The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, Gwasg Gregynog (1988)

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

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided, under fair use, to highlight and visualize the review/criticism of the work being reviewed. A side benefit, hopefully, is providing education on the historical and cultural benefits of having a healthy fine press industry and in educating people on the richness that this ‘old school approach’ of book publishing brings to the reading process. Books and Vines has no commercial stake or financial interest in any publisher, retailer or work reviewed on this site and receives no commercial interest or compensation for Books and Vines. 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 or material found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Book in Slipcase
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Book in Slipcase
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Cover and Spine
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Cover and Spine
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Macro of Spine #1
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Macro of Spine #1
IMG_6583
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Macro of Spine #1
IMG_6591
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Cover
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Macro of Cover
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Macro of Cover
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Macro Side View
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Macro Side View
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Title Page
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Title Page
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Macro of Title Page
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Macro of Title Page
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Copyright Page
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Copyright Page
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, About the Illustrations
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, About the Illustrations
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Sample Page with Text
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Sample Page with Text
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Macro of Sample Page with Text
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Macro of Sample Page with Text
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Sample Illustration #1
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Sample Illustration #1
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Sample Text with Illustration #3
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Sample Text with Illustration #2
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Sample Text with Illustration #5
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Sample Text with Illustration #3
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Macro of Illustration #5
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Macro of Illustration #3
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Sample Text with Illustration #6
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Sample Text with Illustration #4
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Colophon
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, Colophon
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, One of the original bindings
The Red Badge of Courage, Gwasg Gregynog, One of the original bindings
Red Badge of Courage, Another Binding done by Starr Bookworks, Sample #1
Red Badge of Courage, Another Binding done by Starr Bookworks, Sample #1 (thanks B&V Subscriber Michael)
Red Badge of Courage, Another Binding done by Starr Bookworks, sample #2
Red Badge of Courage, Another Binding done by Starr Bookworks, sample #2  (thanks B&V Subscriber Michael)

17 thoughts on “The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, Gwasg Gregynog (1988)

  1. Michael:

    Love your new binding for the Gwasg Gregynog ‘The Red Badge of Courage’ – very tasteful and beautiful, another interesting take of the Blue and the Grey theme for rebinding this work.

    1. Thanks. It was a combination of realizing that it was possible to use marbled paper for a cover and an unwillingness to pay for a more elaborate leather binding!! Michael

  2. I would like to follow suit and have an unbound copy of Red Badge of Courage custom bound. But I am concerned that the cost of binding would be far more than that of the book itself. Is it very expensive to do this, perhaps with a simpler cover?

    1. Hi Michael, as you suggest, the cost is really dependent on materials and what one wants to do. In many cases I find rebinding surprisingly inexpensive, but I am sure it can also quickly get expensive. Best is to talk to a couple places who do this and get some quotes. I use Starr Bookworks, but I am sure there are many more!

      1. Hi Chris, just to let you know that I just received my copy of the Gregynog Red Bade of Courage bound by Starr Works. They did a truly magnificent job, though the design is rather different from yours since I used marbled boards. I can’t seem to upload photos to this site, but i will send you a copy by email. Thanks again for inspiring me to do this! Michael

      2. Hi Chris, here are the pictures. Feel free to post if you like, in case someone else wants to be inspired to bind their own copies and wants to see a somewhat less expensive version than yours! I thought that the marbling would give a more Victorian feel to the book. Michael

  3. Chris:

    The Grabhorn Press edition of ‘The Red Badge of Courage” is a clear-cut nominee for the Affordable Treasures and Pleasures Hall of Fame. Ironically, this book was also published with a Civil War grey-blue theme with a one-quarter black cloth spine and patterned paper over boards in a blue/grey star pattern. It is one of Granhorn’s better efforts with a beautiful and clear Goudy typeface, handmade watermarked rag paper, and (of course) Valenti Angelo’s wonderful illustrations.

    Best of all, this book was published in an Limited Edition Club-like edition of 980 copies. As a result, this book is easy to find and a very collectible (VG) copy can usually be found on Abebooks.com for $100 or slightly less —- a terrific bargain. Incidentally, when doing a book search the publisher should be given as ‘Random House’ and not ‘Grabhorn Press’. There is an interesting reason for this , as follows:

    During the 1930’s and 1940’s the founder and president of Random House was Bennett Cerf, who later became much more widely known as one of the regular panelists on a classic television quiz show in the early days of TV —- “What’s My Line” —- a wildly popular show which lasted from 1951 to 1967. He was an astute businessman and realized that the Grabhorns were publishing superb private press books for inexplicably low prices. When Bennett Cerf saw a Grabhorn publication that appealed to him aesthetically and had some degree of widespread appeal he would simply buy the entire limitation from the Grabhorns and sell it under the Random House label and logo. Cerf was limited, however, by the choice of subject matter since the vast majority of the Grabhorn Press books pertained to the history and development of the State of California, interesting people and/or events in early California, and the Southwest and westward migration.

    That said, aside from being an astute businessman Bennett Cerf also had impeccable taste. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University and a Litt. B. from its School of Journalism. Amongst the Grabhorn Press publications that Cerf and Random House bought in its entirety are: The Red Badge of Courage, the Scarlet Letter, and two of the finest Grabhorn publications —also illustrated by Valenti Angelo —- ‘Leaves of Grass’ and ‘The Voiage and Travaile of Sir Joh Maundeville’.

  4. I have a copy of the Grabhorn/Random House edition of the Red Badge of Courage, decorated by Valenti Angelo. It’s a pleasure to read, with it very heavy, tactile paper, though the paper board-covers are fairly easily worn (unlike your magnificent leather binding).

      1. It’s a very solid binding, with a nice blue quarter leather back strip with red leather title label. But the boards are covered with a paper that is prone to wearing through at the corners and edges. The beauty of the Grabhorn edition – as usual in my experience so far – is in the pages and printing, rather than the binding.

  5. The binding design and execution from Starr Bookworks is flawless and it represents a vast improvement over the original red cloth binding from Gwasg Gregynog. Incidentally, this makes a fascinating read and comparison to another great anti-war novel, ‘All Quiet On the Western Front’ by Erich Maria Remarque.

    Remarque’s book was shocking to readers in Germany upon its initial publication because of its focus on the adverse fighting conditions of WW I, its gruesome description of typical injuries sustained, and the extreme deprivation of the soldiers. As time and unfavorable political currents evolved after the collapse of the Weimar Republic, this book became a favorite target of Nazi censorship and was burned and banned as being unpatriotic and unflattering in its depiction of German soldiers for occasionally being something other than brave, noble warriors and having feelings of fear, homesickness, and questions regarding the necessity and sanity of war.

  6. Hi Chris,

    I’ve had a copy of this in sheets for a while now, waiting for a bit of inspiration as to how to bind the book. When I saw you were going to feature this on your site I couldn’t believe my luck. I like your blue/grey theme and you’ve added a few nice details as well. It’s given me the motivation to get on with my copy – cheers!

    All the best,

    Neil

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