Richard III, by William Shakespeare, Limited Editions Club (1940)

{Ed. Note: This is next in a series taking a look at the famous and important Bruce Rogers designed 37 volume The Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, published by the Limited Editions Club (LEC) in 1939 and 1940.}

Richard III, the second longest play of Shakespeare’s, is classified as a history in the First Folio (though sometimes grouped in his tragedies), and concludes Shakespeare’s first tetralogy (along with Henry VI parts 1–3). It is believed to have been written in or around 1592; only the aforementioned Henry VI and a handful of comedies were written prior. Based on the Holinshed, the play depicts the rise to power and turbulent, short reign of Richard III of England.

The play contains much action, such as the imprisonment and murder of Clarence, Richards brother, done at the behest of Richard himself; Richard’s wooing of Anne, the widow of Edward Prince of Wales, who had been killed by Richard; the death of Edward IV; Richards actions to get the crown; the killing of William Hastings, Earl Rivers, and Lord Richard Grey; the murder of the Princes in the Tower (ordered by Richard); the Duke of Buckingham‘s rebellion, capture and execution; and finally, the Earl of Richmond‘s invasion resulting in the defeat and death of Richard III at Bosworth in 1485. (As an aside, Richards remains were found in 2012, buried under a city council car park at the site once occupied by Greyfriars, Leicester.)

As typical in my look at the Limited Editions Club’s (LEC’s) Shakespeare, I will spare you from a deep synopsis of Richard III, as one must really read these plays; life is seriously not complete until you do so! However, some favorite quotes are certainly in order!

First off, what a great opening line!

Now is the winter of our discontent.

Shakespeare has Richard describe himself; famously ‘deformed’ physically, tormented psychologically.

Cheated of Feature by dissembling Nature,
Deform’d, un-finish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing World, scarse halfe made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable,
That dogges barke at me, as I halt by them:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a Lover,
I am determined to prove a Villaine

The two murderers of Clarence have a conversation on conscience, when one starts to have second thoughts.

Ile not meddle with it, it makes a man a Coward: A man cannot steale, but it accuseth him: A man cannot Sweare, but it Checkes him: A man cannot lye with his Neighbors Wife, but it detects him. ‘Tis a blushing shamefac’d spirit, that mutinies in a mans bosome: It fills a man full of Obstacles.

Clarence tells those about to kill him:

Erroneous Vassals, the great King of Kings
Hath in the Table of his Law commanded
That thou shalt do no murther. Will you then
Spurne at his Edict, and fulfill a Mans?
Take heed: for he holds Vengeance in his hand.
To hurl upon their heads that breake his Law.

Hastings also ponders Mans’ doings when facing death:

O momentarie grace  of mortall men,
Which we more hunt for, then the grace of God!
Who builds his hope in ayre of your good Lookes,
Lives like a drunken Saylor on a Mast,
Readie with every Nod to tumble downe,
Into the fatall Bowels of the Deepe.

Richard plots:

I must be marryed to my Brothers Daughter,
Or else my Kingdome stands on brittle Glasse:
Murther her Brothers, and then marry her,
Uncertaine was of gaine. But I am in
So farre in blood, that sinne will pluck on sinne,
Teare-falling Pittie dwells not in this eye.

Margaret (widow of King Henry VI) laments to the Duchess of York (Richard’s mother):

From forth the kennell of my wombe hath crept
A Hell-hound that doth hunt us all to death:
That Dogge, that had his teeth before his eyes,
To worry Lambes, and lap their gentle blood:
That foule defacer of Gods handy worke,
That excellent grand Tyrant of the earth,
That reignes in gauled eyes of weeping soules:
Thy wombe let loose to chase us to our graves.
 

The Duchess tells Richard:

Bloody thou art, bloody will be thy end:
Shame serves thy life, and doth thy death attend.

Richard dreams of his demise, and wakes thinking:

I shall dispaire, there is no Creature loves me;
And if I die, so soule will pittie me.
Nay, wherefore should they? Since that I my Selfe,
Finde in my Selfe, no pittie to my Selfe.

The Earl of Richmond (Henry VI’s nephew; later King Henry VII) tells his soldiers as they head into the battle where Richard is to die:

God, and our good cause, fight upon our side,
The Prayers of holy Saints and wronged soules,

As described in the Monthly Letter accompanying this volume, Fritz Eichenberg, in illustrating Richard III, has drawn each subject on the lithographic stone, though not with a grease crayon; instead with a traditional diamond point required in etching on copper, and has achieved the backgrounds by scraping a razor blade across the surface of the stone. So what he has made are not really lithographs, but engravings on stone. The Monthly Letter remarks that “the textures which he has achieved are both unusual and delighting. And the illustrations themselves are full on an intellectual understanding of Shakespeare’s play and a passionate restatement of Richard III’s tragedy…” As you will see below, the illustrations are dark, foreboding and powerful, which pretty much encapsulates the aura of Richard III himself.

About the Edition

  • Part of the 1939/1940 37 volume The Plays of William Shakespeare by the Limited Editions Club
  • Designed by Bruce Rogers
  • Edited and amended by Herbert Farjeon
  • Illustrations from drawings by Fritz Eichenberg
  • Preface to the plays (in the prospectus) by Edward Dowden, from “Shakspere: A Critical Study of his Mind and Art” in 1918.
  • Printed at the Press of A. Colish in New York
  • 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
  • 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)
  • 8 3/4″ x 13″, 91 pages
  • Limited to 1950 copies

Pictures of the Edition

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Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Spine and Cover
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Spine and Cover
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spine
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spine
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Cover
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Cover
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Cover
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Cover
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Side View
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Side View
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Series Title Page
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Series Title Page
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Title Page
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Frontispiece and Title Page
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Frontispiece
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Frontispiece
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Title Page
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Title Page
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #4 with Text
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Colophon
Richard III, Limited Editions Club, Colophon

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