Bhagavad Gita, Limited Editions Club

{Ed. Note:  A review of the Folio Society edition of Bhagavad Gita is here.}

The Bhagavad Gita is Hindu scripture, a poem of philosophy, gospel and prophecy born from a dialogue in legend. On a plain of Kurukshetra, thousands of years ago, two opposing armies were about to face battle. One of the armies included Prince Arjuna and his personal charioteer Krishna, a manifestation of the Supreme Being in human form. The army including Arjuna won the battle. However, before the battle, Arjuna announced to Krishna that he would not fight, as he recognized many of the enemy as relatives and friends. Krishna had an argument in favor of the battle and for every subsequent question put to him by Arjuna. This resulted in a long conversation that went far beyond the initial question on whether to fight in the battle, going into aspects of life and destiny as a whole. This dialogue, buried within the Hindu epic Mahabharata, is the Bhagavad Gita.  It is considered among the most important texts in the history of literature and philosophy.

Bhagavad Gita can be looked at as a guide to Hindu theology and is often used as a practical guide to life. The main philosophical subject matter of the Bhagavad Gita centers around explaining five basic “truths”; The Supreme Controller, living beings/the individualized soul, Nature/Matter, duty in accordance with Divine law and time.  Bhagavad Gita speaks of the Yoga of equanimity. As stated in the wiki article on Bhagavad Gita, “the term Yoga covers a wide range of meanings, but in the context of the Bhagavad Gita, describes a unified outlook, serenity of mind, skill in action and the ability to stay attuned to the glory of the Self (Atman) and the Supreme Being (Bhagavan). According to Krishna, the root of all suffering and discord is the agitation of the mind caused by selfish desire. The only way to douse the flame of desire is by simultaneously stilling the mind through self-discipline and engaging oneself in a higher form of activity.”

The author of these verses is unknown, though is traditionally attributed to Vyasa, a sage who was apparently a witness to the events at Kurukshetra.  It is not clear when this poem first came into being, with many scholars thinking somewhere between 2300 and 2500 years ago.  The poem contains 700 verses.  It is written in a poetic form that is traditionally chanted.

The Limited Editions Club (LEC) edition of Bhagavad Gita, published in 1965, is one of LEC’s more unique editions, especially in terms of its beautiful wrap around solander box and the decorations on the silk binding.  Having the Sanskrit text and English text on facing pages is extremely nice.  The original illustrations by Indian artist Y.G. Srimati (1927-2007)  fit perfectly. It was a nice touch that most everything to do with the book, including it’s production, was done in India. For a less expensive version of what is contained in the LEC, the Heritage Press also had an excellent edition with the contents copied from the LEC.

Sir Edwin Arnold (1832-1904), whose translation the LEC edition uses, spent seven years in India as principal of Deecan College in Poona, before returning to England as the editor of the London Daily Telegraph, a position he then held for forty years. He translated works from many languages, including Turkish, Persian, Greek, Italian, French and Sanskrit. He is the author of The Light of Asia, which dealt with the life and teachings of Buddha.  The Limited Editions Club also published that book, which will be reviewed sometime soon in Books and Vines.  Arnold’s translation of Bhagavad Gita is commonly thought the best in verse.

About the LEC Edition

  • Published June 1965
  • Sanskrit text and English text on facing pages
  • Sanskrit text translated into English Verse by Sir Edwin Arnold
  • Illustrated with paintings by Y.G. Srimati, who also signed the edition
  • Illustrations mounted by hand into each book
  • Introduction by Shri Sri Prakasa
  • Made by the Commercial Printing Press, Ltd. in Bombay, India under the supervision of S. Ramu, who also designed and planned the book
  • English in Egmont type
  • Smooth, cream white paper with a vellum finish from Curtis Paper Company, Newark, Delaware
  • Bound in silk, woven by hand in India with a theme of blossoming lotus
  • Includes solander box in red cloth with gold stamped design
  • 7″x10″, 364 pages
  • Limited to 1500 copies, mine is #330

Pictures of the LEC Edition

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided to highlight and visualize the work being reviewed.  A side benefit, hopefully, is encouraging healthy sales of fine press books for the publishers and fine retailers that specialize in these types of books (of which Books and Vines has no stake or financial interest). Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

Bhagavad Gita, LEC, Solander Box
Bhagavad Gita, LEC, Solander Box front
Bhagavad Gita, LEC, Book in Solander Box
Bhagavad Gita, LEC, Frontispiece and Title Page
Bhagavad Gita, LEC, Sample Pages with Text
Bhagavad Gita, LEC, Sample Pages with Text and Illustration
Bhagavad Gita, LEC, Second Sample Pages with Text and Illustration
Bhagavad Gita, LEC, Third Sample Pages with Text and Illustration
Bhagavad Gita, LEC, Second Sample Pages with Text
Bhagavad Gita, LEC, Fourth Sample Pages with Text and Illustration
Bhagavad Gita, LEC, Third Sample Pages with Text
Bhagavad Gita, LEC, Colophon 

8 thoughts on “Bhagavad Gita, Limited Editions Club

  1. I was torn when my relative’s LEC [Bhagavad Gita], still in the original wrapping carton from the LEC, was bought. I really wanted to buy it myself, but alas, this last year has been a financial disaster for me. The Heritage Press issue, which I have, is very nice and the reproductions of the illustrations are fine. Incidentally, all the illustrations you included above are quite nice, Chris, but I’m surprised you didn’t include the showstopper–the illustration depicting Krishna displaying his Viśvarūpa to Arjuna.

  2. The EP also has another edition of the Bhagavad Gita as part of their six volume “Sacred Texts” set. The translation is by Barbara Stoler Miller, art is by Jaya Dayal, and calligraphy by Diya Bhattacharya. This is in a uniform binding with the others: The Dhammapada, Tao Te Ching, Koran, Gospels, and Torah.

    I have not had a chance to revisit the Bhagavad Gita and read this translation so I don’t know how it reads. I would definitely like to get a hold off the LEC both for the illustrations and for the Sanskrit en face. Not to mention the usual awesome LEC production values!

  3. I have the LEC version and the HP one. The worst thing about the LEC edition is the wallet-style solander. The inside of the solander (if you want to call it that since it is not a true solander) is a glued-down, velour-like material, as I can see from your picture and looking at mine, which tends to crack at the bend. I also don’t like the ribbon closure which gets very wrinkled and untidy after being tied and untied a few times. Now French velour is avaiable which is a book cloth with one side papered to adhere better to a solander or slipcase. I use it on all of mine. I think, as time permits, I will make a standard solander with a linen book cloth on the outside and french velour on the inside. The spine can have a leather label.

    The book I have is Fine, although the foil paper label on the book cover looks cheap. Also, adhering paper foil to a cloth causes the cover imprint to come right thru the paper foil. Again, a better label could have been used. The Club didn’t have many more years to survive the Macy’s leadership, and you can tell the production was scrimped through, although the illustrations are nice.

    I actually favor the HP version, although mine is a lttle faded. A bright yellow was used to bind the book, and it has faded a little aftor 40 years or so. Overall, the HP version is near Fine, and I could be persuaded to sell it for $10.

    1. Don
      My fiancé has actually been looking for the HP edition, I’m aware this post is a little dated, however if you were interested in selling your copy I would be happy to purchase it from you.
      k.s.ingraham@gmail.com
      Much thanks
      -Lee

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