Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres, by Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club (1957)

A couple weeks back Books and Vines highlighted the wonderful 1942 Limited Editions Club (LEC) edition of The Education of Henry Adams, with stunning etchings by Samuel Chamberlain. Now that I am three-quarters of the way through reading it, I can only re-emphasize what a must have book it is. Not only is the design and execution extremely apropos for this autobiography, but the content is proving worthy of all the praise that has been lavished on it for more than 100 years now. Which brings me to the point of this article — that when it comes to Henry Adams, the LEC followed their 1942 Education home run with a  1957 grand slam in their edition of Adams’s other masterpiece, Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres.

The LEC Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres is conservatively designed by the great American book designer/illustrator/type designer T.M. Cleland in a classic manner, seemingly simplistic but oozing with intellectual aura. The type, Monotype Poliphilus, works perfectly for this work and the Curtis Rag paper is nice, as always. As you may recall, I felt that Samuel Chamberlain’s etchings for The Education were amongst the best I have ever seen in an LEC. Just wait until you see the photographs that he provides to Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres below! Beautiful is an understatement. Re-produced directly from the negatives by The Photogravure and Color Company, the photographs transcend time yet emanate a feel of medieval context, perfectly appropriate for a book that was written to celebrate what Adams saw as the harmony of medieval society.

Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres was privately published by Adams in 1904, a few years prior to his completing The Education of Henry Adams, which was also privately published.  Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres provides thought-provoking reflections from Adams’s active mind; history, travel, poetry and architecture are only some of the many areas of interest woven throughout his text.  Medieval society, as represented by the great cathedrals of France, provides gist for the mill within Adams’s mind, providing the unifying theme. Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres was publicly released in 1913 and quickly received an excellent critical reception. It has been considered a classic ever since. I look forward to reading this, hopefully soon after I complete The Education.

About the Edition

  • Illustrated with 59 photographs by Samuel Chamberlain, reproduced by The Photogravure and Color Company
  • Introduction by Francis Henry Taylor
  • Designed by T.M. Cleland
  • Type set in Monotype Poliphilus
  • Composition and printing done by the Press of A. Colish, Inc., Mount Vernon, New York
  • Curtis Rag paper from Curtis Paper Company, Newark, Delaware
  • Binding in grey buckram, with a black leather label, stamped in gold, designed by T.M. Cleland
  • Binding done by Frank Daniel Fortney of Russell-Rutter Company of New York
  • 7″ x 10″, 462 pages

Pictures of the Edition

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Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Slipcase Spine
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Book in Slipcase
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spine
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Cover
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Side View
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Title Page
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Title Page #1
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Title Page #2
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #1 (Introduction)
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #1 (Introduction)
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Contents List
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, List of Plates #1
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, List of Plates #2
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #2 (Preface)
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #2 (Preface)
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #1
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #3
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #3
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #4
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #3
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #5
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #6
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #7
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #4
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Colophon
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Limited Editions Club, Signature Macro

4 thoughts on “Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres, by Henry Adams, Limited Editions Club (1957)

  1. Wonderful looking book! Thanks for your post, it prompted me to buy a copy of this limited edition on Abebooks!

  2. I read this before The Education, and, being an undergraduate, probably was ill-prepared for the immense erudition and seasoned judgement of the work. I remember Adams went on and on about the windows of Chartres, about the medieval techniques of glass-making, and how the preponderance of blue in the Chartres windows made them the crowning glory of stained glass art. I kept thinking “get on with it.”

    Part of my frustration and impatience was undoubtedly due to the lack of illustrations in the book I read, and I’m sure I would have been much more appreciative had I an LEC or Heritage copy of this classic. There were only two tiny pictures in the copy I read–and those were of the eponymous subjects. Based on that, I failed to understand Adams’ preference for the stout Chartres cathedral with its mismatched towers over the soaring symmetry of St. Michael of Peril-by-the-Tide. Chamberlain’s photos would have helped tremendously. This edition should be the standard for those wanting to read this work.

  3. Not sure how I overlooked this book but the vintage photographs of Mont St. Michel and Chartres cathedral are stunning. I have quickly rectified this situation and purchased a copy.

    I have visited many of the great cathedrals throughout Europe and, for me, Chartres reigns supreme. I first visited Chartres cathedral about fifteen years ago and it is a jaw-dropping site. What makes Chartres cathedral unique is that it possesses an architectural unity and purity that few, if any, other great cathedrals possess. This is because nearly all of Chartres cathedral was built in a relatively narrow time span, between 1193 to 1250. By contrast, nearly all of the other great European cathedrals were built over several centuries, with architectural styles and tastes changing over this vast time period. This is inevitably reflected in the cathedrals themselves, usually to their detriment. The other aspect of Chartres that I remember as being unique and distinct is the color of blue (“Chartres bleu”) in their magnificent stained glass windows. It has never been duplicated elsewhere.

    The magnificent stained glass windows are more than decorative. Because most of the parishioners at that time were illiterate, each window tells a story and provides a moral lesson to the churchgoer. This has been superbly written about by the long-time guide at Chartre Cathedral, the English historian Malcolm Miller. If you plan to visit Chartres, purchasing and reading Malcolm Miller’s book “Chartres Cathedral” published by Pitkin (most recent edition circa 2000) is essential PRIOR to visiting the Cathedral.

    Incidentally, Malcolm Miller conducts still conducts group tours of Chartres cathedral lasting one hour and fifteen minutes, at noon and 2:45 PM. He has devoted his life to the study and understanding of Chartres and these tours are essential during a visit. Miller never gives the same tour twice and will comment on whatever pops into his head as the group walks about and inside the cathedral. I would strongly recommend signing up for BOTH tours during a visit, with a brief lunch interlude in between tours. His tours are that good and will greatly enhance one’s visit to and understanding of Chartres cathedral

  4. Chris – You are shaming my reading since I haven’t started these two Henry Adams classics. as of yet. I purchased both some years ago when finding Mint LECs was an easier task. They are as new, but I haven’t cracked them yet. Since your posts, I have determined to attack them next year. I hope your next LEC posts will be of LECs I have read so I wont feel so badly about neglecting them.

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