Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson, Hand & Eye Letterpress

{Ed. Note: 12/21/2011, added some photo’s of the Limited Edition Club editions of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Scroll to the bottom to see these.}

Being a huge fan of Robert Louis Stevenson, I was very excited to run across a charming new limited edition of his Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde published by Hand & Eye Letterpress of London. I say charming because the book is reasonably small in scale (215 x 125mm) and because it perfectly fits the time period the story represents; hand bound, letterpress printed and the use of illustrations that directly reflects the mood of the setting and story using an artistic style seemingly straight from the late 1800’s.

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was first published in 1886. It was an immediate success and remains one of Stevenson’s best selling works. The tale is known to almost everyone; a man with a split personality, one evil, one good.  The story has been so influential that the term “Jekyll and Hyde” has established itself firmly within the English language to mean someone who can sometimes be very good, while other times being very bad.

The duality of good and evil that often torments humanity is certainly excellent fodder for writers, with Stevenson’s genius coming from his examination of this duality within one soul. Doing so reflected perfectly the tension within Victorian society itself, which valued propriety in outward behavior while, behind the curtains, so many of those who practiced external respectability were behaving in ways contrary to the propriety they worked so hard to exude. Jekyll himself fought that tension, having spent much of his life banishing evil urges; if Freudian theory is to be taken into account here, this led to the development of his evil alter-ego as his unconscious mind ultimately dictated the behavior of his conscious.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) is one of history’s greatest writers whose works are amongst the most read in the world today.  While in the intellectual craziness of the twentieth century his literary reputation waned, works such as Treasure IslandKidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde ensured that sanity would  prevail and Stevenson would again be critically recognized for his immense contribution to the Western Canon.

Despite his short life, Stevenson was a prolific writer producing many works of lasting value. Besides the above mentioned stories, he wrote numerous other novels, including The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses and The Master of Ballantrae; many short stories such as New Arabian Nights and The Beach of Falesá (of which Limited Editions Club published a beautiful edition that will be reviewed soon); a slew of travel writings such as The Silverado Squatters and Travels with a Donkey; and poetry, such as A Child’s Garden of Verses.

About the Edition

The book is very nicely done in a handsome manner, while being adequately dark apropos of the story. The quality of the craftsmanship is top notch. Books like this always shout to one lucky enough to hold it that it was cared for in its creation, made in a way that only “hand-made” can accomplish. The illustrations by Angela Barrett are simply perfect, outside of a minor quibble of preferring them to be somewhat larger in scale. I look forward to seeing more from Hand & Eye Letterpress.

  • Eight tipped in illustrations by Angela Barrett, who signs the book
  • Designed by Webb & Webb
  • Typeset in Monotype Plantin by Speedspools, Edinburgh and Hand & Eye Letterpress, London
  • Text printed on Zerkall Ingres 90 gsm mould-made paper by Hand & Eye Letterpress
  • Illustrations printed on Mohawk paper by Empress Litho
  • Bound by Hannah Byles and Smith Settle
  • 215 x 125mm
  • Limited to 175 copies (150 numbered for sale), mine is #5


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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Cover and Spine
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Cover
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hand & Eye Letterpress, End Page
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Frontispiece and Title Page
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Sample Text and Illustration #1
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Sample Illustration #1
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Sample Text 1 (close-up)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Sample Illustration #1
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Sample Text #2
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Sample Text & Illustration #2
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Sample Text & Illustration #3
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Sample Illustration #2
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Colophon

Limited Editions Club Pictures (courtesy of LibraryThing user Django6924)

Jekyll & Hyde, LEC, Title Page
Jekyll & Hyde, LEC, Sample Page with Text and Illustration #1
Jekyll & Hyde, LEC, Sample Illustration #1
Jekyll & Hyde, LEC, Sample Illustration #3

30 thoughts on “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson, Hand & Eye Letterpress

  1. I just discovered that a special deluxe version of the Hand & Eye edition was made, bound in leather by Shepherds Sangorski & Sutcliffe. The colophon for the standard edition seems to indicate that the special edition is larger-format, as well. Here’s one of the 10 such specials produced:
    Looks fantastic, but at that price I’ll have to content myself with the standard edition!

  2. Chris, in your preamble to the Hand & Eye Letterpress edition you mention “the use of illustrations that directly reflects the mood of the setting and story using an artistic style seemingly straight from the late 1800′s.”
    Angela Barrett’s pictures are indeed wonderfully atmospheric. The front board/frontispiece illustration conjures up the work of Atkinson Grimshaw, master of night and fading day in the Victorian streetscape. At:


    the picture on the right is a section of Grimshaw’s ‘Going home at dusk’ (1882) and that on the left is a sepia reproduction. Angela Barrett’s illustration has precisely caught the same sense of foggy unease.
    Her walleyed streets unpopulated by any except the scene’s essential character or characters also have the power of both the eerily quiet Paris of Atget’s photographs (he was RLS’s near contemporary) and the more recent deserted town of Dr Borg’s nightmare in Bergman’s Wild Strawberries. She’s a distinguished addition to the list of Stevenson’s illustrators!

  3. I have tried to leave out the definite “The” when not used in the original book when rebinding LECs. But one got by me and the binder in the case of the De Quincy. It’s spine title reads “The Confessions of an English ….” I didn’t have the heat to ask the binder to redo the spine since he did such a beautiful job on the rebinding.

  4. Making illustrations for JH is difficult because so much in the text is left indefinite and undisclosed – as the name ‘Hyde’ suggests. We never get a full description of Hyde, for example, or any clear idea of what he does. Barnett’s illustrations seem very successful in their menacing vagueness (as well as being one of the few illustrators – not to mention film directors – to show Hyde as ‘dwarfish’).

    Right at the beginning of the book, the ‘trampling’ scene is presented as central, memorable, important – but how can you illustrate a man who “trampled calmly over the child’s body”, a child who is “not much the worse, more frightened”, yet receives compensation on the spot for £100, more than a domestic servant’s annual wages. Ther is so much going on here that doesn’t fit that you half suspect the narrator of covering up on behalf of his fellow “gentleman”. And how do you “tample over” a body and leave it basically unhurt?

    Wilson does this well with a defenceless, spreadeagled girl and Hyde stepping over her. Barnett adds the frightening blind tenement building and empty street and then takes away detail – not the suggested heavy tread, indifference and swing of Wilson, nor thew spreadeagled girl, but two tiny figures and Hyde walking over the body like some automaton. An excellent solution that translates the vague horror of the text.

    1. Hi Richard, thanks for the excellent analysis. I love your Pranzo Di Lavoro website, looks stunning there. Will have to try to get that on the agenda for the next year or so. I notice you said that you were working on a new edition of RLS, can you tell us a bit about that?

      1. There were a dozen or so limited editions of Stevenson 1894-1924, starting with the Edinburgh Edition, a fine piece of printing, and the Swanston Edition with clean page setting and that sits nicely in the hand. I don’t know the American editions well, but I admire other books produced by Scribner’s in this period.

        Anyway, 1924-5 is a good turning point in the position of RLS: he just didn’t become less popular: he went from most admired English-language writer to a writer excluded from the literary canon. Why this happened is a bit of a mystery, but was undoubtedly connected with Modernism – and although RLS has much in common with this movement, he probably alienated 1920s writers by his provocative explorations of popular genres and by his continual playfulness (the Modernists were, above all, very serious).

        In the last 15 years we’ve had an interesting revival of interest in Stevenson, and one of the manifestations of this is the New Edinburgh Edition (yes, we have a blog: http://edrls.wordpress.com/).

        RLS was a great lover of wine, too: in his last years in Samoa he had a cellar stocked with French wines. Most people know the description of the Schramsberg winery in the Napa Valley where “the wine is bottle poetry”. Here, to close, from a little-known essay, is a comparison of drinking a certain white wine and the general feeling of exhileration when in high mountains:

        “There is a certain wine of France […] when drunk in the land of its nativity still as a pool, clean as river water, and as heady as verse. It is more than probable that in its noble natural condition this was the very wine of Anjou so beloved by Athos in the ‘Musketeers.’ Now, if the reader has ever washed down a liberal second breakfast with the wine in question, and gone forth, on the back of these dilutions, into a sultry, sparkling noontide, he will have felt an influence almost as genial, although strangely grosser, than this fairy titillation of the nerves among the snow and sunshine of the Alps. That also is a mode, we need not say of intoxication, but of insobriety. Thus also a man walks in a strong sunshine of the mind, and follows smiling, insubstantial meditations.”

      2. Thank you Richard, for that link. I look forward to keeping up with it. If RLS was not in my top few writers prior to that quote on wine of Anjou, he would be now! I love “we need not say of intoxication, but of insobriety”. I will need to look for some of the limited editions. Thanks again for sharing.

  5. I’m a retired psychotherapist who found your political blog first and then discovered we have similar political leanings as well. I was also pleased to learn that our politics are not strident or argumentative. The concepts can stand up for themselves!

    But I was particularly appreciative of your bibliophilia. I have a 10 year old grand-daughter is already writing reviews for her peers, at http://www.miasbookmark.wordpress.com. She will drool ‘Jekyll and Hyde”s production value, although the content itself may be too adult for her. Her parents, of course, will be the ultimate judge of that.

    Thank you for your website.

  6. A stunning production. Flawless book design and the use of a black binding and boards with grey Zerkall paper to complement Angela Barrett’s moody, atmospheric chiaroscuro illustrations work seamlessly.

  7. Thank you for your kind words about our book. When preparing the text we used as our reference the Penguin Popular Classics edition published in 1994. It has the definite article in the title on title and half-title pages, and throughout the book on running heads. That doesn’t mean I think that Robert Bailey is wrong!

  8. Gorgeous book! The illustrations are strangely reminiscent of E.A. Wilson’s for the LEC edition.

    It is such a beautiful production that it is perhaps petty to quibble over such a thing, but the English teacher in me finds it irritating that the publishers did not treat the text with the same degree of care that they did the physical production. The correct title for the book is “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” There is no definite article. Most definitely not.

    1. Hi Robert! All true, though it is common use today to include the definite article; perhaps not accurate, but common and accepted. Yet, you bring up a good point, since the book is so true to the time it was written, they should have dropped the ‘The’! I actually did not have the “The” in my article, then went back and changed it figuring most would not realize that it was not part of the ‘real’ title, and would have assumed I made a mistake! Of course, should have went with my original wording!

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