Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, Limited Editions Club (1970)

John Steinbeck (1902 – 1968) was an American author whose works received significant  critical acclaim in the twentieth century and remain very popular today. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, capping off a prolific career of writing novels, short stories and non-fiction. He is best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning The Grapes of Wrath (1939), along with East of Eden (1952) and the novella Of Mice and Men (1937). Many of Steinbeck’s works have indelibly been wound into the fabric of American consciousness when it comes to thinking of the Dust Bowl and life in the Great Depression.   Steinbeck was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. His works are often required reading in high schools across America, despite occasional banning in various school districts throughout the country (usually for reasons of ‘offensive’ language).

Of Mice and Men is an unforgettably tragic story of two migrant workers in search of work in California during the Great Depression. The story is familiar to most. George Milton, hard-working, uneducated but intelligent, and Lennie Small, a large, strong man with limited mental capabilities are best of friends, with George essentially being Lennie’s protector. They find a job at a ranch where they hope to earn enough to attain their dream of buying their own plot of land. Curley, the angry son of their boss, takes a dislike to Lennie. One evening, George goes into town leaving Lennie at the ranch. Curley’s flirtatious wife finds Lennie in the barn, talks with him and offers to allow him to stroke her hair. She realizes his strength and lack of control and screams; Lennie, panicked, accidentally breaks her neck trying to keep her quiet. George meets Lennie at a predetermined spot where they had planned to meet should Lennie ever find himself in trouble. After comforting Lennie, George shoots him in the back of the head so that his death is painless and happy, versus the lynching that surely would happen when Curley and the gang would catch him.

Independence, friendship and loneliness are constant themes in the story, as is the plight of the common man in the face of the deep economic depression. The title Of Mice and Men is taken from the famous lines “the best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry” from Robert Burns‘ poem To a Mouse. The book was an immediate critical success and remains both popular and influential today. According to one source, the character of Lennie Small is used as the standard for legal mental retardation for executing a prisoner in Texas.

I struggle a bit with this Limited Editions Club (LEC) edition. While the binding is unique, nice and of commendable size, neither the paper, type or illustrations completely work for me. The publication of this edition by LEC fits into that time-period of the early 1970’s where the overall quality just seems a notch or two below earlier works from the LEC. 1970 was when the Macy’s sold the LEC to Boise Cascade Corporation who, in turn, sold it to Ziff-Davis Publishing Company; Ziff-Davis then sold to Cardavon Press. From 1970 until Cardavon Press sold the LEC in 1978 to Sidney Shiff, the club struggled and the works, in the opinion of many, were not quite up to the standards the Macy’s had set.

About the Edition

  • Illustrated with water-colors by Fletcher Martin, printed by Holyoke Lithograph Company
  • Designed by the artist
  • Published by A. Colish in New York
  • Introduction by John T. Winterich
  • Quarter natural suede cowhide and blue denim sides, blind-stamped
  • 168 pages
  • Limited to 1500 copies, signed by Fletcher Martin

Pictures of the Edition

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{Ed. Note: Apologies for some pictures being a bit out of focus; these pictures were taken at a book store (Book Gallery in Phoenix), not at my controlled picture taking environment.}

Of Mice and Men, Limited Editions Club, Slipcase Spine
Of Mice and Men, Limited Editions Club, Book in Slipcase
Of Mice and Men, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spine
Of Mice and Men, Limited Editions Club, Portion of Front Cover
Of Mice and Men, Limited Editions Club, Title Page and Frontispiece
Of Mice and Men, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text (sorry, blurry)
Of Mice and Men, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text
Of Mice and Men, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #1
Of Mice and Men, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #2
Of Mice and Men, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #3
Of Mice and Men, Limited Editions Club, Colophon
Of Mice and Men, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Signature

 

4 thoughts on “Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, Limited Editions Club (1970)

  1. Incidentally, I should add that the Heritage Press version of this is an exceptional clone, but it is apparently rather hard to find and somewhat pricy.

  2. I agree that this is a wonderful book, and I have no reservations other than that some of the illustrations don’t bring out the grimness of the story. Too bad Boardman Robinson wasn’t around to give this his unique character insight.

  3. My copy Of Mice and Men I obtained directly through my club membership and is in Mint conditionion with no toning of the spine as the one you posted. My big regret is that the Club paid so little attention to the American Nobel prize winers:

    Sinclair Lewis – one book, Main Street
    Ernest Hemingway – two books, For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea
    William Faulkner – one book, Hunting Stories
    John Steinbeck – two books, Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men
    F. Scott Fitzgerald – two books, The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night

    Hardly a plethora of books by these great American authors. Yes, I know Scott Fitzgerald didn’t win a Nobel prize. But he would have if he had lived longer.

    As for the paper and illustrations, I beg to disagree with you. The eggshell paper and the chosen typeface, 18 pt. Janson for the text, go well together and blend with the depressed 30s setting of the story. As for Fletcher Martin’s illustrations, they depict the harshness of the tale which ends sadly, but which can probably have had no other ending. Martin illustrated five books for the Club and also designed this book. And I must say, the illustrations are much better at depicting the story than most of those made for Shiff era books by fine artists rather than graphic artists, particularly those of Wuthering Heights by Balthus which always reminded me of Tenniel’s drawings for Alice in Wonderland.

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