The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club (1942)

The Education of Henry Adams is yet another Limited Editions Club (LEC) publication that just speaks to me in a manner that only a book well designed and executed can. Like the recently reviewed The WardenThe Education of Henry Adams looks simple and studious on the outside, but manages to show its exceptional nature the second one starts flipping through the now seventy year pages made of Ragston special paper. It has a wonderful feel and is the perfect display medium for the monotype Times Roman, the type of which provides a strength, readability and conservativeness that seems very appropriate for this critically acclaimed auto-biography. Best of all, the etchings by Samuel Chamberlain are just phenomenal, among my favorite of any LEC. As you will see below, the etchings are incredibly detailed in their realistic representational nature which convey perfectly the settings in which Adams traveled. The quality of the etchings in this edition is akin to beautiful black and white photography done with collotype, while retaining the character of the artist’s needle strokes.

Henry Adams (1838-1918) was one of America’s leading intellectuals in the nineteenth century, best known for his autobiography The Education of Henry Adams as well as his wonderful Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres (the LEC of which will be reviewed in a future Books and Vines article). He was the grandson of President John Quincy Adams and the great grandson of President John Adams. Another grandfather of his, Nathaniel Gorham, signed the Constitution. His father, Charles Francis Adams, Sr., served in the US House of Representatives and was appointed by Abraham Lincoln as ambassador to England. Henry Adams graduated from Harvard, after which he toured Europe for a couple years returning home in time for the 1860 election campaign. He soon went back to Europe serving as private secretary to his father during his ambassadorship. He returned to the United States in 1868, soon after which he became a successful academic, journalist, historian and writer.

The Education of Henry Adams was first published in 1907 as a small private edition for selected friends. Unlike many autobiographies, it is narrated in the third person and is more a record of Adams’s thinking and reflections than a traditional recording of accomplishments and major life events. Also unusual and most refreshingly, Adams is unafraid to be critical of himself. While Adams had the best education America could offer at the time, he felt that it was too traditional in nature which left him unprepared for the massive industrial and technological advances occurring in the world around him. ‘The Education‘ refers to his self-education gained through experience, travel, interaction with friends, thinking and reading.

In 1918, after the death of Henry Adams, The Education was published for general release for the first time by the Massachusetts Historical Society. It quickly became a classic, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1919, and remains extremely well thought of as one of the great auto-biographies of all time. The Intercollegiate Studies Institute named it the best book of the twentieth century and Modern Library put it first in their 1998 list of the 100 Best Nonfiction Books. It is a book that should be read, both due to its importance and to its inherent quality. Thanks to the LEC, those interested have an excellent edition to own and read.  Best yet, this generally falls under the category of those LEC’s that are inexplicably affordable for many as it can be found in very good or better shape for under $100.

About the Edition

  • Designed and printed by D.B. Updike at The Merrymount Press, Boston
  • Illustrations with etchings by Samuel Chamberlain, pulled by Photogravure and Color Company, New York
  • Introduction by Henry Seidel Canby
  • Set in monotype Times Roman
  • Ragston special paper
  • Bound by Boston Bookbinding Company, Boston, in rust-colored buckram, gold-stamped
  • 528 pages, 7″ x 10″
  • Limited to 1500 copies, signed by Samuel Chamberlain

Pictures of the Edition

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The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Slipcase Spine
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Book in Slipcase
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spine
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Side View
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Frontispiece
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Frontispiece
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Title Page
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Title Page
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Contents
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, List of Etchings
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #1 (Introduction)
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #1
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #2 (Chapter 1)
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #2
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #1
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #2
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #3
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #3
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #4 (index)
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Colophon
The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club, Signature Macro

4 thoughts on “The Education of Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club (1942)

  1. Chris, like you I have always been amazed by the incredible detail of these illustrations. How strange that it would be a decade and a half before Chamberlain’s next LEC assignment–and that the assignment was another Henry Adams masterpiece, Mont St. Michel and Chartres. I read the latter work first, when I took a history of the middle ages course as an undergraduate, and although I was impressed with the intelligence of the author, his style was sufficiently complex to put me off of The Education until I was in my 30s. Either I had matured a lot, or the personal nature of the Autobiography led to a more relaxed, conversational tone, but I enjoyed this book thoroughly and hope I will have time to reread it one day.

  2. Don, Ha! You are right, 70 is not old thankfully — which is why I referred to “its exceptional nature” in that sentence! Good story above, wish I had had a literature professor like that.

  3. I have a Mint copy of this LEC, but I did have to remake the slipcase. The tissues inserted between the illustrations and the opposite text pages are still in place.

    What do you mean that 70 is old? I am 7 years older than that with most of my faculties still intact.

    I had a professor in college who recommended this book to me, but I have never read it., It was published in 1942, shortly after FDR’s speech declaring war on Japan, which I listened to and remember very vividly. Thanks for reminding me of it, and will move it up on my LECs to be read list.

    I remember my college instructor telling me about the oddity of the book: It is evidently written in the third person as the author refers to himself as “he” instead of the first person “I”, in which most autobiographies are written. This literature professor had a great collection of about 200 Heritage Press books, and he was the one who introduced me to the HP editions. I joined the Heriage Club shortly after graduation in 1961 and stepped up to having an LEC membership around 1965.

    The Heritage Club mebership was $4.95 per month/ The LEC subscription price was $15.00 per month. Both offered a 10% discount for payment in advance. My first HP books were free copies of The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After. These were a gift for subscribing.

    No gift editions for joining the LEC. My first LEC book was Petrarch’s Sonnets which I still have in Mint condition.

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