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 Warden, The 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
(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.)