Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray, Limited Editions Club (1931)

Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray, was first published in serial form in 1847/1848. It was immediately a huge success and remains so to this day. Subtitled A Novel without a Hero, it is a blistering, yet light-hearted, attack on English society at the time. The anti-heroine, Becky Sharp, remains one of the most memorable characters in English literature in her selfishness, amoral behavior, lack of conscience and manipulativeness. While Becky is the least sympathetic character, it truly is a novel without heroes as all characters have flaws, be it greed, slothfulness, deceit, snobbery and/or hypocrisy, all of which are traits which Thackeray saw permeating the society he lived in. The title Vanity Fair comes from  John Bunyan‘s The Pilgrim’s Progress, representing man’s inability to escape a sinful desire for worldly things.

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) was an outstanding Victorian-era novelist whose fame, with the publication of Vanity Fair, matched that of Charles Dickens. He subsequently published  PendennisThe Newcomes, and The History of Henry Esmond, all of which kept him high in the public mind. When he died unexpectedly in 1863 thousands attended his funeral. Today it is only Vanity Fair that has remained well read; critically it is clearly the best of his works, one of the best English novels of all time. As an aside, those who like travel books would do well to read Thackeray’s The Paris Sketch Book and The Irish Sketch Book.

This Limited Editions Club (LEC) edition was published in 1931. It was the most expensive book to produce in the first couple years of the LEC, and was voted by the subscribers at the time as the best of the second series. The illustrations by John Austen are apropos, especially in their visualization of the characters in an almost puppet-like fashion. Like many LEC’s the illustrations were hand colored which gives them a freshness and vitality missing from most works that do not use this expensive method.

{Ed. Note: The LEC and Heritage Press Imagery Blog also has pictures and an article on this book.}

About the Edition

  • Two volumes, 7 1/2″ x 11 1/2″, 842 pages
  • Introduction by G.K. Chesterton
  • Designed, printed and bound by John Johnson, Oxford University Press
  • Line illustrations by John Austen
  • Lithographed by Vincent Brooks, Day & Son
  • Hand colored by Daniel Jacomet
  • Binding decorations by Albert Rutherston
  • Bound in half magenta linen, gold stamped, pattern paper sides
  • Paper is mould made Arches
  • 14 point Baskerville Monotype
  • Signed by Austen
  • Limited to 1500 copies

Pictures

(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.)

{Ed. Note: I apologize for the poor quality of some of these pictures. I do not own the book, so I took pictures of it in a bookstore without my good camera.}

Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Books with Dust Jacket
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Both Volumes Spine and Cover
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Spine Macro #1
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Spine Macro #2
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Front Covers
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Front Cover Macro
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, End Papers
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Half-Title
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Frontispiece
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Title Page
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Title Page Text Macro
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Title Page Illustration Macro
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #1 and Text
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #2 and Contents
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #3 and Illustration List
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #4 and Text
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #5 and Text
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Colophon
Vanity Fair, Limited Editions Club, Signature Macro

5 thoughts on “Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray, Limited Editions Club (1931)

  1. This is indeed a lovely book. I picked this up for a paltry sum of $55 (although it was through a second party, and they haven’t demanded the money yet). The books themselves are mostly in good condition (V. 2 seems a little warped), but the slipcase is in bad, bad shape. That seems to be a common plight of this book, alas, as all the copies I’ve seen on ABEBooks were also unlucky with busted or damaged slipcases.

    Feel free to utilize info/photos in my post if you’d like, Chris:
    http://georgemacyimagery.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/limited-editions-club-vanity-fair-by-william-makepeace-thackeray-1931/

  2. Good post, Chris! But. let it be the first of a series. The John Austen illustrated LECs
    are some of the finest done by the LEC.They are not tremendously expensive and can be found in Fine comdition by those willing to search. They generally cost from $100 to $200 each, are printed b the Oxford University Press, illustrated by John Austen (all excet the last, The Faerie Queen), are two large volumes each (quartos), and are six in number. The titles are:
    1) Vanity Fair
    2) Pickwick Papers
    3) Gil Blas
    4) Peregrine Pickle
    5) Old Wives’ Tale
    6) The Faerie Queen (illustratd by Agnes Miller Parker with decorations by John Austen).
    No LEC collection iscomplete without thes books, and they should be read by all serious readers. I have all six in Fine condition, and I confess to not reading as of yet The Faerie Queen.

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