In the last week or so, in the spirit of the holidays, Books and Vines has taken a look at A Christmas Carol and The Chimes, both by Charles Dickens, both from the early days of the Limited Editions Club (LEC). We now take a look at The Cricket on the Hearth, which is yet another Dickens’ Christmas story provided to fine book lovers in an LEC edition.
The Cricket on the Hearth has much more fantasy, and a bit less biting social criticism, then either A Christmas Carol or The Chimes. It is certainly a sentimental story, and presents an idealized vision of the Victorian home. The book was a success with the public, selling more than its two predecessors, despite not being as overwhelming of a hit with critics.
Probably the highlight of this edition is the fact that it was designed, printed and bound at the prestigious Golden Cockerel Press, one of the great fine presses of the twentieth century, famous for its extremely high quality, handmade, limited edition publications of some of literatures greatest classics. Famous book and type designer Eric Gill created many typefaces for Golden Cockerel Press, including that used in this edition. Golden Cockerel Press played a large role in reviving the art of wood engravings for illustrations, including those from Gill, Robert Gibbings (who designed this edition) Blair Hughes-Stanton and Agnes Miller Parker, among other famous 20th century illustrators. For The Cricket on the Hearth, illustrations are from Hugh Thomson (1860-1920), one of the most popular and successful book illustrators of the Victorian era. In short, the pedigree behind this book makes it worth owning.
About the Edition
As with the other Christmas novellas of Dickens published by the LEC, The Cricket on the Hearth is well done, with excellent paper and type (see below, how after nearly 80 years the text and illustrations still jump from the page). The illustrations work well for me (frequent Books and Vines readers know my preference for classic, traditional illustration styles). The cover design is a bit odd, in that the emphasis was clearly highlighting the use of Golden Cockerel Press, rather than the book or its association with Christmas.
- Reprinted from the first edition published by Bradbury and Evans in 1846
- Illustrated with water colors by Hugh Thomson, printed by collotype and hand colored
- Designed, printed and bound by Robert Gibbings, The Golden Cockerel Press in 1933
- Hand set in Golden Cockerel type designed by Eric Gill
- Hand-made linen rag paper from Melbourne Mills
- Introduction by Walter de la Mare
- Small folio, full yellow Winterbottom buckram stamped in green
- 8 1/2″ x 12 1/2″, 98 pages
- Limited to 1500 copies, mine is #182