The Limited Editions Club (LEC) 1934 edition of Daphnis and Chloe, by Longus, is a masterful production that leaves one in amazement how books of this caliber were created in limitations of 1,500 for a purchase price of ten dollars each. Just look at the production methods here: hand-made all-rag paper, hand-set type newly designed here for the first time, copper plate etchings faced with steel and printed on the hand-press, fully bound in lambskin with a stunning gold decoration. It is hard to imagine the ability to scale to this volume and the cost of doing so today; yet George Macy did this month in and month out for decades. Daphnis and Chloe is one of his better efforts and is an excellent example of the quality of the early years of the club.
The illustrator of this edition, Ruth Reeves, was a well-known and successful artist and designer of textile patterns. Prior to Daphnis and Chloe she had never illustrated a book. Two years prior to the publication of Daphnis and Chloe, the LEC had announced a contest to find new talent in book illustration. Reeves entered the contest with etchings to illustrate Tyl Ulenspiegl. The LEC did not like her submission as it related to Tyl Ulenspiegl. However, they thought the “pure Grecian line” of those etchings would be a perfect style for Daphnis and Chloe, and so it was done. She made 24 such etchings for Daphnis and Chloe, which the Monthly Letter describe as being:
…full of sweetness and simplicity…Technically, they are modern in spirit, the line left by Miss Reeves’ tool being as quiet and suggestive as those left by Picasso and Matisse in their recent etchings.
I am not sure about that comparison in terms of merit, but will say that the illustrations Reeves provided for Daphnis and Chloe are certainly more apropos than what Matisse did for Ulysses, and more enjoyable than those done by Picasso for Aristophanes. Of course, they are certainly less expensive to acquire! The prints were made by hand, as described above.
The book was designed by Porter Garnett, who was Master of the Laboratory Press at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. He selected Lutetia type, designed by Jan van Krimpen, first used in America in Edwin Grabhorn‘s 1927 edition of The Golden Touch of Nathaniel Hawthorne. However, Mr. Porter did not think it quite perfect for Daphnis and Chloe so, with the cooperation of Mr. van Krimpen, he amended various characters for this edition, as shown here:
Mr. Porter also designed the initial lettering to start each chapter, of which the following is an example:
Interestingly, while the Monthly Letter praises this book lavishly calling it “nearly perfect”, it does come straight out and say what made it less than perfect was “Those danged initials. We consider them out of key with the rest of the book, and unlovely in themselves.” Mr. Porter disagreed, and they stayed.
The translation by George Moore was done in 1925 and attained immediate critical acclaim. The London Times wrote “No version in English reproduces more limpidly the spirit of the original. His book is in itself a work of art.” I am not an expert on translations of this work prior to or after that of Moore, but I can say the Moore translation was a fun, enjoyable, frolicking read. It is hard to imagine one better, though I would like to read George Thornley’s 1657 translation also.
Longus wrote Daphnis and Chloe in the second century, in Greek. It is his only known work and pretty much nothing is known of him. The story is set on the isle of Lesbos, contemporary to when Longus lived. The work is pastoral in nature. Daphnis and Chloe are both shepherds, both left to their own after birth, raised by different foster parents. They fall in love, exploring such love in a very naive manner. A number of events and schemes attempt to keep them apart, but ultimately all fail. Eventually, they are found by their birth parents, get married and live an idyllic country life. The story has been made into opera, ballet, movies and more. It remains a well-loved and influential classic.
About the Edition
- Illustrated with 24 Etchings by Ruth Reeves
- Illustrations etched into copper plates, which were then faced with steel, then printed on the hand press
- Designed by Porter Garnett
- Each page set by hand in 18 point Lutetia (revised by Porter Garnett, used here for the first time)
- Hand-made paper of all-rag linen, called Bishopstoke, from the Portals mill in England
- Bound in full lambskin, stained in an ivory color with gold titling on the spine and on the decoration on the cover
- Translated by George Moore
- Introduction by George Moore
- 8 1/2″ x 11″, 160 pages
Pictures of the Edition
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