Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2016 Issue

Limited Editions Club Books from Oak Knoll Books

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The Limited Editions Club from Oak Knoll Books.

Oak Knoll Books has published their Special Catalogue 28. The Limited Editions Club. The Limited Editions Club was founded in 1929 by George Macy. His idea was to publish fine and limited editions of classic books, adding the artwork of notable illustrators and artists. Usually, the books were signed by the artists and/or others associated with the publication of the edition. Occasionally, an author might sign the books, but mostly the books were older and the authors, for obvious reasons, not available to sign. Macy gathered up a list of subscribers, published his books in runs of 1,500 numbered copies (and printed a few more for other uses), and originally sold the books for $10 each, a lot of money at the time. There were a few books published outside of this sequence, but the formula applied to most. Twelve books were published per year.

 

George Macy died in 1956. The company was next managed by his wife, Helen, then their son in 1968, and was sold to Boise Cascade in 1970. Boise in turn sold it a few years later to Ziff-Davis, who sold it to Cardavon, a company controlled by Gordon Carroll, a former editor of Time. Carroll died in 1978, after which the company was sold to Sidney Shiff, who operated it until his death in 2010. However, under Shiff's management, the Club evolved to selling much more expensive artists' books rather than traditional classics.

 

This company history is recited to help explain where Oak Knoll came up with most of the books offered in this catalogue. Oak Knoll purchased a large collection of Limited Editions Club books from the widow of Robert McHenry Carroll, who was the son of 1970's owner Gordon Carroll. It turns out that these books were evidently retained copies by the corporation, as they go all the way back to its first year. They were unnumbered, and often have initials on them, such as "G. M." for George Macy, "H. M." for Helen Macy, "G. C." for Gordon Carroll, and "R. M. C." for Robert McHenry Carroll. While most books in this catalogue trace this lineage, Oak Knoll has also listed Club books already in their possession. Here are a few of the 456 Limited Editions Club books (and a few ephemeral items and books about the Club) offered.

 

We begin with the first book published by the Limited Editions Club, in 1929. Starting a business selling expensive books in that year sounds like a recipe for disaster, but somehow they succeeded. Item 1 is The Travels of Lemuel Gulliver, the Jonathan Swift title commonly known as Gulliver's Travels. The introduction was provided by Shane Leslie, Irish born like Swift, a baronet, diplomat, writer, and cousin of Winston Churchill. The illustrations were provided by Alexander King. Initiating the formula that would be used for decades, the book was published in 1,500 copies and was signed by the illustrator. The Limited Editions Club passed its printing jobs around to various fine printers, their first book being printed by Norman T. A. Munder of Baltimore, who had won numerous awards for the quality of his work. Priced at $275.

 

This next item precedes even their first book. It is an original invitation for membership. It is headed The Limited Editions Club Incorporated, Your Favorite Books. Printed in 1929, it came in cloth-backed boards, quite fancy for a solicitation. Item 448. $25.

 

Item 6 comes from 1930, the Club's second year of operation. It is The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner, by Daniel Defoe. This one was printed by the legendary Grabhorn Press of San Francisco. It was signed by illustrator Edward A. Wilson. This book indicates it was an office copy, and has a stamp showing it as one of 25 presentation copies. It has its number crossed out with the initials G. M. (for George Macy) written in. It was the 11th book printed by the Club. $135.

 

This is not the typical Limited Editions Club volume. Oh the book, or set, looks as you would expect. The set is composed of Lewis Carroll's classics, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass. It was published in 1932. Rather than using a current illustrator, the Club used the illustrations from the original by John Tenniel. They could not get Tenniel to sign these 1,500 sets as he had died in 1914. They did get typographer and binder Frederic Warde to sign, but there is one more signature that makes these books special. They were signed by Alice herself. The Alice of Carroll's books may have been fictional, but the character was based on young Alice Liddell. Carroll (actual name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) met the Liddell family in 1855, and in 1862, Alice, then 10 years old, asked Carroll to tell her and her sisters a story. This was not the first time he told them a story, but it was the first time she made what became a historic request, that he write it down. So evolved the Alice story, with the lead character based on Alice Lidell. In 1932, the Limited Edition Club convinced Alice, now Alice Hargreaves, to sign their books. Alice was 80 years old at the time and died two years later. Item 22. $5,500.

 

This is probably the most notable of all the books the Limited Editions Club published. In 1935, Macy chose to publish an edition of James Joyce's Ulysses. The first edition had only been released 13 years earlier. To complement this edition, he hired the great artist Henri Matisse to provide illustrations. His drawings were not particularly related to Ulysses. They were, in actuality, based on the Odyssey. Undoubtedly, there was a perfectly good reason, such as Ulysses is an odyssey and Matisse probably did not read Joyce's book. It isn't easy. Both Joyce and Matisse were to sign the volumes as well, providing the signatures of one of the century's greatest writers and greatest artists. However, while Matisse fulfilled his role in signing all 1,500, Joyce only signed 250. Joyce may have stopped because Matisse's illustrations were not directly related to his book, though this is not clear. This copy is signed by both Matisse and Joyce. Item 49. $20,000.

 

Oak Knoll Books may be reached at 800-996-2556 or orders@oakknoll.com. Their website is www.oakknoll.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.

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