Arthur Szyk (1894-1951), pronounced “Shick”, is one of the great book illustrators and caricaturists of the twentieth century. His work particularly speaks to me in that he was a traditionalist, clearly influenced by medieval and renaissance styles, which are favorite artistic periods on mine. Szyk was a master of detail and coloring, which comes through masterfully in his best work.
Szyk was born in Poland, and was Jewish. In 1940 he settled permanently in the United States. His war caricatures became extremely popular, and he used all the power of his pen and skill to eviscerate Hitler, Mussolini and the Axis while calling attention to the horrible fate befalling European Jews. His war work appeared pretty much everywhere in the popular media and ended up an important part of the American WWII propaganda campaign. While an overly sensitive modern eye may find political incorrectness in certain depictions, his work represents a contemporary accurate account of American opinion in World War II.
A large collection of drawings from that period was published in book form as Ink and Blood in 1946. In addition to their popularity, his work was also critically acclaimed; flipping through Ink and Blood makes it easy to see why. As you will see below, the work is is pointed in its commitment to the Allied cause, but also masterful in drawing on deep artistic traditions of the West.
He collaborated with George Macy, founder of the Limited Editions Club (LEC), a number of times, illustrating the LEC editions of The Book of Job (1946), The Canterbury Tales (also in 1946), The Book of Ruth (1947), The Story of Joseph and His Brothers, as part of The Evergreen Tales (1948) and The Arabian Nights Entertainments (1954). However, his most famous and collectible collaboration with Macy was The Heritage Press edition of Ink and Blood.
As most of you know, Heritage Press was the little sister to the Limited Editions Club, both of which were created and owned by Macy. While Heritage Press books are very, very nice, and retain the best quality to value ratio available to collectors to this day, they are usually a clear second to their LEC sibling in overall quality (and price). Ink and Blood is an exception to this. Limited to 1,000 copies, signed by Szyk, and made to the highest quality, it remains one of the most collectible and elusive of the Macy books to find on the secondary market, usually running well over $1,000.
At a recent visit to Book Gallery, in Phoenix, I was lucky enough to see this hard to find edition, and they were kind enough, as always, to let me snap some photos to share with you all. If you have been looking for this edition, I would suggest calling them quickly, as it will not last long.
About the Edition:
- Signed by Szyk, inscribed to each subscriber by name
- Limited edition of 1,000 copies
- Quarto (9 1/4 x 12 1/4″)
- Pebbled black morocco, top edge gilt, with gilt spine title
- Seventy-three numbered plates plus a frontis, both duotone and 7 tipped in color plates, all but frontis on rectos with captions, versos blank.
- The slipcase is covered in orange and red batik (matching the endpapers)
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