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A Heritage Press Retrospective

"How These Books Came To Be"

by Michael C. Bussacco

#75, 14 August 2006

George Macy was born in New York City on May 12, 1900 to Harris and Rose (Fedder) Macy. He graduated in 1917 with general honors from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, at that time an elite school for boys. While achieving the high marks that ultimately made him class valedictorian, he was also involved in a number of extracurricular activities: He was Editor-in-Chief of school publications, President of the Honor Society, and student member of the Board of Governors.

In 1929, he founded the Limited Editions Club and began publishing fine illustrated books in limited numbers (1500 copies) for subscription members. In 1935, Macy extended his range, founding the Heritage Press for the creation and distribution of more affordable 'semi-luxe' books. Directors of the Heritage Press included Cedric Crowell, General Manager of the Doubleday Bookshops, Frank L. Magel, head of Putnam Bookstores in New York, and A. Koch, head of Brentano Stores in New York.

Macy published editions under several imprints. Heritage Press editions were sold through bookstores, while The Heritage Club, The Heritage Illustrated Bookshelf, and The Junior Heritage Club editions were sold by subscription only. These publishing enterprises were combined in 1944 as units of the George Macy Companies, Inc. Each imprint targeted a specific audience; George Macy was a master publicist and had excellent marketing skills.

Macy created the Heritage Club in 1937 in part to satisfy book lovers who weren't able to afford to join the Limited Editions Club. By 1942, membership exceeded 9,200, and three of its selections, Lust for Life, Song of Songs, and Mother Goose, had each sold more than 20,000 copies in a single year. Circa 1938, these were the terms: The subscriber could either send a remittance for $2.50 plus wrapping and carrying charges for each book immediately upon its delivery or he could take a discount of ten percent and prepay $27.00 for a year's subscription. Each month a new edition would be sent with only wrapping and carrying charges due on receipt.

The Heritage Press Illustrated Bookshelf operated in the same manner but was targeted at young adults and teenagers. These editions were not issued with the usual Sandglass newsletter or brochure but did have slipcases or dust jackets. The Junior Heritage Club, founded in 1943, was targeted at preteens, ages 5 to 12, and included The Monthly Magazine of The Junior Heritage Club. This booklet was approximately 16 pages and, like the Sandglass, discussed the accompanying edition, with information about the illustrator, designer, and author.

Macy was intimately involved in the work of the Press, designing many of its publications, including The Grapes of Wrath, The Decameron, Hans Christian Anderson's Fairy Tales, and A Shropshire Lad. He also authored The Collected Verses of George Jester and edited Heritage's A Sailor's Reader and A Soldier's Reader. These wartime volumes, published in August 1943, each contained "four hundred thousand words of literary entertainment" for members of the American armed services.

Macy was also associated with another press publishing limited editions; in 1936, he became managing director of Nonesuch Press of London, founded by Francis Meynell.

Macy's accomplishments did not go unrecognized during his lifetime. In 1948, he received an honor never before accorded to a living publisher: A special exhibition of his books was held in the Salle d'Honneur of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. A second honor followed in England in 1952, when Macy became the first living publisher to be given a special exhibition of his books in the King's Library of the British Museum in London. The President of France conferred him the title of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor as well, and the American Institute of Graphic Arts awarded him the 1953 AIGA Medal, its highest honor.

George Macy died in May of 1956. A tribute written by Nunnally Johnson, his friend and colleague for over thirty years, was read by Harold Riegelman at the services held in New York on May 22, 1956. His wife continued the work of the firm until 1968, when son Jonathan took over.

An advertising brochure from 1972 provides a good overview of the Heritage Press:

This is a Heritage Press book. As such, it is a class by itself. For 37 years the Heritage Press has been producing fine editions like this one. Every book selected by our editors is a classic in its field, chosen from the world's best-known and most enduring literature.

Once a title is chosen, we employ the most creative designer, artists, typographers, printers and binders, who combine their talents to produce our fine editions. We believe that the resulting volumes are the only books of their quality available at their price level in the market today.

These collector's volumes, beautifully slipcased, are priced no higher than the ordinary current work of fiction or non-fiction. By investing in them, you have not only benefited your own library but have also created a "reading trust" for generations to come.

The Heritage Press issued many different editions and published in several locations - New York City; Del Mar, California; and Avon, Westport, and Norwalk, Connecticut.

This is how I decide whether I have different editions of a book or multiple copies of the same book. I compare the books in question side by side using the following criteria:

  • Binding

    • Cloth or paper over cloth
    • Color of binding
    • Printing on the spine
    • Gilt on the edges
    • Length, width and height
    • Color of slipcase

  • Title Page

    • Publisher's address
    • Colors used
    • Illustrator
    • Any decorations
    • Frontispiece
    • Half title page

  • Verso Page

    • Copyright dates(s)
    • Owner of copyright
    • Heritage Press, Heritage Club. Heritage Club, Inc. trademarks
    • Printing company
    • Printed in USA or other countries

  • Preliminary Pages

    • Watermarked pages
    • Pages numbered
    • Texture and color of paper
    • Introduction
    • Preface
    • List of illustrations

  • Text of the book

    • Color or black and white illustrations
    • Number of illustrations
    • Placement of illustrations in the text
    • Colophon

  • The Sandglass

    • Publisher's address
    • Does it have a number on the last page?
    • Does it have any illustrations in the Sandglass?
    • Does it have the same number but different publishing address?

    If the two books do not have any differences, then I conclude that these books are probably the same editions and place them on my duplicate list.

    The Heritage Press Published These Editions

    Published in New York City, New York

    First Series of Heritage Club Books November 1935 (6)

    Additional hand painted illustrations signed by the illustrator (6)

    Numbers in the first column following the date range represent the original number of titles issued; the second represents additional issues.

    Series A June 1937-May 1938 12 3
    Series B June 1938-May 1939 12 2
    Series C June 1939-May 1940 12 1
    Series D June 1940-May 1941 12 2
    Series E June 1941-May 1942 12 3
    Series F June 1942-May 1943 12 2
    Series G June 1943-May 1944 12
    Series H June 1944-May 1945 12
    Series J June 1945-May 1946 12 3
    Series K June 1946-May 1947 16
    Series L June 1947-May 1948 12 3
    Series M June 1948-May 1949 12 3a
    Series N June 1949-May 1950 12 1
    Series P 1
    Series 15 June 1950-May 1951 18
    Series 16 June 1951-May 1952 12
    Series 17 June 1952-May 1953 12
    Series 18 June 1953-May 1954 12
    Series 19 June 1954-May 1955 12 1
    Series 20 June 1955-May 1956 20
    Series 21 June 1956-May 1957 12
    Series 22 June 1957-May 1958 12
    Series 23 June 1958-May 1959 15 1
    Series 24 June 1959-May 1960 12 1
    Series 25 June 1960-May 1961 12 1
    Series 26 June 1961-May 1962 15 2
    Series 27 June 1962-May 1963 15 1
    Series 28 June 1963-May 1964 15 2
    Series 29 June 1964-May 1965 15 1
    Series 30 June 1965-May 1966 15 2
    Series 31 June 1966-May 1967 15 1
    Series 32 June 1967-May 1968 12
    Series 33 June 1968-May 1968 12
    Series 34 June 1968-May 1970 13 1
    Series 35 June 1970-May 1971 17
    Series 36 June 1971-May 1972 13

    Published in Avon, Connecticut

    Series 37 June 1972-May 1973 13
    Series 38 June 1973-May 1974 14
    Series 39 June 1974-May 1975 13
    Series 40 June 1975-May 1976 15

    Published in Norwalk, Connecticut

    Series 41 June 1976-May 1977 13
    Series 42 June 1977-May 1978 12
    Series 43 June 1978-May 1979 12
    Series 44 June 1979-May 1980 12
    Series 45 June 1980-May 1981 15
    Series 46 June 1981-May 1982 12
    Series 47 June 1982-May 1983 12

    Published in Norwalk, Connecticut with numbers on the last page of the Sandglass


    Published in Norwalk, Connecticut without numbers on the last page of the Sandglass


    Heritage Club Subscription Checklist

    January 1990-December 1990 12
    January 1991-December 1991 13
    January 1992-December 1992 12

    Additional Heritage Press Books

    1. The Book of Edward A. Wilson: A Survey of his Work 1916-1948. Heritage Press N.Y. Copyright 1948, Heritage Press. for GMC. Published November, 1948. 9 3/8" by 12 1/8". 108 pages.

    2. The Van Gogh Album: A Collection of 44 Pictures by Vincent van Gogh. Copyright 1948, Heritage Press, N.Y. Issued in large blue cardboard box. 10 3/8" by 13 1/2".

    3. The Rembrandt Album: A Collection of 32 Pictures by Rembrandt. Copyright 1939, Heritage Press, N.Y. Issued in large brown cardboard box. 10 3/8" by 13 1/2".

    4. A Tribute to George Macy. Nunnally Johnson. Printed for the Members of the Heritage Club. 1956. 8 pages. 5 3/4" by 8 5/8".

    5. Mother Goose. First Edition. Copyright 1936, Heritage Press, Inc. Heritage Press, N.Y. 9 7/8" by 13 1/4". Illustrated by Roger Duvoisin. 144 pages. (No dust jacket issued.)

    6. Mother Goose. Third Edition. Copyright 1940, Heritage Press. Heritage Press, N.Y. 9 3/4" by 13". Illustrated by Roger Duvoisin. 144 pages. Dust jacket features and illustration of Mother Goose with multicolored fairy tale characters.

    7. Mother Goose. Fourth Edition. Copyright 1943, Heritage Press. Heritage Press, N.Y. 8" by 11". Illustrated by Roger Duvoisin. 112 Pages. The Famous Heritage Press Edition of Mother Goose. Dust jacket features and illustration of Mother Goose with multicolored fairy tale characters.

    Questions or comments?
    Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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