Don Pedro Antonio de Alarcón (1833 – 1891) was the most widely read Spanish author of his day. He wrote novels, short stories, poetry, travel books and essays. The Three-Cornerned Hat (El Sombrero de Tres Picos) is, however, the one which has most survived from both a critical and popular standpoint. The story is based on popular tradition of the time and provides a window looking at village life in Andalusia in the mid-1800’s. As the Monthly Letter states about the story, ‘it is all beautifully and effectively done; the writing is brisk, the characterization firm, the fun uproarious.” It is a genre that we have seen popularized in other classics, such as Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (Miller, Reeve), that being marital confusion.
Roger Duvoisin (1904 – 1980) provides wonderfully colorful, setting accurate, and light-hearted illustrations. Duvoisin is familiar to LEC collectors from his work in A Child’s Garden of Verses (in 1944) and Travels with a Donkey (in 1957), both of Robert Louis Stevenson. For his work in The Three-Cornerned Hat, he studied regional costumes of the time period, as well as Francisco Goya‘s work (since he was enormously productive during the time period of this story), resulting in illustrations accurately reflecting the setting of the story.
The illustrations were done by offset lithography, using a half-tone plate. John R. Biggs, author of Illustration and Reproduction explains this as follows:
The early stages of making a half-tone are the same as those for making a line block, but with this important exception. inside the camera, just in front of the sensitized plate, is a screen which is composed of two side sheets of plate glass having opaque parallel lines engraved upon them. The two sheets of glass are cemented together so that the two sets of parallel lines are at right-angles to one another, forming a mesh. Light can pass through this screen only where the tiny squares of clear glass are left between the opaque lines, and it has the effect of splitting up the picture into a multitude of dots. The size of the dots is determined by the number of opaque lines per inch rules on the screen. These may vary from 45 to 175 or more per inch, but the more usual are 85 — 100 — 110 — 120 — 133 and are referred to as 100 screen and so on.
The Monthly Letter tells us:
For this edition, Saul Marks used a 300 line screen which required special plates, a special camera, a special camera technique, and special care in the application of that technique. The effect is as if the artist had drawn the illustrations right in your book.
Besides Duvoisin’s nicely done illustrations, the edition includes an all-star cast of people associated with the edition. The translation by Martin Armstrong is an excellent one. Armstrong was an accomplished writer and poet in his own right. The introduction is by Gerald Brenan, also an accomplished writer, who spent most of his life in Spain and whose historical work on the lead up to the Spanish Civil War, The Spanish Labyrinth, remains very well thought of. The edition was designed by Saul and Lillian Marks at The Plantin Press in Los Angeles. Again, LEC collectors are very familiar with their work for the LEC, which included works such as The Ring and the Book, The Turn of the Screw, The Virginian, The Revolt of the Angels, Popol Vuh, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Ramona and Travels with a Donkey. While this production is far from being a top tier LEC, it is excellent. The design of the binding, being light and colorful, is an excellent wrapper around the story. The illustrations are about perfect for the story. Again light, colorful and delightful, with the black and white illustrations providing whimsical, and sometimes serious, insight into the story. The Curtis rag paper is not overly special, but is bright and sturdy. For $50 or even less for a fine copy, what are you waiting for?
About the Edition
- 34 color and black-and-white illustrations drawn by Roger Duvoisin
- Illustrations reproduced by offset lithography, using a half-tone plate
- Translation by Martin Armstrong
- Introduction by Gerald Brenan
- Designed and printed by Saul and Lillian Marks at The Plantin Press, Los Angeles
- 16 point bembo on Curtis Rag
- Bound by Russell-Rutter Company of New York in a colorful fabric called Granada Tiles
- 7 1/2″ x 11 1/4″, 176 pages
- Limited to 1500 copies
Pictures of the Edition
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