to compare to that first HP, and although the reproduction of Sharp's aquatints in the HP (by photogravure) is very, very good, the LEC uses the original aquatints which are superb. Aside from that, I prefer the HP design with the red ink used on the title page, for the story titles in the margins on every page, and the page numbers themselves; finally, I love the use of batik covering the boards, with a multitude of different batiks used, so much so I became addicted to collecting different samples until cooler heads prevailed and I stopped with 3 variations.

It's late, and I am having a hard time recalling all the ones I consider most desirable, but briefly, in addition to the ones mentioned above: the HP exclusive Two Years Before the Mast illustrated by Dale Nichols, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court illustrated and designed by Warren Chappell, A Sentimental Journey illustrated by Sylvain Sauvage (and his Penguin Island), Byron's Don Juan, the 2 volume War and Peace with illustrations by Fritz Eichenberg and the reproductions of Vassily Verestchagin's paintings, Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence, and the 4 volumes of artist biographies: Lust for Life, The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci, This is the Hour, and R.v.R. The Life of Rembrandt Van Rijn. In another thread, you can see showcased the very desirable Moriae Encomium illustrated by Franz Masereel, a book that was probably intended to be an LEC until WW II intervened. And needless to say the Heritage Press Dickens--my nominee for the best way to collect Dickens, even if you had the money to afford the Nonesuch edition.

There are more, but my brain is fading. Check WildcatJF's George Macy Imagery blog for an excellent survey of the HP exclusives.

Jun 9, 1:31pm

>3 Django6924: Thanks! I thought that was what you meant but I have learned the hard way over the years on the internet to never assume.

And absolutely agree about Dickens!

Editado: Jun 9, 4:21pm

The NY Heritage Press Fathers and Sons is a value for money type of book. The NY Heritage Press Fathers and Sons is not a reprint of the LEC Fathers and Sons (it was published before the LEC edition) and the illustrations are as good as in the LEC. The paper quality of the LEC might be a little better but not by much. The NY Heritage Press edition of the book is also a little smaller in dimensions than the LEC edition. I have both the LEC and the NY Heritage Press editions of Fathers and Sons and was surprised to find I preferred reading the story from the Heritage Press edition.

I would imagine that any Heritage Press book that was published before the LEC edition of the same book was released would be considered desirable from a purely production point of view.

Jun 9, 5:50pm

>5 blue.eyes:

I concur heartily! Fathers and Sons is a great HP--I also have both but prefer reading the HP.

Jun 9, 6:01pm

My favorite edition of Leaves of Grass is the New York era Heritage Press release.

It doesn’t have the higher quality paper of some more exclusive private press treatments, but other than that I prefer it in all regards to all the other fancy editions I’ve encountered.

Editado: Jun 9, 9:16pm

>7 abysswalker: Including the famous Grabhorn Press edition?

Jun 9, 8:59pm

>7 abysswalker:

It's the one in my library. The limited, leather-bound edition signed by Kent is, of course, highly desirable and commands a premium, but I'm quite content with the regular edition.

Jun 10, 9:18am

>8 ultrarightist: yes. An academic library nearby has a copy of the Grabhorn in its rare book collection. The Grabhorn is a higher quality book of course (no comparison: better press work, better paper, better binding, better illustration reproductions) but artistically it makes a lot of strange choices. The weight of the layout is reminiscent of Doves Press (high and tight toward the gutter) which has a quality of purity that doesn’t seem to fit the rough spirit of the poems. Strangely, the page numbers are tucked in toward the gutter. I like the Jansenist spine (I wish more fine publishers would continue to bind using this style; the only book I ever bought for the binding alone was a nineteenth century book on biology with an armorial binding in the Jansenist style) but the color of the leather doesn’t quite harmonize with the wood grain boards in my eyes, and the idea of a thick piece of (acidic?) wood so close to the paper seems like a bad idea to me. I’m probably being too precious about that, but special collections do generally replace wooden shelving with metal shelving, so I’m not sure why the choice of material used for boards would be different. If it were a rougher copy overall, that edge of transience might even fit, but not when all the dials are turned so strongly toward luxury.

Jun 10, 10:50am

>10 abysswalker: Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Very interesting perspective.

Jun 10, 12:14pm

Wooden boards have been used for binding books for centuries which is where the term "boards" comes from. Oak is usually the wood of choice. Saw a photo of a marvelous binding on a paper copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer that was quarter alum tawed pigskin (which is white) over oak boards. Not sure but I THINK the binder was Don Etherington.

Jun 10, 12:53pm

>12 Glacierman: you’re probably right that concern about wood boards is being overly particular, especially in the short to medium term (the human lifetime of a single collector). That said, here are some guidelines from the National Park Service (Conserve O Gram, July 1993, number 19/2):

Metal shelving coated with a baked enamel finish is preferable to wood. If wooden shelving is used it should be sealed to prevent the migration of acids from the wood into the books. Use a water-based aliphatic urethane, such as Polyglase Waterborne Finish, or a clear two-part epoxy coating, e.g., Inner Protect 1000.® (NOTE: Since oak is the most acidic wood, it is generally avoided for library shelving.) Very old wooden shelving is probably sufficiently dried out and vapor-free, depending on the type of wood.

(There is a survivorship bias in evaluating the very old books that still exist for durability of materials unless one is careful about defining a comparison set or counterfactual; it’s possible that many more old books would be around had other binding materials been more popular.)

Almost all of my books are stored on wooden shelves, so I clearly don’t care that much in practice, but when evaluating a book “for the ages” using more general criteria, it seems like an interesting attribute to note.

Jun 10, 4:36pm

My wife spent 10 years as an archivist, so I am familiar with the metal shelf standard. Those standards are created to deal with the "worst case" scenario, a better-safe-than-sorry approach, and err on the side of caution. The "survivorship bias" you mention certainly exists, but I do not think we need worry overmuch. I, too, keep my books on wooden shelves, some finished, some not. It is also useful to note that hand bookbinders today often chose oak boards for a special binding.

Jun 10, 4:39pm

BTW, metal shelves in archives work really well if the shelves are first waxed with a good furniture wax. The heavy archive boxes are much easier to work with!

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