The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club (1930)

The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, a wonderful work of classic Italian Literature, was originally published in Italy in 1746 and translated into English for the first time in 1864. The writer of the original text is anonymous, though many scholars now think that it was based upon a Latin manuscript written by Ugolino Brunforte (c. 1262 – c. 1348). Saint Francis (1181-1226) lived over a hundred years prior to this manuscript, and Little Flowers, while the most popular account of his life, is not a primary source for biography. Instead, Little Flowers is a set of stories filled with anecdotes, miracles and good works, based upon the legends which accumulated about Saint Francis and his disciples. Saint Francis, the founder of the Franciscan Order, was never ordained to the Catholic priesthood, but was declared a saint by Pope Gregory IX in 1228. He remains one of the most revered religious figures in history. The current pope, Pope Francis, chose his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi.

This edition is from the very early period of The Limited Editions Club, published in 1930, is the 17th book of the club.   The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi is, appropriately, an all Italian affair. As George Macy said, it is “Italian text, illustrated by an Italian artist, printed in an Italian type on Italian paper, bound in an Italian cloth and printed in Italy.” The book is beautiful, in a very old school kind of way. It simply looks the part, medieval in appearance, with gravitas and a feel of reverence, yet still approachable with no airs about it. The artist, Paolo Molnar, provides nearly 100 woodcuts for this edition. The Monthly Letter that accompanies this work states:

We feel the artist has caught all of the mocking, reverential and fantastic qualities of the tales themselves…The pictures themselves are full of medieval crudities which definitely tie them to the text. And they are quaint and amusing and delighting.

When you see below, I think you will agree. This book was the first published for the LEC by Hans (Giovanni) Mardersteig in the Officina Bodoni at Verona, Italy, in what was to be a long and fruitful relationship.  The type, Pastonchi, named after a poet that was famous in Italy, is  the first use of such in an English book. It is thick, almost bulky, but seems a good match for the overall design; especially with the creamy toned paper from the mills of P. Miliani, which has a rugged surface that nicely handles the type. The binding, blue and brown woven cloth with floral design patterns, was made by the Societa Anonyma Fortuny, of Venice. It nicely reflects the spirit of the work and caps off a nice design. This edition is sometimes hard to find in fine condition, especially without some fading or sunning to the spine. It will usually cost at least $100, though more often $200 and up for a fine copy.

About the Edition

  • Illustrated by Paolo Molnar
  • Printed by Hans Mardersteig in the Officina Bodoni at Verona, Italy
  • Type is Pastonchi (named after an Italian poet)
  • Initial letters are especially made for this book by Paolo Molnar
  • Paper especially made for this book by the mills of P. Miliani in Fabriano
  • Bound in blue and brown cloth woven for this edition by the Societa Anonyma Fortuny, of Venice
  • Tops of the books are varnished with a brown shade and polished
  • The title is stamped in gold on a blue label upon the backbone
  • Large octavo, 8″ x 11 1/2″, 288 pages
  • Limited to 1500 copies, signed by Paolo Molnar

Pictures of the Edition

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The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Slipcase
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Slipcase
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Spine and Covers
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Spine and Covers
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spine
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spine
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Front Cover
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Front Cover
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Front Cover
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Front Cover
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Side View
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Side View
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Title Page
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Title Page
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Title Page
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Title Page
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Contents
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Contents
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #1
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #1
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #1
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #1
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #1
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #1
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions ClubMacro of Sample Illustration #1
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club Macro of Sample Illustration #1
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #2
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #2
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #2
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #2
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #4 with Text
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #6 with Text
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #3 with Text
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #8
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #4
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #12 with Text
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #5 with Text
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #14 with Text
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #6 with Text
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #15
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #7
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Illustration #15
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Illustration #7
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Colophon
The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club, Colophon

9 thoughts on “The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Limited Editions Club (1930)

  1. Chris, just knowing you were going to review this book told me that it was something special so I ordered and got a copy even before the review appeared! (same with the Argonautica). It is a truly lovely book with the incomparable appearance of letterpress. Thanks a lot! Michael

    1. Hi Michael, it sure is a nice one, huh?!!! Glad you got a copy. I was thrilled when I got mine a while back, the spine is darkened a bit, but otherwise it is perfect. Argonautica is a nice one also, scale wise especially!

  2. A perfect match of text and treatment! One of my favourite LECs – favourite books from any fine press, indeed – which it took me, too, quite a time to find in a reasonable condition.

  3. The Heritage Press edition of this is one of the books I received when I was a member of the Heritage Club, and it is also a beautiful book, but the LEC is simply incomparable, and after many years of looking for a Fine copy (as you say it isn’t easy to find in that condition), finally found one that is As New. Interestingly, my copy, #1010, is signed by Sig. Molnar in a much smaller hand with the signature level with the type, rather more subdued than the bold swash in your copy. He must have been getting fatigued by the time he got to mine (and still had 400 left to sign).

  4. A beautiful work for sure, but do you find the wrinkles in the paper distracting while you are trying to read?

  5. One of the most beautiful of the George Macy LEC books. It is hardly a surprise that it was designed and printed by Hans (Giovanni) Mardersteig who was one of the finest pressman of the twentieth century. His Officina Bodoni was seemingly incapable of producing a book that was not beautiful and impeccably printed.

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