The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane (1871–1900), is an influential American classic war novel which explores themes of heroism, cowardice and the deep, harsh reality of war (the idealism of such versus the reality). Told in third person, from a psychological ‘inner-experience’ perspective, the novel uses color imagery and symbolism to paint a realistic portrait of war, especially the intense struggle with fear that each individual must tackle when facing battle.
The Red Badge of Courage was published in 1895 when Stephen Crane was only 24 years old. Though Crane died from tuberculosis at the age of 28, he was prolific and is considered one of the greats of the age in which he wrote. His works, which includes novels, short stories and poetry (as well as journalism) generally fall in the realm of Realism, though he also is considered one the earliest American authors to show influences of Naturalism and Impressionism. In turn, Crane’s work was an early influence for Modernists and Imagists. Similar to the fate of Herman Melville, Crane was mostly forgotten for a number of years after his death. His resurgence began in the mid 1920’s and his place in the canon of America’s great authors is now secure.
In looking for a fine edition of The Red Badge of Courage, I quickly settled on an edition from Gwasg Gregynog due to their heritage and long history of producing fine press books and how much I liked their edition of Walt Whitman, called Wrenching Times, that I had recently pickup up. The edition of The Red Badge of Courage by Gwasg Gregynog was initially produced in a few batches with different cloth bindings (a look at one such binding is the last picture below). However, since Gwasg Gregynog was sold out of this title, except for an unbound copy, I purchased the unbound copy and decided to design my own custom binding with the help of Starr Bookworks.
I mentioned to Chris and Donna Starr at Starr Bookworks that I liked the idea of using Civil War colors, blue and grey, along with having a ‘red badge’ on the cover for the titling. What they came up with, and executed on, I was thrilled with. They used blue Nigerian goatskin on the spine and corners with cloth on the boards in a grey linen blend. For the ‘badge’ a red label in English calf skin was used. The slipcase was made with the same grey linen so the blue/grey motif stays visible when stored. I have had Starr Bookworks rebind a handful of books, as well as fixing or replacing scores of slipcases and solanders. I recommend them highly.
The content of the book itself is excellent. The Hahnemuhle mould-made paper is especially nice with a very soft, caressing feel and a nice texture (you can see the texture in the photos below). The photographs are reproduced, via collotype, with stunning quality. I often find photographs can be a tough match with classic books, generally preferring illustrations, but it works perfectly here, aided by Crane’s intentional ambiguity of the precise setting. All in all, a fantastic piece of work by Gwasg Gregynog, and by Starr Bookworks.
About the Edition
- Commissioned by The Land Press
- Printed in Wales at Gwasg Gregynog
- Contains eleven collotype illustrations from American Civil War archives, made from photographs taken by Alexander Gardner, James F. Gibson, Timothy O’Sullivan, Andrew J. Russell and other unidentified photographers during the Civil War years, from the photographic archives of the Library of Congress
- Custom binding shown below by Starr Bookworks, with Nigerian goatskin on the spine and corners; the cloth on the boards is a linen blend (also used on the slipcase) and the labels are English calf skin
- Printed on Hahnemuhle mould-made paper
- Set in 14 point Centaur
- 115 copies
- 148pp., 295x215mm
Pictures of the Edition
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