Genesis, Illustrated by Jacob Lawrence, Limited Editions Club

One of the most sought after, valuable and expensive productions of the Limited Editions Club is their 1989 edition of Genesis.  The scale of the book is enormous, which does not come through completely in the pictures below.  In hand, the book is stunning, with beautiful paper, text and illustrations that blend into a coherent whole. When standing in front of it, I found myself staring at page after page, really taken in by what was accomplished here.

If one likes the art of Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), then this edition is worth every penny (if you are not a Lawrence fan, skip this edition as his work is this edition).  As discussed in the review of LEC’s Hiroshima, Lawrence was one of America’s leading modern figurative painters of the twentieth century. The silkscreening process must be incredible; the output jumps from the page like it was freshly painted. Lawrence’s inspiration for these illustrations are from the preachers at the Abyssinian Baptist Church. They have the size, clarity and emotional heft that it almost makes one feel they are sitting in the pew experiencing the sermon.

{Ed. Note:  My understanding is that Limited Editions Club may have a couple ‘as new’ copies of Genesis still available to order. You can call Jeanne Shiff at 212-737-7600 or 800-701-8870 to inquire about price and to order, if interested. Alternatively, one can usually find a copy or two available on the secondary market (such as Abe’s). I am aware that Book Gallery in Phoenix has a copy which has water damage to the solander box and cover, though the pages are in great shape.  I think they may be planning on getting it re-bound and have a new box created; but if you are interested in a copy at a much lower price than normal, which would require a bit of re-work on your part, call Mike Riley.}

About the Edition

  • King James Translation
  • 16 3/4″ x 22″
  • Eight silkscreen prints by Jacob Lawrence (each from 17-21 stencils), on Whatman paper by George Drexel at Osiris Printing
  • Edition signed by Jacob Lawrence
  • Text set in Monotype Caslon with Romulus heads at Galgonooza Letter Foundry by Julia Ferrari, with new numerals made from punches cut by Dan Carr
  • The text paper was made at Cartiere Enrico Magnani
  • Title page designed by Dan Carr
  • The book was printed at Heritage Printers
  • Bound in midnight blue fabric, from Japan
  • Protected in a fabric covered, suede lined solander box
  • Limited to 400 copies


Genesis, LEC, Solander Box
Genesis, LEC, Book in Solander Box
Genesis, LEC, Monthly Letter
Genesis, LEC, Title Page
Genesis, LEC, Sample Page with Text
Genesis, LEC, Sample Page with Text and Illustration
Genesis, LEC, Second Sample Page with Text and Illustration
Genesis, LEC, Colophon

12 thoughts on “Genesis, Illustrated by Jacob Lawrence, Limited Editions Club

  1. I just got hold of my own copy of Genesis. I was long unsure about the suitability of Lawrence’s paintings, but then I read this and all became clear…

    I add that I also own the Allen Press Genesis and I don’t think that it is as good. The Allen press paper, while hand made, is rather crude and dark in appearance and the illustrations, which sort of look like what you might find on the side of Greek vase, don’t have the majesty of the ones by Lawrence. Each book has its own merits and should not really be compared against each other. Michael

  2. As you stated, one has to be a fan of Jacob Lawrence’s artwork for this edition to make any sense and, for me, they are spectacularly inappropriate, similar to Sean Scully’s work for Sidney Shiff’s LEC edition of Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’. His bold, brightly colored, slightly garish illustrations work well with the LEC ‘Hiroshima’ but are completely wrong for ‘Genesis’.

    I would purchase the Allen Press edition of ‘Genesis’ any day of the week before I purchased this LEC edition, and at a considerable fraction of the cost. The quality of materials used by the Allen Press are equal to the LEC volume and, as a bonus, I think the magnificent set of wood cut illustrations by the great 20th century British artist Blair Hughes-Stanton are far superior to Jacob Lawrence’s work

    1. Dlphcoracl, it is hard to agree with your opinion, especially when you say that “His bold, brightly colored, slightly garish illustrations work well with the LEC ‘Hiroshima’ but are completely wrong for ‘Genesis’.” Lawrence’s illustrations are full of motion and emotion. The Preacher is the medium, showing the passions of the Lord Almighty when he had been creating the life on the Earth, and the emotional component is extremely high. The gestures of the preacher are very clear, the awe of the parish is easily read. The symbols on the pictures, like a box of tools, are clear and very important: the tools are transferred to people – to let them continue to create the life in this world, as the Lord has his mission accomplished.
      This book is amazing and Jacob Lawrence’s art is unforgettable. In my understanding the match between the content and illustrations is quite evident. It is a great achievement of the LEC design made by Ben Shiff.

      On the other hand, Allen Press edition of Genesis looks a little dull and the wood cuts are kinda static. I was not impressed, when I found a few pictures online. Maybe holding the book in hands would create a different opinion.

  3. I have Hiroshima, and I would love to have Genesis. However, it is price prohibitive. The last time I checked, there were two copies on the internet for $10,000 each. Bill Majure had one for $6,000, a bir cheaper but still out of my price range. You can trust Bill’s evaluations of book condition, and he generally has the best LEC prices.

    I bought my copy of Hiroshima at the regular Club prices before Shiff’s big price increase. I forget exactly what I paid, but I know it was less than $100 since I always paid in advance and for twelve books it was slightly under $1,000.

    I am really enjoying your posts of these LECs, even knowing I will never own them. One of the reasons I am rebinding some of the early LECs (30s and 40s editions) is that with new clothes, the grandeur of the early books is returned. Soon, I will have the three Dickens’ Christmas stories rebound. In the wings are The Scarlet Letter, Ballad of Reading Gaol, Hamlet designed by Eric Gill, and Moby Dick with the Boardman Robinson illustrations.These might be of interest to your readers if I can ever get a digital camera.

Leave a Reply