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Illustration from the Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864).
The Scarlet Letter. With lithographs by Henry Varnum Poor and an introduction by Dorothy Canfield. New York: The Limited Editions Club, 1941.
Call Number: (SPL) PS 1868 .A1 1941.
Gift of Loryn Romadka, from the collection of Austin F. Lutter.
Special Collections, Golda Meir Library

In The Limited Editions Club Newsletter, George Macy announced the club's edition of the Hawthorne classic, The Scarlet Letter: "Although this fine book is generally considered one of the ten greatest classics of American literature, you are in December 1941 receiving a copy of the first important illustrated edition of this fine book!" Macy dismissed Angelo's and Dwiggins' twentieth century editions as more design than illustration oriented.

A from the cover of the Scarlet Letter

The Club's edition was illustrated by Henry Varnum Poor. Born in 1888 in Chapman Kansas, Poor studied at Leland Stanford Junior University, then in London under Walter Sickert and in Paris at the Academie Julien. A teacher of drawing and painting at Stanford University, Poor worked in several media. As Poor had painted New England scenes, Macy thought him an ideal illustrator for The Scarlet Letter. Poor created 49 Lithographs on stone for the edition in the shop of George C. Miller of New York.

George Macy wrote that as a "a somber romance of the conscience, The Scarlet Letter represents the first great psychological novel in American literature." To create an appropriate presentation for the work was a difficult proposition in 1941. Despite rationing, Macy obtained special white rag stock from Worthy, presenting a sharp contrast to the bold black of the Bodoni 175 typeface. Appropriately, the book was fashioned in New England, at the Providence Akerman-Standard Press, and bound in scarlet stained sheepskin. On the cover in gold bas-relief on a black leather label is stamped Hester Prynne's letter "A."


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