Eugenie Grandet, by Honore De Balzac, Limited Editions Club (1960)

Eugénie Grandet, the first of what was to become the massive collection of works by Honoré de Balzac called La Comédie humane (The Human Comedy), was first published in 1833. Eugénie Grandet became the first of the grouping of works under ‘Scenes of Country Life’.  The novel is about miserliness and its destructive psychological impact,  with an associated theme of unhappy love intertwined. Balzac dedicated the second edition to his lover and mother of his daughter, Maria Du Fresnay. It turns out she was the “real” Eugénie Grandet, and the story itself was based upon her family. One could surmise that Balzac did not think much of her father! In a fashion only Balzac can do, the hypocrisy of societal norms is highlighted, along with the lack of emotional, intellectual and resonant depth of most of the upper class.  Though Eugénie Grandet is widowed at thirty-three, she is happy (or at least content) because she is her own person, following her own choices, living her life how she chooses.

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) was an early proponent of literary realism (perhaps with a dash of naturalism), with  La Comédie humane (The Human Comedy) being his crowning achievement. At 91 published works and 46 unpublished, this collection of interrelated stories is immense. His characters are real; even the good have flaws. Themes include power, wealth and social success. Characters across the social spectrum come in and out throughout his novels, typically shown struggling with or against the norms of society. Some works focus on country life, some on city life, others on military life or political life.  His novels can be negative in their view of human nature, especially when highlighting the morality of the higher stages of society. He has been enormously influential in literature, with writers such as Charles DickensGustave FlaubertEdgar Allan PoeFyodor Dostoyevsky, and Henry James taking stylistically from him. In fact, Dostoyevsky got his start by translating Eugénie Grandet!

Like the recently reviewed Limited Editions Club (LEC) edition of Balzac’s Old GoriotSir Francis Meynell, of The Nonesuch Press, designed this edition and had it printed at The Curwen Press. The book is handsome, though not as ‘pretty’ as Old Goriot. I suppose that is apropos, as the plain look is more miserly, if you will. The binding is richly-toned buckram, with two black hinge-like leather inserts stamped in gold and wrapped around the backs trip and sides. For paper, Meynell choose and had made for this edition an off-white paper called Glastonbury, made in England. It does have an ever so slight yellowish tinge and is soft, yet firm. The type is Bembo 14 point, which is, as always, easy to read, though not much of a creative choice in this instance. As with Old GoriotRene ben Sussan provided the illustrations, which display nicely on this paper, better than the text. Sussan provides twenty wash and line drawings, each colored by hand via the pochoir process at the Walter Fischer Studios. Also as in Old Goriot, the excellent translation was done by Ellen Marriage.

One can find this 54 year old edition, in near fine or fine condition, for anywhere from $30 -$75, making it an absolute steal. While the edition is not as well done as Old Goriot, it certainly is still a fine work only suffering some by the plainness of the overall production. Still, it is designed by one of the greats of twentieth century book arts, printed at one of the great private press printing houses of the twentieth century and contains twenty hand-colored illustrations on paper made especially for this edition. In short, while the edition may have a somewhat miserly external appearance, like Eugénie Grandet herself, it carves its own niche within which it is perfectly content presenting itself to you.

About the Edition

  • Designed by Sir Francis Meynell
  • Twenty wash and line drawings by Rene Ben Sussan
  • Illustrations reproduced by the Photogravure and Color Company
  • Illustrations colored by hand through stencils at the Walter Fischer Studios in New York
  • Introduction by Richard Aldington
  • Translation by Ellen Marriage
  • 14 point Bembo for text
  • Off-white paper called Glastonbury, made in England specially for this edition
  • Printed at the Curwen Press of London
  • Binding, done at Russell-Rutter, is richly-toned buckram, with two black hinge-like leather inserts stamped in gold and wrapped around the backs trip and sides
  • 6 7/8″ x 10 1/2″, 312 pages
  • Limited to 1500 copies, signed by Rene Ben Sussan

Pictures of the Edition

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Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Slipcase Spine
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Slipcase Spine
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Spine and Cover
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Spine and Cover
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spine
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spine
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Front Cover
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Front Cover
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Front Cover
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Front Cover
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Macro Side View
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Macro Side View
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Frontispiece and Title Page
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Frontispiece and Title Page
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Frontispiece
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Frontispiece
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Macro of  Title Page
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Title Page
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Contents
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Contents
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #1 (Introduction)
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #1 (Introduction)
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #2
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #2
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #2
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #2
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #5 with Text
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #8 with Text
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #3 with Text
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #9 with Text
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #4 with Text
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Illustration #9
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Illustration #4
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Colophon
Eugenie Grandet, Limited Editions Club, Colophon

5 thoughts on “Eugenie Grandet, by Honore De Balzac, Limited Editions Club (1960)

  1. What a delightful looking edition. Do you know if there might be any relationship with a series of French classics Meynell started under the Nonesuch imprint in 1940(?).

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