Winesburg, Ohio is the masterpiece of Sherwood Anderson, a critically well-regarded early twentieth century author who does not get the recognition he deserves. While his work stands on its own (Modern Library ranked Winesburg, Ohio 24th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century), his impact stretches well beyond his written word. Anderson greatly influenced many great American authors, including William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Thomas Wolfe. In the case of Faulkner and Hemingway, Anderson actually deserves some credit for helping them get published in the first place.
Anderson (1876-1941) left school at age 14. He was self taught, reading everything he could get his hands on. He grew up in a number of small towns in Ohio, before moving to Chicago in 1896. He participated in the Spanish-American War, but his company only went to Cuba after the fighting had stopped. He then moved to Springfield, Ohio to further his formal schooling. He moved back to Chicago a few years later, taking a job in an advertising company. He married Cornelia Pratt Lane and had three children with her. They moved to Cleveland, where eventually work strain caused Anderson to have a nervous breakdown. In 1907, they moved to Elyria, Ohio where he started his own company. Business went well yet, in 1912, Anderson had another nervous breakdown. Eventually, he would move back to Chicago, divorce his wife (he was to marry twice more) and began writing in earnest.
Anderson’s first book was published in 1916, with another to follow in 1917. Both are largely forgettable. He followed those with his now famous short story cycle, Winesburg, Ohio. He continued writing, and published a large number of works; novels, short stories and articles. F. Scott Fitzgerald considered Many Marriages (1923) Anderson’s best work, and Dark Laughter (1925) was a best seller; however, Winesburg, Ohio remains the work he is famous for.
Winesburg, Ohio (a fictional town based loosely on his time in Clyde, Ohio) follows protagonist George Willard from his childhood through his independence and move from Winesburg. The story is very character driven, with the 22 stories somewhat loosely related in terms of end to end plot. There are over 100 characters, with 33 of them appearing in more than one story, Willard in all but six. The character focus includes insights from psychology that had influenced Anderson, such as those from Sigmund Freud. This approach, along with the type of prose Anderson used (simple and plain-spoken), made this one of the first great works of Modernist literature, though the writing also displays realism and expressionist tendencies. The major theme is man versus the world around him, with isolation and loneliness often driving elements, as often the case in early modernist works. As mentioned in the Monthly Letter announcing this book, the book shows the impact of “replacing the values and human vision of our older agrarian republic by the ethos of industrially-oriented success.”
The Limited Editions Club (LEC) publication of Winesburg, Ohio is one of their better efforts from the 1970’s. Published in the year Sidney Shiff bought the club, the edition is well planned and executed, with very realist and narrative based illustrations by Ben F. Stahl. I really enjoy the illustrations, both the technical execution as well as the characterization displayed in some of them. Though the illustrations were printed by offset-lithography instead of more traditional approaches the LEC had typically used over the years, it is clearly well done. The presswork from Stinehour Press is very good, and I like the bite the Monotype Caslon displays on the Ruysdael rag paper (see the macro below which shows this nicely). The binding is nicely done with a green cowhide spine and light tan buckram covered boards. Part of me thinks a more modernist design approach may have been more apropos, but I think the “somewhat simple, plain but nice” approach fits the realism and simplicity of the writing style. In any case, this is another great bargain of an LEC, often available in the $40-70 range in fine condition. Best, it is a great reading experience. I recently read it for the first time, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The stories are deep, often tragic, and always entertaining.
About the Edition
- Designed by Harry A. Rich
- Illustrations by Ben F. Stahl
- Frontispiece in color
- 12 full page illustrations in monochrome, tipped in by hand
- printed by offset-lithography at the Meriden Gravure Company
- Introduction by Malcolm Cowley
- Text is composed in Monotype Caslon, with chapter headings and other titles in Janson
- Presswork done at the Stinehour Press in Lunenburg, Vermont
- Paper is Ruysdael, a rag paper made by Curtis Paper Company
- Binding performed by Tapley-Rutter Company
- Spine is of cowhide stamped in gold, sides covered in fine buckram stamped with a motif drawn by the designer
- Limited to 1600 copies, signed by Ben F. Stahl
- 9 3/4″ x 12″, 202 pages
Pictures of the Edition
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