The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press (1926) and Limited Editions Club (1947)

The Limited Editions Club (LEC) Monthly Letter (ML) for their wonderful 1947 edition of the Book of Ruth says of the story that it is “delightful“, “charming” and “great.” The ML goes on to quote the early twentieth century American educator and author Mary Ellen Chase saying:

The ‘Book of Ruth’ is one of the most graceful and charming of short stories not only in ancient literature but of any time and in any language, and well deserves the high place accorded it by critics of various countries and ages…Goethe, among others of its admirers, calls it the most beautiful of all idylls.

The Book of Ruth is included within the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.  Wikipedia tells us that in the Jewish canon it is included in the third division, or the Writings (Ketuvim); in the Christian canon it is treated as a history book and placed between Judges and 1 Samuel. Authorship has been traditionally attributed to the prophet Samuel, but most scholars refute that. The story was likely written sometime between the 6th–4th centuries BC, though its author sets it five to seven hundred years earlier, as told in the opening line: “Now in the days when the judges rules, there was a famine in the land.” Ruth is the great-grandmother of David. This story tells “of Ruth’s accepting the God of the Israelites as her God and the Israelite people as her own.” Mary Ellen Chase goes on to inform us that:

There has always been a controversy among students and admirers of his story over whether he had a purpose in telling it beyond simply the writing of a pleasant tales, as to whether he was an ancient propagandist or merely an ancient artist. Artist he certainly was, too good of one to append a moral to his tale.

Throughout his story the style and language of the author heighten the effect he wishes to gain and hold. His simple and direct prose has from first to last an undertone of poetry.

Within his narrowly prescribed limits the author has beautifully done what he obviously set out to do: to suggest by means of a lovely and idyllic story the truth of which he was himself convinced…true religion is a matter of the heart…

The Book of Ruth has attracted many private and fine press publishers to it. In this article, we look at two such editions:  the aforementioned 1947 edition from the Limited Editions Club (LEC) and a 1926 edition from Grabhorn Press, of which we will start with.

Edwin and Robert Grabhorn were students of Bruce Rogers, and, along with John Henry Nash, became the greatest printers in the western United States, and amongst the greatest in the world. Beginning with their first publication in 1920, the Grabhorn Press was the epicenter of fine printing in San Francisco through 1965 (with Robert Grabhorn continuing in partnership with Andrew Hoyem through 1973, after which Mr. Hoyem continued their great work with his renamed Arion Press).

For this edition of the Book of Ruth, the Grabhorns had the great American illustrator Valenti Angelo provide an opening illustration along with hand illumination and coloring of initial lettering. Angelo (1897-1982) was born in Italy, but immigrated to the United States as a young child, living first in New York, then California. His first book illustrations were for the Grabhorns, this edition being one of the first of which. In his six years at Grabhorn, he did some spectacular work, including The Voiage and Travaile of Sir John MaundevilleThe Scarlet LetterThe Red Badge of Courage, and one of greatest of all fine press books, the Grabhorn/Random House Leaves of Grass.  Over thirty years, he decorated and illustrated about 250 books, with linocut being his favorite medium. He is certainly no stranger to LEC fans. Angelo illustrated eleven books with LEC, starting in 1934 with the six volume The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night from Richard Burton, and ending with Twice-Told Tales of Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1966.

This edition was chosen as one of the “Fifty Books of the Year” for 1926 by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. It is small in scale at 7¼” x 5¾” but really has quite a charming presence with its parchment binding and the hand coloring and hand illumination of the pages. It is quite difficult to find in near fine or better condition, and typically will cost around $400 or so.

Thanks to a B&V reader for bibliography information that follows. The edition reviewed here is item 88 in the Grabhorn Bibliography. Item 97 in the Bibliography is another edition of The Book of Ruth, printed in an edition of 250 copies for the Book Club of California in September 1927.  The same type setting was used but in single column rather than double and with fewer lines per page, resulting in a book 4 1/2 by 3 inches with 40 pages of text rather than your 7 1/4 by 5 3/4 inches with 12 pages of text.  The paper for this later edition is Van Gelder.

About the Edition (Grabhorn Press)

  • Illustrated with color frontispiece drawing and handcolored initial letters by Valenti Angelo
  • The type is Gothique Ancienne, handset, and the paper is Unbleached Arnold
  • Bound in full parchment with title lettered in red on spine
  • 7¼” x 5¾”
  • Limited to 150 copies
  • Signed in Pencil of the frontispiece by Valenti Angelo

Pictures of the Edition (Grabhorn Press)

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided, under fair use, to highlight and visualize the review/criticism of the work being reviewed. A side benefit, hopefully, is providing education on the historical and cultural benefits of having a healthy fine press industry and in educating people on the richness that this ‘old school approach’ of book publishing brings to the reading process. Books and Vines has no commercial stake or financial interest in any publisher, retailer or work reviewed on this site and receives no commercial interest or compensation for Books and Vines. Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s or material found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Book in Slipcase
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Book in Slipcase
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Macro of Spine
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Macro of Spine
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Cover
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Cover
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Illustration, Illumination and Text
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Illustration, Illumination and Text
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Illustration Macro
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Illustration Macro
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Illumination Macro
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Illumination Macro
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #1
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #1
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #2
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #2
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text Macro
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text Macro
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #3
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #3
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #3 Macro
The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #3 Macro

 

1947 Limited Editions Club Edition

The Limited Editions Club went all out on it’s 1947 edition of the Book of Ruth, as it had in 1946 for the similarly adorned Book of Job. In order to provide it at the subscribers price, the LEC decided to print 1,950 copies instead of the typical 1,500, so to be able to sell 450 copies at $25 each to non-subscribers in order to cover the loss per copy for the subscribers.

The beauty of this edition rests primarily on the illustrations, a set of stunning miniature-paintings by the great artist/caricaturist/miniaturist Arthur Szyk (pronounced “Shick”). Szyk was born in Poland though in 1940 he settled permanently in the United States.  His war caricatures were extremely popular and influential (see here). Szyk was a traditionalist, influenced by medieval and renaissance styles which can clearly be seen in his illustrations here. The reproduction of the color-plates in this edition are marvelously done by Sun Engraving Company in London.

The beauty of this edition extends beyond Szyk’s work. The text is printed on a white, almost semi-gloss paper called Worthy Aurelian. The text was composed in 18 point Weiss Antiqua, six points leading between lines. The type was designed by the great Emile Rudolf Weiss, who also designed the initial letters used here. These initial letters are stamped on the pages with leaves of genuine gold. This gold stamping, together with the colorful illustrations, generous white space and margins on the pages (which works here due to the large 8 1/2″ x 12″ format), and the clean, elegant but sturdy look of the type, gives this edition a rich, beautiful and eminently readable quality. The binding matches these qualities in a lovely way, with the shelf-back and the corners covered in white sheepskin, the sides covered with white vellum paper, and the front side being stamped with a design by Arthur Szyk in gold.

Copies today can be found, depending on condition from $200-$700. The sheepskin binding is very prone to degradation, so expect to pay in the higher range to get a copy with the binding still in near fine or better condition.

About the Edition (Limited Editions Club)

  • King James Version
  • Preface by Mary Ellen Chase
  • Illustrated with miniature-paintings by Arthur Szyk
  • Reproductive color-plates made by Sun Engraving Company in London
  • Text printed on white Worthy Aurelian paper
  • Text composed in 18 point Weiss Antiqua, six points leading between lines (designed by Emile Rudolf Weiss)
  • Initial letters, designed by Rudolf Weiss, are stamped on the pages with leaves of genuine gold
  • Binding is three-quarter leather: the shelf-back and the corners covered in white sheepskin; the sides covered with white vellum paper, the front side being stamped with a design by Arthur Szyk in gold
  • Originally shipped with a hand-molded, velour-lined slipcase
  • 8 1/2″ x 12″
  • Limited to 1950 copies, 1500 for LEC subscribers and 450 for retail shops (at $25 a copy)
  • Was optional to subscribers since it was not planned the series, but was a replacement for John Brown’s Body, which was delayed beyond the series
  • Signed by Arthur Szyk

Pictures of the Edition (Limited Editions Club)

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided, under fair use, to highlight and visualize the review/criticism of the work being reviewed. A side benefit, hopefully, is providing education on the historical and cultural benefits of having a healthy fine press industry and in educating people on the richness that this ‘old school approach’ of book publishing brings to the reading process. Books and Vines has no commercial stake or financial interest in any publisher, retailer or work reviewed on this site and receives no commercial interest or compensation for Books and Vines. Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s or material found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Slipcase Spine (Custom)
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Slipcase Spine (Custom)
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Book in Slipcase
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Book in Slipcase
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Spine Macro
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Spine Macro
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Cover
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Cover
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Cover Macro
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Cover Macro
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Half-Title
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Half-Title
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Half Title Page
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Half Title Page
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Frontispiece and Title Page
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Frontispiece and Title Page
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Frontispiece
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Frontispiece
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Title Page
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Title Page
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #1
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #1
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #1
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #1
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Text
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Text
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #3 with Text
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #2
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #2
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #3
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #3
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #5 with Colophon
The Book of Ruth, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #3 with Colophon

4 thoughts on “The Book of Ruth, Grabhorn Press (1926) and Limited Editions Club (1947)

  1. Your link for the type designer of the LEC RUTH is to a Nazi, Rudlof Weiss. It should be to the book and type designer E R Weiss ( Emile Rudolph Weiss), a very different man!

    1. A horrible and miserable cut and paste error on my part!!!! Fixed. I have a number of books with E.R. Weiss involvement and adore his work!

      On Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 2:26 AM, Books and Vines wrote:

      >

    2. The small neat Grabhorn/Angelo Ruth is a splendid counterpoint to the comparatively gigantic Grabhorn/Angelo by name Job!
      The LEC Ruth is a highly desirable book, but for me its beauty lies not in in Szyk’s elaborate miniatures, which I could happily dispense with, but in the design work of George Macy (whom you do not mention). His binding is a triumph, one of the finest to come out of the LEC, its use of Szyk’s superb simplified version of his own portrait of Ruth being an exemplary demonstration of “less is more”. Internally, Macy’s choices of paper, type, page layout and his bold treatment of the Weiss initials result, as you say, in an eminently readable text.

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