The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club (1939/1940)

William Shakespeare. The mere name puts students around the world into a state of fear and grief, sends conspiracy theorists into excited revelry and draws nervous shame from the masses who have never experienced Shakespeare. Yet, for lovers of literature, especially those who have read and re-read Shakespeare after reaching a mature age, hearing his name excites one’s soul while stimulating intellect, recalling scene after scene of the greatest moments, the greatest plots and the greatest lines in the history of World Literature.

One cannot be considered well read if they have not read Shakespeare, just as a library is not complete without the works of Shakespeare. Life itself could be considered un-examined without contemplating Shakespeare! Okay, enough hyperbole, you get the point. Now that we have established that you simply must read and own Shakespeare, where to start? Actually the answer to that is well beyond the purview of this article, as there are scores of good options out there when it comes to editions to collect and read. A little research will set you well on your way. Instead what I present to you today is a biased and selfish article, answering the question of what collected works of Shakespeare I recommend. The answer is easy, since I already have such, that being the fantastic, amazing, incredible and {fill in with your favorite adjective} 37 volume edition of The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare from George Macy’s Limited Editions Club (LEC) published in 1939/1940.

The Limited Editions Club 37 Volume Shakespeare (1939/1940), with the Introductory Volume and the 2 volume set of Shakespeare’s Poems from 1941
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Front Cover (same for all 37 volumes)

While the LEC produced many books that can be considered amongst the great editions published in the twentieth century, and while LEC’s editions of Lysistrata (illustrated and signed by Picasso) and Ulysses (illustrated and signed by Henri Matisse and by the author James Joyce) easily fetch the most money for LEC’s at auction, the Shakespeare set is clearly the LEC’s premier accomplishment under Macy. Designed by arguably the greatest book designer of the twentieth century, Bruce Rogers, and illustrated by a who’s who list of the greatest artists/illustrators of the early twentieth century (just see the list below!), the LEC’s Shakespeare set is a marvel to behold, as easy and comfortable to read as it is beautiful to look at. While it can be extremely difficult finding the entire set, especially in very good or better condition, it is well worth the hunt and the not insignificant chunk of change required to purchase it.

The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Introductory Book “Shakespeare: A Review and a Preview”

The introductory volume titled Shakespeare: A Review and a Preview is well worth having, especially if you get the rest of the set. It contains a number of essays, as follows:

Part I: Review

  • What we know about Shakespeare (by J.W. Mackail)
  • What has been said of Shakespeare (by John Milton and others)
  • Landmarks in the publishing of Shakespeare (by Mark G. Holstein)

Part II: Preview

  • A note upon the new Shakespeare (by George Macy)
  • The Text of the new Shakespeare (by Herbert Farjeon)
  • The Format of the new Shakespeare (by Bruce Rogers)
  • Pages and Pictures from the new Shakespeare

Macy tells us that the aim of this set was to be “the most beautiful Shakespeare of modern times” with the text created so it “may approximate more closely than any other yet printed to the text Shakespeare himself would have chosen to read”. Thirty-seven of the world’s leading book artists “furnish a collection of unusual beauty, a conspectus of the art of book illustration throughout the world as this art is struck into the fire by the flint of Shakespeare’s genius”.

The text of the LEC Shakespeare is reprinted from the First Folio and the Quarto editions of Shakespeare’s plans published in his own time — including use of Old Spelling and Old Punctuation Text. As Herbert Farjeon states in his essay, this restores the essential flavor that is lost in modernization and that to appreciate this “requires neither scholarship nor learning”. Farjeon continues:

It is hard to believe anyone who has read Shakespeare in the original can ever be content again with the transliterations of later times. In the printed texts of today it is almost as though a complete dimension has been lost.

While others had created editions based on the First Folio and Quartos, for the LEC edition Farjeon sought to eliminate imperfections that plagued earlier efforts due to loose editing and careless printing. These imperfections often caused confusion and made the works more difficult to read. As Farjeon explains:

This text is an attempt to produce an Elizabethan or Jacobean text freed from these confusions — a text such as Shakespeare himself might have passed for the printer had he personally read the proofs of his plays before they went to press. To this end it has been assumed that he would have corrected the various printers’ errors. It has been assumed that he would have accepted the spelling of the printers which may have been his own, even where the same word is spelt differently in successive lines. It has been assumed he would have permitted many inconsistencies (often his own) to remain…it has further been assumed that where prose passages are printed in verse in the original editions he would have seen that they were printed as prose, and vice-versa.

The aim of Farjeon was to “preserve the original flavor while clearing away the original obstacles”. In a similar fashion, Bruce Rogers mentions that “in planning this set of Shakespeare my first thought was of the type, which should be bold and vigorous enough to convey to the reader’s eyes something of the rugged Elizabethan quality of the text”. All in all, we are left with a set of Shakespeare breathtakingly accomplished in a manner that would be right at home in Shakespeare’s own library, yet equally at home in modern times.

About the Editions

  • Designed by Bruce Rogers
  • Edited by Herbert Farjeon
  • Type is an 18 point close facsimile of Janson, made by the Lanston Monotype Company, with the italic used being a creation of the Monotype Company since Rogers did not like the Janson 18 point italic; italic small capitals were made by re-cutting the Italic capitals of the Monotype Garamond Bold in a special size and with slight alterations of a few of the characters with a close new type face
  • New paper created for this edition by the Worthy Paper Company of Springfield
  • Printing done at the Press of A. Colish in New York
  • The binding was done by Russell-Rutter Company in New York
  • Bound with gilt tops and uncut edges in backs of American linen, with the titles stamped in gold on the spine
  • Cover design based on a decoration wall design in a house that that Shakespeare was thought to have stayed at frequently (a friend of his)
  • All volumes are 8 3/4″ x 13″
  • The edition was limited to 1950 sets (instead of the LEC’s typical 1500 limitation).
  • Pre-order price was only $5 a volume with a ten percent discount on that if paid in full upfront!

Below is an alphabetical list of all 37 volumes along with a sample illustration (usually the frontispiece) and basic volume information. Also included is the two volume set of the poems and sonnets published in 1941 to complement the 37 volume set. General photo’s of the entire set, and of the introductory volume titled Shakespeare: A Review and a Preview, follow at the end. Over the coming months, as I complete reading each volume, I will highlight each book below in detail with its own article, including numerous pictures from each. {Ed. Note: The Book Blog is also in the course of providing information and pictures on this set — as always, done splendidly.}

1) A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Water-colors by Arthur Rackham, lithographed in four colors by Fernand Mourlot and water-colored via pochoirs process by Maurice Beaufumé. Play is 74 pages, book 94 pages.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, water-colors by Arthur Rackham

2) All’s Well That Ends Well. Drawings in color by Richard Floethe (originally to be illustrated by Gunter Böhmer and reproduced by Fernand Mourlot, but WWII got in the way), printed in three colors from rubber plates by A. Colish. Play is 101 pages, the book is 120 pages.

All’s Well That Ends Well. Drawings in color by Richard Floethe.

3) Anthony and Cleopatra. Colored wood-engravings by Enric-Cristobal Ricart, printed by R. & R. Clark and hand-colored by Jean Saudé. Play is 124 pages, the book 144 pages.

Anthony and Cleopatra. Colored wood-engravings by Enric-Cristobal Ricart.

4) As You Like It. Watercolors by Sylvain Sauvage, three printings of lithography and hand-colored via stencils by Mourlot Frères. Play in 93 pages, book is 112 pages.

As You Like It. Watercolors by Sylvain Sauvage.

5) The Comedy of Errors. Cut in wood by John Austen and printed directly from the wood-engravings R. & R. Clark, color added via multiple printings by Austen, each being cut in linoleum. Play is 63 pages, book is 82 pages.

The Comedy of Errors. Colored wood-engravings by John Austen.

6) Coriolanus. Tempera paintings by C. Pál Molnár, lithographed (with up to fifteen colors) by Mourlot Frères. Play is 129 pages, book is 148 pages.

Coriolanus. Color tempera paintings by C. Pál Molnár.

7) Cymbeline. Lithographs, drawn directly upon the stones, by Yngve Berg, pulled by the Curwen Press, Play is 129 pages, book is 148 pages.

Cymbeline. Lithographs, drawn directly upon the stones, by Yngve Berg.

8) Hamlet. Dry-brush drawings on course paper by Edy Legrand, printed in black and gray via the collotype process, by Georges Duval. 138 pages for the play, 158 pages total.

Hamlet. Dry-brush drawings in black and gray (via collotype) on course paper by Edy Legrand.

9) Henry the Fourth, Part I. Color (auto) lithographs, drawn upon the stone, by Barnett Freedman, printed at the Curwen Press. Play 106 pages, book is 126 pages.

Henry the Fourth, Part I. Color (auto) lithographs, drawn upon the stone, by Barnett Freedman.

10) Henry the Fourth, Part II. Line and water-color sketches by Edward Bawden, printed in collotype by Georges Duval and coloring via pochoir by Jean Saudé. Play is 113 pages, book is 132 pages.

Henry the Fourth, Part II. Line and water-color sketches by Edward Bawden.

11) Henry the Fifth. Soft pencil drawings by Vera Willoughby, drawn on the stone and lithographed by Fernand Mourlot. Play is 11 pages, book is 130 pages.

Henry the Fifth. Soft pencil drawings by Vera Willoughby.

12) Henry the Sixth, Part I. Lithographs by Graham Sutherland, printed by the Curwen Press. The play is 99 pages, the book is 118 pages.

Henry the Sixth, Part I. Lithographs by Graham Sutherland.

13) Henry the Sixth, Part II. Lithographs by Carlotta Petrina, pulled by George C. Miller. The play is 110 pages, the book is 130 pages.

Henry the Sixth, Part II. Lithographs by Carlotta Petrina.

14) Henry the Sixth, Part III. Pen line drawings, with color washes applied to the proofs, by Jean Charlot. New plates were made of the color, and the printing done via letterpress by A. Colish. The play is 105 pages, the book is 124 pages.

Henry the Sixth, Part III. Pen line drawings, with color washes applied to the proofs, by Jean Charlot.

15) Henry the Eighth. Wood-engravings by Eric Gill, printed by R. & R. Clark. Play is 116 pages, the book is 136 pages.

Henry the Eighth. Wood-engravings by Eric Gill.

16) Julius Caesar. Wood-engravings by Frans Masereel, printed by A. Colish. The play is 91 pages, book is 110 pages.

Julius Caesar. Wood-engravings by Frans Masereel.

17) King John. Line drawings in three colors and gold by Valenti Angelo, printed by A. Colish. The play is 91 pages, the book 110 pages.

King John. Line drawings in three colors and gold by Valenti Angelo.

18) King Lear. Brush drawings by Boardman Robinson, printed in in black and two grays via collotype Georges Duval. The play is 122 pages, the book 142 pages.

King Lear. Brush drawings by Boardman Robinson.

19) Love’s Labour’s Lost. Crayon and wash drawings by Mariette Lydis, printed in in black and gray via the collotype process by Georges Duval. The play is 94 pages, the book 114 pages.

Love’s Labour’s Lost. Crayon and wash drawings by Mariette Lydis.

20) Macbeth. Drawings with colored lithographic crayons on brown paper by Gordon Craig, lithographed by Mourlot Frères. The play is 86 pages, the book 106 pages.

Macbeth. Drawings with colored lithographic crayons on brown paper by Gordon Craig.

21) Measure for Measure. Color lithographs by Hugo Steiner-Prag, printed by Mourlot Frères. The play is 99 pages, the book is 118 pages.

Measure for Measure. Color lithographs by Hugo Steiner-Prag.

22) The Merchant of Venice. Water-colors by René ben Sussan, printed with two colors via collotype by Georges Duval, and in three colors via lithography by Mourlot Frère, hand-colored by Maurice Beaufumé. The play is 91 pages, the book is 110 pages.

The Merchant of Venice. Water-colors by René ben Sussan.

23) The Merry Wives of Windsor. Color drawings by Gordon Ross, printed in black and sanguine by Georges Duval via collotype process and hand-colored. The play is 94 pages, the book is 114 pages.

The Merry Wives of Windsor. Color drawings by Gordon Ross

24) Much Ado About Nothing. Water-colors by Fritz Kredel, black outline printed by Georges Duval via collotype process and hand-colored by Jean Saudé. The play is 89 pages, the book 108 pages.

Much Ado About Nothing. Water-colors by Fritz Kredel.

25) Othello. Wood-engravings by Robert Gibbings, printed by A. Colish. The play are 121 pages, the book 140 pages.

Othello. Wood-engravings by Robert Gibbings.

26) Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Wood-engravings by Stanislas Ostoja-Chrostowski, printed by R. & R. Clark. The play is 85 pages, the book 102 pages.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Wood-engravings by Stanislas Ostoja-Chrostowski.

27) Richard the Second. Wood-engravings by Agnes Miller Parker, printed by A. Colish. The play is 98 pages, the book 118 pages.

Richard the Second. Wood-engravings by Agnes Miller Parker.

28) Richard the Third. Lithographs by Fritz Eichenberg (originally to be illustrated by Edward Ardizzone, but they were lost due to the war), printed by George C. Miller. The play is 131 pages, the book 150 pages.

Richard the Third. Lithographs by Fritz Eichenberg.

29) Romeo and Juliet. Line drawings in color by Ervine Metzl (originally to be illustrated by Pierre Falke but were rejected by George Macy; then was to be done by T.M. Cleland who had to back out), printed in two colors by A. Colish. The play is 106 pages, the book is 126 pages.

Romeo and Juliet. Line drawings in color by Ervine Metzl.

30) The Taming of the Shrew. Line drawings by W.A. Dwiggins (originally to be illustrated by Alexis Kravtchenko), printed in sanguine by A. Colish. The play is 91 pages, the book 110 pages.

The Taming of the Shrew. Line drawings by W.A. Dwiggins.

31) The Tempest. Water-colors by Edward A. Wilson, printed by Georges Duval via collotype (grey ink) and in lithography (two colors) by Mourlot Frères and hand-colored through stencils by Maurice Beaufumé. The play is 79 pages, the book is 98 pages.

The Tempest. Water-colors by Edward A. Wilson.

32) Timon of Athens. Wood-engravings by George Buday (originally to be illustrated by E. McKnight Kauffer, I am not sure what happened), printed by A. Colish. The play is 86 pages, the book 106 pages.

Timon of Athens. Wood-engravings by George Buday.

33) Titus Andronicus. Water-colors by Nikolai Fyodorovitch Lapshin, chromo-lithography by Mourlot Frères. The play is 91 pages, the book 110 pages.

Titus Andronicus. Water-colors by Nikolai Fyodorovitch Lapshin.

34) Troilus and Cressida. Wood-engravings by Demetrius-Emanuel Galanis, printed in black ink upon a terra-cotta background by Dehon et Cie. The play is 120 pages, the book 140 pages.

Troilus and Cressida. Wood-engravings by Demetrius-Emanuel Galanis.

35) Twelfth Night, or What You Will. Water-colors by Francesco Carnevali, lithography by Mourlot Frères. The play is 87 pages, book is 106 pages.

Twelfth Night, or What You Will. Water-colors by Francesco Carnevali.

36) The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Water-colors by Pierre Brissaud, printed in grey via collotype by Georges Duval and water-colored by hand by Maurice Beaufumé. The play is 78 pages, the book 98 pages.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Water-colors by Pierre Brissaud.

37) The Winter’s Tale. Drawings by Albert Rutherston, printed from line plates by the Curwen Press and hand-colored via stencils by Jean Saudé. The play is 113 pages, the book 132 pages.

The Winter’s Tale. Drawings by Albert Rutherston.

38 & 39) The Poems of William Shakespeare. Ornaments by Bruce Rogers, printed in color by A. Colish.

The Poems of William Shakespeare. Ornaments by Bruce Rogers. Vol. 1 Sample
The Poems of William Shakespeare. Ornaments by Bruce Rogers. Vol. 2 Sample

Pictures of the Editions

The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, 37 Volumes + 2 Volumes of Poems, + the Introductory Volume
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spines
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spines 2
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Cover (same on all 37 volumes)
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Cover
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Cover 2
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Side View
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Title Page (same for all 37 volumes)
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Title Page (same for all 37 volumes)
The Poems of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Cover (same on the two volumes of poems)
The Poems of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Title Page (same for the 2 volumes)
The Poems of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Colophon (essentially the same on all volumes, except only the Poems have a signature, and all but the poems mention the illustrator)
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Introductory Volume
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Introductory Volume
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Contents of Introductory Volume
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Contents of Introductory Volume
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Introductory Volume – What we Know about Shakespeare page 1
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Introductory Volume – What has been said about Shakespeare page 1
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Introductory Volume – Landmarks in the Publishing of Shakespeare page 1
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Introductory Volume – A Note upon a new Shakespeare page 1
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Introductory Volume – A List of the Volumes
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Introductory Volume – The Text of the new Shakespeare
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Introductory Volume – The Format of the new Shakespeare
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Introductory Volume – Sample Text
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text
The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club, Introductory Volume – Order Form

32 thoughts on “The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club (1939/1940)

  1. This excellent article is what inspired me to start picking up some of my favorite works from the Bard in these beautiful Limited Editions Club printings. I just recieved Coriolanus and the binding and pages are all in excellent condition however there is quite heavy offsetting from the illustrations on the opposite pages and on the reverse side of the illustration page itself. The prints of C Pal Molnar’s paintings were done in heavy ink so perhaps that has contributed. Just curious if this is par for the course with this particular edition? My other LECs have a bit of offsetting but nothing this heavy.

    1. Hello! I am not sure— am in travel, will check mine closely in a few days when home. Anyone else have offsetting here? In general, certainly not common in the set as a whole, though not rare on the other hand in various lec and other fine press from years ago.

      1. Thanks! I greatly appreciate you checking whenever you have the time. Offsetting on older books doesn’t bother me in general and it wouldn’t really bother me on this one if that is just the common effect of these particular illustrations. If however most copies seem to have fared better with that issue then it will bug me a bit.

    2. My copy of Coriolanus exhibits moderate offsetting–consistent, as Chris noted, with other LECs of this period–and even later: my Moby-Dick shows even more obvious offsetting from the varnished illustrations.I have to say the offsetting is a small price to pay for these exceptional illustrations.

      The Commentary says that the other artists who illustrated the Shakespeare set consider these the very best (and then hedges the claim by saying they have said that about other illustrations); whatever criteria are used, I find these illustrations to be wonderful.

      1. I wholeheartedly agree regarding the quality of the illustrations. The style and the medium (egg tempera) are IMHO perfectly suited to the material. I figured the reason for the heavier offsetting might be due to the saturation of the lithographs. They definitely leap off the page.

  2. I agree with Robert’s comment on the reaction to art and illustration “you either like them – or you don’t”. The importance of the author, text, typographer and designer added to the amount and diversity of illustrators in this monumental undertaking is bound to divide opinion.

    I don’t own these books, but have browsed them at length and to add my ‘tuppence worth’, I admire them as much for the daring choice of some of the illustrators as much as anything else.

    As an example I would use the volume that intrigued me most the first time I saw these books and that was ‘Timon of Athens’ illustrated by George Buday.

    Buday wrote his about his engravings for this play: “The acute observer will note how purely graphic elements participate: the initial curly lines becoming crooked, then zig-zagged and broken; the rounded forms turning to angular ones; the harmonic equilibrium of black and white becoming a cruelly dramatic contrast in the later portraits. These purely graphic elements, besides the facial expressions, help to convey the events. This is particularly striking on the forehead. The forehead is the part of the human being which reacts….the most slowly to ageing or changes in moods and circumstances. But in these engravings the forehead occupies a quarter or a fifth of the individual images and its smooth, unmotivated repetition would have diminished their expressive powers. That was why….the quasi geometrical form applied to the forehead was created. I deemed it fit for the part of the face where thought is residing. Thus the two bulges, present on most human foreheads at least in rudimentary form, I depicted with the two circles, and the wrinkles with relatively horizontal lines.”

    For me ‘Timon’ is Buday’s masterpiece – the series of ten full-page heads describe the degeneration of the Athenian nobleman from wealth and unselfishness to bitterness and madness perfectly. The engravings are moving human studies showing a man shifting from joviality to a human wreck living in a cave. The medium of wood-engraving shows the decline through a face as only images cut from wood can.

  3. As I mentioned on the Fine Press site, debating the merits of the illustrations seems to boil done usually to “I like them” or “I don’t like them,” which pretty much ends discussion. I happen to like them a lot, and as you mentioned, Chris, they provide an indispensable survey of the State of the Art in book illustration in the first third of the 20th century. Of course I have my favorites, and some that I feel fall short. I was particularly disappointed in Gordon Craig’s Macbeth illustrations because like Othello or Julius Caesar, Macbeth is a play which not only has striking settings, but the “landscapes” of the characters’ emotions cry out for the depiction of their passions, as in the way Boardman Robinson’s Lear portrait captures the insanity brought on by his anguish. Craig’s illustrations are of interest only because he was the pre-eminent stage director of his time, but without the advantage of his lighting techniques, and his mise-en-scene, including the choreography of the actors, these illustrations are merely sketches for stage designs. I wouldn’t have thought John Austen’s style appropriate for Shakespeare at all, and I find his work likewise disappointing.

    Still, I can’t think of a better illustrated Shakespeare set, or one with illustrations as beautifully produced. The extensive use of pochoir, and wood engravings and lithos printed directly from the blocks and stones combine to produce art which is difficult to appreciate without seeing the results at first hand (though your photos are, as usual, first-rate). I also can’t think of any illustrated Shakespeare where more forethought went into matching the artist with the play. Sauvage was absolutely the perfect artist for “As You Like It,” Mariette Lydis for “Love’s Labour Lost,” Eichenberg (though not the first choice) was better suited for “Richard III” than any other of Shakespeare’s work, Gordon Ross for “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” Bawden for “Henry IV; Part 2,” Agnes Miller Parker for “Richard II,” and many others. Though one might have wished, that Miss Parker had done Macbeth, or Gordon Ross had done “The Taming of the Shrew,” and those artists would have undoubtedly done a better job, I can’t think of a Shakespeare play for which she was so exactly the right choice as “Richard II” or Ross for the mellow comedy of “MWOW.” I think this is true pretty much of every volume, whether the artist chosen proved up to the task or not. In one way, that was the most daring aspect of the LEC Shakespeare, and that is the one which has given it a uniqueness that no other illustrated Shakespeare matches.

    1. I don’t know if you’ve seen some of Eichenberg’s work for an aborted Seven Plays of Shakespeare project, Robert, but he did an amazing job with Macbeth in my opinion. I’ll need to get those up on my blog soon so I can show you.

  4. Thanks for taking the trouble to scan each volume. But I have to say that the quality of the illustrations overall is not as good as I hoped they would be. For typophiles, however, these may be the ultimate editions. The only ones I would think compare are the Folio Society’s current letter-pressed editions, and the LECs sell for a whole lot less.

    1. Hi Andrew, while it does seem at least some of the illustrations are controversial to some, or even not liked, you are right that the typography seems to be universally appreciated. FWIW, I do love the typography and overall design; I like the illustrations as a whole, some more than the others, and I do find them ‘important’ (if you will) as a good representation of the state of illustration at the time.

  5. Great article!

    Whenever I see a book (or 37 books!!) designed by Bruce Rogers, I am always taken aback by the fact that from the first books he was involved with he appears to have got it ‘right’. He must be unique among book designers/typographers etc in that he never produced a ‘dud’ and that his greatest productions are amongst the finest volumes ever made.

    I have seen some very desirable illustrated sets of Shakespeare, but since I became aware of this set through the Macy forum on Librarything, I believe that no other edition comes close – Bruce Rogers and a line up of great illustrators backed by Macy is an unrepeatable and unsurmountable combination!

    I doubt I will ever find (or afford!) a ‘fine’ set, but will enjoy the posts and images of yours.

  6. Farjeon’s text has been for many the biggest stumbling block for this set. The choice of using just the First Folio–except in those cases where the Quarto offers a better, and seemingly more authentic text–and of setting it according to the Elizabethan orthographic principles–have stumped many a reader who decry that it was printed in “Old English”! These choices were bold ones and must have disappointed at least a few members, who were dismayed to find lines like “Richard’s himself again,” the witches’ doggerel from Macbeth, and interpolations such as Gloucester’s speech from Henry VI, part 3, used in “Richard III” missing from these editions. All the monkeying with the First Folio texts by actors from Garrick, through Cibber and Kean, down to Olivier has been ruthlessly purged. This seems the best choice for reading copies of the plays. Great though the Bard’s plays are, that doesn’t mean that careful editing can’t make them work much better on stage.

    Your set looks to be in even finer shape than mine, Chris. As I’ve said before, only 3 of mine had even had the pages cut when I got them, and all but one had the Club pamphlet tucked inside. I bought the Easton reprint several years before I found an LEC set, and from my experience, Don Floyd is right on the mark in saying that it is very difficult to find a complete set in Fine condition these days. The thing that really irks me is how many complete sets have been broken up by people who sold off “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” simply because that single volume was worth more than all the other volumes combined (worth more financially, I should say, as athough I think it is finely illustrated and some of Rackham’s best work, there are other plays in the set which I think are better illustrated I’m very much looking forward to forthcoming posts featuring the individual plays..

  7. I bought the Easton reprint of the LEC one while the internet was in ots infancy. I would now like to obtain the LEC edition, but finding one in near fine condition is a problem. It looks like your set, Chris, is in as fine a condition as is possible to find.

    1. Hi, I have a set of all 39 of these volumes. My great grandmother was a member of the LEC, and she gave family members various collections. I would like to sell the volumes I have. They are #1024 out of the 1950 and 1500 of the Poems volumes, which are signed by Bruce Rogers. I am not a bibliophile, but the only defect I can see is that the spines have some spots on them. Some volumes less so, some a bit more. Otherwise, the condition of the books is excellent, a lot of the pages still uncut.
      I also have some other collections, namely Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Conrad. The Stevenson collection is #361 out of the 1030 U.S., sets of the Vailima Edition. These are in extremely good condition, probably what you would call “fine”. In any case, I live in Dallas, Texas if you are interested in discussing these.

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