A Book Beautiful on the Inside: Yellow Book’s Binding

Binding of the Yellow Book Top-Down

Binding of the Yellow Book Top-Down

The last post to complete the saga on our dear yellow Readers Club book will be on the colorful binding that makes this book recognizable as a more commercially produced book rather than a fine bound book. The yellow book is a hardcover bound book with eleven signatures sewn together.

Our yellow book looks to have eleven signatures

Our yellow book looks to have eleven signatures

The covering of the book is a simple yellow book cloth stamped in red for the Readers Club logo and the title for the spine.

A simple signature for the book can be seen here in the crease

A simple signature for the book can be seen here in the crease

A matching blue and gold headband can also be seen on the book.

A matching blue and gold headband for the book

A matching blue and gold headband for the book

Rather than a fine leather binding with gold embossing, this book embraces its use through its binding: everyday wear and tear for a wide audience. Because this book was meant to be a low-cost book of the month club alternative to the more expensive Limited Editions Club and Heritage Press books, a very simple, unremarkable binding makes sense–not only was the publisher saving money, but also the consumer who could read and pass around this copy without worrying that its fine binding might be overworked. Readers Club books were meant more for reading and handling than it’s cousin book of the month clubs with fine bindings. Despite being simply bound, I find that the bright yellow cover certainly adds a dimension of aesthetic appeal for the reader. The bright yellow book looks inviting and while it won’t necessarily add value to a library, it does add color! Looking through other novels printed for the Readers Club, it appears that George Macy could have enticed readers with colorful bindings, as the first year of books published (beginning March 1941) were bound in brightly colored book cloth.

The Asiatics published 1941 via recollections-db on http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/281207930622?lpid=82&chn=ps

The Asiatics published 1941 via recollections-db on http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/281207930622?lpid=82&chn=ps

Memoirs of a Midget published 1941 via willgray2001 on http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/151342588690?gclid=CLWXysen8cQCFdgUgQodAxIAZg

Memoirs of a Midget published 1941 via willgray2001 on http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/151342588690?gclid=CLWXysen8cQCFdgUgQodAxIAZg

Myths after Lincoln published 1941 via downtownbooks-milw on http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/311325179228?lpid=82&chn=ps

Myths after Lincoln published 1941 via downtownbooks-milw on http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/311325179228?lpid=82&chn=ps

However, interestingly enough, in 1942 and 1943, this bright book cloth seems to have disappeared from the Readers Club novels. Instead, the books were bound in a dull whiteish-gray book cloth, though at least accented by colorful logos. Whether the bright colors were gone due to poor reception or just a decision by the publishing house is not known, but to speculate, it may be that the colorful book cloth was gone in order to save money during the war. As the US did not join in World War II until late 1941 and the George Macy company was based out of New York City in the United States, it could be that the books published prior to the US entry were printed on these book cloths without care of cost, but those after were treated with much more frugal funding.

Rifleman Dodd & the Gun published 1942, when we see the bright bindings disappear Image via http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/320963066005?lpid=82&chn=ps

Rifleman Dodd & the Gun published 1942, when we see the bright bindings disappear
Image via http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/320963066005?lpid=82&chn=ps

The Days of the King published 1942, not colorfully bound via http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/181644477886?lpid=82&chn=ps

The Days of the King published 1942, not colorfully bound via http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/181644477886?lpid=82&chn=ps

Tommy & Grizel published 1943, not colorfully bound via http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/221540023441?lpid=82&chn=ps

Tommy & Grizel published 1943, not colorfully bound via http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/221540023441?lpid=82&chn=ps

Regardless of reason, the binding for the Readers Club, though starting off brightly colored, was always a simple hardcover binding. It was a book club for the general public to handle and read, not to be kept on a shelf of a priceless library collection, which I think makes it a book beautiful in it’s own way, on the inside.

-Erin

Few and Far Between: Illustrations of the Readers Club

DSC02344

The History of Mr. Polly Colophon giving no information for illustrations

Unfortunately for our yellow book, the colophon can’t help us out in the category of illustrations, simply because there are none in the book. This is pretty unsurprising considering that the Readers Club books were a “budget” venture for the George Macy company, and to commission artists for illustrations in their books would have been an extra expenditure. Within the Readers Club collection, there are only two books with evidence of illustrations: The Days of the King by Bruno Frank and Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev.

The Days of the King was illustrated via “line-plates photographed from prints directly pulled from wood-engravings of the drawings by Adolf von Menzel,” who was a famous artist in Germany for his works depicting Frederick the Great of Prussia. Since The Days of the King was a biographical novel based on this King of Prussia, it makes sense that George Macy would have this celebrated German images used to complete the book, though they were not drawn specifically for the book, as von Menzel had long passed by the time the book wad published by The Press of the Readers Club in 1942. Adolf von Menzel was trained in the art of wood engravings and eventually branched out to paintings, and although the prints were not directly wood engraving printing onto paper, the illustrations certainly add beauty to the pages.

While this was the only novel in the Readers Club with illustrations unique to the series of club books (despite their not being commissioned specifically for the book),

Fathers and Sons featured images by Fritz Eichenberg, but was a reprint of the Heritage Press edition of the novel. The illustrations by Eichenberg were also wood engravings originally, but were likely printed in the same manner as the illustrations of The Days of the King. 

Due to the nature of these images from other Readers Club books at the time, it is likely that if The History of Mr. Polly had been illustrated, it would have had wood engraving prints that were photographed for line-plates.

While the Readers Club wasn’t illustrated, both of the other publishing ventures headed by George Macy were full of beautiful illustrations. To view two of the more prominent illustrations from the collections, see my Provenance post describing those.

-Erin

Typography

Consulting the very useful colophon at the front of this book, we can see that the type used for the yellow book was linotype Scotch.

Typography info right in the colophon!

Typography info right in the colophon!

We see that the design and type was picked by W.A. Dwiggins,

who was a very notable figure in the book arts and particularly typography. The type was known to be an agreeable typeface for books, and was used in linotype, as described in my Printing post.

W.A.  Dwiggins via http://www.fontbureau.com/historical/WilliamDwiggins/ (Maybe he's at work here updating linotype Scotch!)

W.A. Dwiggins via http://www.fontbureau.com/historical/WilliamDwiggins/
(Maybe he’s at work here updating linotype Scotch!)

Dwiggins’ connection to the type is special in that he was asked to update the Scotch type style in the late 1930s, right before this book would be produced. The original Scotch had been created by in Scotland sometime in the first half of the 19th Century. The style had been known for a “spotty” page appearance and so was changed in order that the capital letters wouldn’t appear heavier than the lowercase.

By 1939, Dwiggins took the design one step further, creating Caledonia, named for the ancient name for Scotland, as a tribute to the type inspiration of Scotch.

Sheet of linotype Scotch Roman via raph on http://typophile.com/node/14710

Sheet of linotype Scotch Roman via raph on http://typophile.com/node/14710

As with the other aspects of book design, George Macy was sure to give the unremarkable Readers Club books, a shot at beautiful design through his choice of resources. Having W.A. Dwiggins’ touch for the design of the book was arguably one of the best choices Macy could have made in helping design this book, as the man was well-respected, and rightly so, for his great contributions to book design, typeface, and graphic designing overall.

-Erin

The West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company

For the dear Readers Club book, it is again easy to discover the paper used in the book.

West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company

West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company

Right in the colophon, we see that the paper was specially made by the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company (WVPP) for the book. This paper company has a long and important history for the state of West Virginia, an as mentioned in my first post, is the reason I chose this as my book of study in the first place. I had no idea that WVPP even existed or had had such a big impact on West Virginia as a young, developing state. The first mill started by William Luke in what was originally Piedmont, West Virginia, but is now Luke, Maryland. The company was first named Piedmont Pulp and Paper Company and was run by William Luke and his sons, who came from family history in paper making, and eventually grew to be the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company after the name was changed to West Virginia Paper and then merged with West Virginia Pulp from Davis, WV. As the company grew, new plants were created with the headquarters being officially located in New York City. While most of the growth came from buying smaller plants, much like with the Kingsport Press, WVPP also allowed for areas previously undeveloped to be brought to life with a new industry. In 1900, WVPP began work building a sawmill in Cass, WV, bringing the railroad and new inhabitants with it. Without WVPP’s choosing to develop a timber industry in this forested area, Cass could not exist as the railroad town and tourist attraction for the state that it is today! The areas around Cass would likely not have developed either without the railroad being routed in this area, so West Virginia certainly owes a lot to William Luke and his paper company.

For the actual paper used in the book, since it was specially made, it may not have come from the list of advertised papers as found in the annual published Inspirations for Printers.

Westvaco Inspirations for Printers No. 129, 1941 via http://www.letterology.com/2014/05/timely-tutoring-in-topics-tastes-and.html

Westvaco Inspirations for Printers No. 129, 1941 via http://www.letterology.com/2014/05/timely-tutoring-in-topics-tastes-and.html

The company offered a very wide variety of papers, from fine papers to cover papers (as seen in the inspiration booklets) to kraft paper for packaging.

Westvaco Inspirations for Printers No. 129, 1941 Paper Index via http://www.letterology.com/2014/05/timely-tutoring-in-topics-tastes-and.html

Westvaco Inspirations for Printers No. 129, 1941 Paper Index via http://www.letterology.com/2014/05/timely-tutoring-in-topics-tastes-and.html

It’s very possible that wood for producing the paper came from Cass that was then processed in one of the mills in Virginia, Pennsylvania, or New York. Regardless of where it was processed, it’s clear that George Macy chose a very popular and well-advertised company to produce the paper for his Readers Club venture in this yellow book.

In relation to my last blog, Westvaco (which is what the company was eventually known as) eventually merged with Mead Paper Co in 2002. Mead Paper Company had actually invested in Kingsport Press Inc. around the time this book was produced. Therefore, Mead and Westvaco actually have this connection through the production of this book long before they merged to become one of the largest paper companies, MeadWestvaco.

-Erin

Printing Fit for Kings(port)

DSC02344While the printing press found it’s Western beginnings in Mainz, Germany with Johannes Gutenberg’s movable type wooden printing press, much progress in updating and speeding up the printing process had been made by the time our dear old yellow book was made. Luckily, the colophon in the front provides our exact point of interest in locating where and how the Readers Club book was printed!

Yay! Our answer was easy

Yay! Our answer was easy

The Kingsport Press, Inc. of Kingsport, Tennessee was started in 1922 after several New York bankers began developing a nearly vacant area in the Eastern Tennessee mountains. A railroad was run through and coal and timber areas were set up to provide for the company (a combination of printing and paper making) for many years to come. The Kingsport Press, Inc. was a well-developed, though short lived enterprise known for printing miniature books of Presidential speeches and works as part of print training exercises. While the company flourished, the town enjoyed a high level of progress, employment and was even known to be a very health conscious town, with physicians provided within the printing press factory not only for the employees, but also their children. With its large contribution to the development of the surrounding area, the Kingsport Press Inc was very important to the community, as many printing presses were at the time. To get an idea of just how important printing presses like Kingsport Press were, here’s a vocational training video championing the work of printing presses: 

The type of printing used for this particular book was done by linotype printing which required an operator to type the book line by line on a typewriter style keyboard. While the Linotype is a lost art to computers and new technology these days,

the time and craft put into printing books like The Readers Club’s The History of Mr. Polly, shows how much care George Macy and his publishing company wanted to put into even their less beautiful books (as compared to The Limited Editions Club and Heritage Press). The printing style for this book would have included printing on large sheets that were then sent through the press, folded, and cut.

The Kingsport Press, Inc. circa 1930

As a last interesting factoid, this company had roots in helping Mead Paper Co. develop…which will link to next week’s post on Paper!

Stay tuned!

-Erin

The Poor Yellow Book and her Prominent Provenance Cousins

Have you ever thought about who the previous owner of your book might have been? What about how the previous owner acquired the book? If you’ve ever discovered the written evidence of those answers in a book, you’ve uncovered some of that book’s provenance! Provenance is a term that applies to the marks of ownership history–from a book plate placed on the inside cover, to an illustrator’s signature on the last page, and every written commentary, pasted in edit, and forgotten bookmark in between. These things not only add character, intrigue, and really a side narrative to a book, but they can add value, too. Extraordinary provenance is what can set one particular book apart from the rest of the group with which it was made.

Very lackluster findings inside the yellow book

Very lackluster findings inside the yellow book

Small pamphlet from inside The History of Mr. Polly

Small pamphlet from inside The History of Mr. Polly

Unfortunately for my Yellow book, there is not much provenance to be found apart from a scribbled out name and a small pamphlet for another Book-of-the-Month Club book. While I may not know who the book previously belonged to before finding its way to the Morrow Library Stacks, there are notable examples of provenance in books of the big brother series to Readers Club, The Limited Editions Club. Because of the limited nature of the series, they are more easily tracked for interesting provenance. More than just the restriction of prints, George Macy also hired talented artists at the time to provide illustrations for his books–and not just any old artists. Two books in particular rank in importance for the Limited Editions Club, and they are: Ulysses by James Joyce and Lysistrata by Aristophanes in a new edition by GIlbert Seldes, illustrated by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, respectively.

Signature inside Lysistrata with illustrations by Picasso

Signature inside Lysistrata with illustrations by Picasso

When these books were published, copies of each were signed by their respective illustrator. Even more than that, 250 copies of Ulysses were signed by both Henri Matisse AND James Joyce.

Signatures inside Ulysses

Signatures inside Ulysses

Through the Looking-Glass from George Macy's personal collection via James Cummins Bookseller

Through the Looking-Glass from George Macy’s personal collection via James Cummins Bookseller

While books like these gather the greatest monetary value, the most valuable provenance of the Limited Editions Club books in my opinion, would have to be a book from the personal collection of the man behind the books, George Macy. Although he likely owned many of the books he helped to publish in a beautiful new format, the one I have found is his copy of Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll.; and while the book is less valuable in terms of money, the history of who it belongs to is awesome (plus it was signed by the original Alice, who inspired Lewis Carroll to write the novels). Just the fact that the man who put all this work for publishing not only Readers Club, but also Heritage Press and Limited Editions Club held this book, seems awfully special to me.

While no prominent members of the Readers Club–or any of George Macy’s book clubs–stuck out in my searches, it is nice to wonder who might have been a part of the exclusive clubs and enjoyed reading books like the one I held now. And although there may have been a wider and less prominent audience in the beginnings of George Macy’s publishing houses, it seems likely that the more recent versions that were produced after his death up until 2010 were held by at least some high class people, as the cost of membership rose from the original $10 to $5,000 and the number of books printed down from 1500 to 300.. It is lovely, though, that some of the books, like the one from George Macy’s personal collection, hold provenance from the origins of his presses, marking them for history and making the book particularly special.

If you are a terrible cook (like me), don’t buy this book!

How this (slightly intimidating) book works via http://bruketa-zinic.com/2011/02/05/4136/

How this (slightly intimidating) book works via http://bruketa-zinic.com/2011/02/05/4136/

Before delving into the interesting details of my chosen book for the semester, a Readers Club edition of HG Well’s The History of Mr. Polly, I’ll be giving a short description of a book I’ve found to be especially peculiar: a book that you must bake before it can be read.

The recipe book is called, appropriately, Well Done, and its producers are Bruketa&Žinić OM, a Croatian advertising agency. As part of an annual report on a culinary company named Podravka, the recipe book was meant to showcase the culinary expertise that the company is known for. When first opened, the book is only blank, and pages showing empty plates are between where recipes will be after baking. Once the book has been cooked properly, the recipes show and illustrations of food on the plates appear! Not only did my severely culinary-challenged self cringe at the idea (the book has to be cooked precisely, according to it’s producers–or you’ll just end up with some burnt and useless paper), but the curiosity of my science side was piqued! What an interesting use of thermodynamics to be used for a cook book! Needless to say, more than anything I was impressed by the idea behind the book and would almost like to have one…just to see if I was up to the task.

If you’d like to read a little more about his book and the unique advertising agency with it click here.

I’ll be back next week with a new post on my yellow book!

-Erin