A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams & illustrated by Al Hirschfeld
 A Streetcar Named Desire
 by Tennessee Williams
 Illustrated by Al Hirschfeld

The Limited Editions Club of New York was started in 1929 by George Macy. At 29-years-old, he was an avid reader who wanted to make his living from books. His business revolved around publishing beautifully illustrated classic titles in relatively small quantities with club members paying a subscription.

Today, the Limited Editions Club (LEC)is an important part of the rare book business and the books are adored by collectors. From 1929 to 1985, the Limited Editions Club published 548 titles. George passed away in 1956 but his widow, Helen, ran the company until the early 1970s when she retired and sold to Boise Cascade who sold the firm again in 1978.

The Limited Editions Club is famous for original illustrations by the best book illustrators and artists. Between 1929 and 1985, 10 to 12 titles featuring 1,500 numbered copies each were published annually although the print run expanded to 2,000 numbered copies in later years.

Each title was unique, using special papers, special cover material including many in leather, almost all came in a slipcase or clamshell box, many of the titles were already regarded as classics and produced by private small presses throughout the world, almost all were signed by either the illustrator, author, publisher or designer. Sometimes three signatures can be found on the colophon page.

During the depression years, many of the world’s greatest artists struggled to find regular work and a large number were employed by Macy.

Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Edward Ardizonne, Thomas Hart Benton, Rockwell Kent, Reginald Marsh, Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, Norman Rockwell, Edward Steichen and Grant Wood are just a few of the artists connected with the Limited Editions Club.

Ulysses by James Joyce, illustrated by Henri Matisse
Ulysses by James Joyce, illustrated by Henri Matisse

Other highlights include the editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass that were signed by Alice Hargreaves, who inspired the books as a child. The typography is also exceptional and involved masters of the age. Each book is a work of art in its own right.

From the mid-1980s until 2009, the number of copies published per title was reduced to mostly 300 and usually just three or four titles appeared per year. During this period, a new generation of renowned artists were involved - prices increased dramatically and the books became larger.

Limited Editions Club books are very collectible for their beauty alone but many famous authors have been published over the years. Hans Christian Andersen, Jane Austen, Honore De Balzac, James Boswell, Ray Bradbury, Robert Burns, Lewis Carroll, Willa Cather, Anton Chekhov, Confucius, Joseph Conrad, Charles Darwin, Daniel Defoe, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alexandre Dumas, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy and Victor Hugo can be found on the list.

There are thousands of Limited Editions Club books for sale on AbeBooks, varying by price, description, and condition. In the world of used and antiquarian books, condition is everything for collectors. Here are a few tips for collectors:

  • Become familiar with the market before spending your money in order to get value for money.
  • Ask for additional photos for copies that interest you.
  • BookFinder and Amazon are also good places to search for them.
  • Consider the used book sales at your local library, you can sometimes get lucky and find a treasure for a bargain.
  • Ask around to learn about book collectors who may have LECs to sell.
  • Check your local used bookstore and visit more shops when on holiday.

Edward Halpern’s bookselling business is based in Spring Grove, Illinois, and specializes in antiquarian, art, Limited Editions Book Club, illustrated, color plate, leather bound, children’s, biographies, Chicago, Illinois, and the Orient.

 

Related Video

See Our Video on Beautiful Books: The Art of the Limited Editions Club Play Video



A Selection of Limited Editions Club Books

The Book of Job illustrated by Arthur Szyk
The Book of Job
illustrated by Arthur Szyk
The Circus of Dr Lao by Charles G. Finney & illustrated by Claire Van Vliet
The Circus of Dr Lao
by Charles G. Finney & illustrated by Claire Van Vliet
Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen & Illustrated by Per Krohg
Peer Gynt
by Henrik Ibsen & Illustrated by Per Krohg
Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad & illustrated by Lynd Ward
Lord Jim
by Joseph Conrad & illustrated by Lynd Ward
The Golden Cockerel by Alexander Pushkin & illustrated by Edmund Dulac
The Golden Cockerel
by Alexander Pushkin & illustrated by Edmund Dulac
The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer (various LEC editions)
The Canterbury Tales
by Chaucer (various LEC editions)
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen & illustrated by Clarke Hutton
Northanger Abbey
by Jane Austen & illustrated by Clarke Hutton
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope & illustrated by Fritz Kredel
Barchester Towers
by Anthony Trollope & illustrated by Fritz Kredel
Cape Cod by Henry David Thoreau & illustrated by R.J. Holden
Cape Cod
by Henry David Thoreau & illustrated by R.J. Holden
The Three-Cornered Hat by Pedro Antonio De Alarcon & illustrated by Roger Duvoisin
The Three-Cornered Hat
by Pedro Antonio De Alarcon & illustrated by Roger Duvoisin
Russian Folk Tales illustrated Teje Etchemendy
Russian Folk Tales
illustrated Teje Etchemendy
Candide or Optimism by Voltaire & illustrated by May Neama
Candide or Optimism
by Voltaire & illustrated by May Neama
The Sea Wolf by Jack London & illustrated by Fletcher Martin
The Sea Wolf
by Jack London & illustrated by Fletcher Martin
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi & illustrated Richard Floethe
Pinocchio
by Carlo Collodi & illustrated Richard Floethe
Exile’s Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920’s by Malcolm Cowley with photos by Berenice Abbott
Exile’s Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920’s
by Malcolm Cowley with photos by Berenice Abbott
The Chronicle of the Cid translated by Robert Southey & illustrated by Rene Ben Sussan
The Chronicle of the Cid
translated by Robert Southey & illustrated by Rene Ben Sussan
Poems of the Caribbean by Derek Walcott & illustrated by Romare Bearden
Poems of the Caribbean
by Derek Walcott & illustrated by Romare Bearden
Thus Spake Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche & illustrated by Arnold Bank
Thus Spake Zarathustra
by Friedrich Nietzsche & illustrated by Arnold Bank
Slovenly Peter by Mark Twain
Slovenly Peter
by Mark Twain
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury & illustrated by Joseph Mugnaini
Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury & illustrated by Joseph Mugnaini
Omoo by Herman Melville & illustrated by Reynolds Stone
Omoo
by Herman Melville & illustrated by Reynolds Stone
A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy by Lawrence Sterne & illustrated by Denis Tegetmeier
A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy
by Lawrence Sterne & illustrated by Denis Tegetmeier
The Trial by Franz Kafka & illustrated by Alan E. Cober
The Trial
by Franz Kafka & illustrated by Alan E. Cober
The Virginian by A Horseman of the Plains by Owen Wister & illustrated by William Moyers
The Virginian by A Horseman of the Plains
by Owen Wister & illustrated by William Moyers
The Beach of Falesa by Robert Louis Stevenson & illustrated by Millard Sheets
The Beach of Falesa
by Robert Louis Stevenson & illustrated by Millard Sheets

See Our Video on Beautiful Books: The Art of the Limited Editions Club



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