Franklin Library vs. Easton Press
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I wanted to throw a topic out there: Franklin Library vs. Easton Press. Obviously, the market has decided in favor of Easton Press, but what do readers think?
They both have an appeal, but I have far more Franklin Library editions than Easton. They are a smaller, more easily readable size. Also, many of the early issues from FL have a very thick, padded leather binding that feels great in readers' hands.
Obviously, as Franklin Library struggled, they produced less appealing versions, many not all leather and some even a faux leather.
What do you think?
I have 2 copies from the Franklin Library--one is Trent's last Case one of my favorite mysteries of all time, and I would classify it as Good, but not of the quality of most Easton Press offerings.
But I also have a copy of Franklin Library's Great Expectations with the illustrations by F.W.Pailthorpe, which was a birthday present from my late wife over 30 years ago. That fact alone would make me cherish it, but i have to say that the quality is every bit as fine--and perhaps more so--than any Easton Press edition I have seen. After all this time and through several re-readings, the leather binding, the gilt page edges, and the pages themselves are in superlative condition, and the illustrations, delicately colored as the originals were, avoid the muddiness that sometimes happens on some of the Easton Press books.
Of course the major selling point of the Franklin Library books were the ones signed by the authors. I have none of these, and I expect that some of these books, such as the ones signed by Vonnegut, Philip Roth, etc., are fetching quite premium prices these days. If the quality is on a par with my Great Expectations, I think they would be eminently worthy of any bibliophile's serious interest.
I only have one book from The Franklin Library. It's Creek Mary's Blood from The First Edition Society; which I suppose was one of their "subscription" series similar to the Easton Press' Signed Editions or 100 Greatest Books series. I bought it because I love Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee but hadn't really run across any of his other titles.
Quality-wise it seems almost identical with my Easton Press books.
Okay, off topic. I love Bury My Heart, but I haven't heard of Creek Mary's Blood. Can you give details and a recommendation?
I bought Creek Mary's Blood basically because of my love for Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. At that point I wasn't familiar or even aware of Brown's other books. I'm very much into Native American literature, history, and culture, and was very effected when I first read Bury My Heart as a boy and each time I have re-read it. I would probably buy anything by Brown that I run across just because of that.
I read Creek Mary several years ago but recall really liking it. I've read a few accounts of the Cherokee but this was my first historical fiction type account. It gave me some insight into how the treatment of the Cherokee might have affected individuals and families; as opposed to a factual historical account. In a way, it does for the Cherokee what Hanta Yo does for the Lakota. Hanta Yo is my all time favorite historical fiction for Native America.
My own experience has been that the earliest Franklin Library books are far superior to most Easton Press books, insofar as the binding, the paper used, and the decoration.
For example, the Easton Press uses real gold only to accent spines, while all of the gold decoration on the early Franklin Library leather books was real gold.
The Franklin Library's earliest issued books were sometimes bound in exotic leathers, including buffalo hide.
The signed Limited Editions from the Franklin Library (the signed 60) are great. And they will have excellent potential for retaining resale value or appreciating. But my favorites (for quality of the bindings) are the earliest issued volumes from the 100 Greatest Books Ever Written series (and the other early Franklin series).
The Easton Press originally bound its books in bonded leather (compressed ground-up leather scraps). It says so on the titlepage of those books. In later years, they started binding their books in "genuine leather" - but they never decorated their books entirely in real gold (real gold was used only to "accent" the spines).
Today's Easton Press books are nice, and I like them a lot, especially their signed limited editions and signed first editions.
NOTE: Most of the later Franklins don't reflect the same very high quality as their earliest books. The Franklin Library's Mystery Series, for example, is bound in coated cloth (not leather) designed to appear like leather - with a stamped leather pattern on the coated cloth.
I recently bought a copy of Franklin Library's edition of Last of the Mohicans with the classic N.C. Wyeth illustrations. I have to say the quality of the illustrations (that is, their reproduction), is superior to my 40 year old Scribner's edition with these illustrations, and far superior to the Easton Press reproduction of Edward Wilson's illustrated version of this book. I just bought a mint LEC Mohicans and comparing the illustrations in this with the reproductions of the same in the Easton press edition offers a valuable insight into which publisher took the most pains with their artwork.
Franklin's best probably is superior to Easton's best, but both have evolved over the years. If you buy on the used market, you need to be prepared for the kind of variations in quality and materials mentioned in the above posts. Later Franklin Library editions often were 1/4 leather (or leatherlike?) on cloth.
Regarding the thickness of leather, the availability of heavier leathers has grown more and more limited over the years, as cattle have been hurried to market more and more to reduce feeding costs. You can't find leather like that in the standard issue WWII bomber jacket these days. I don't know if Franklin's heavier leather editions of their hey-day were because of availability or intent, but they are nice.
One other thing - Franklin seemed to focus on literature, both classic and modern. Easton has, at least over the past 10 years, steered their catalogue more and more towards coffee table books, current events, more photos than text kind of books which may be helping them survive and support the more 'serious' works they still offer. I noticed in the last EP flier I got a leather bound book of photos of pug dogs dressed up like famous people from history!? I can't imagine Franklin Library ever publishing such a thing, but that may be why they didn't survive.
Well, well. Easton Press is testing the waters of doing limited editions. I just got a mailer for a Deluxe Limited edition of the Kelmscott Press's The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. A fairly low edition number of 425 hand-number copies for $600. I'm not sure I remember them doing anything like this in the past. Maybe giving the Folio Society a little competition in the States?
That might prove to be interesting. Hopefully they do it right and not just a 'limited' version of the standard editions they publish
jveezer, I received the same flier today in the mail. It does look quite interesting and I wonder how it would compare to my FS Kelmscott Chaucer. I hope they do well with it and begin to offer more limited editions. They would have to do more then just limit the edition (better leather,paper etc.) for me to be interested though.
What attributes make it a limited edition despite the numbers? Anything special?
>14 For this particular volume many things make it stand out. It is very different then their typical offerings. I just hope that if they plan to offer more LE in the future that they continue to make them unique. Take the current History of England from FS. The only difference between their standard edition and the LE is the leather and the limited number. Considering the premium of $1000 I don't personally find it worth it.
This is slightly OT. I've got a few Franklin Library books from the "Oxford World's Greatest Books" series that I bought at a used bookstore. I'd like to get some more, but they seem to be really hard to come buy and quite expensive when you can find them. The versions that I have are full leather (seems very premium), often with multiple colors being used, and have moire cloth end papers (well, one has printed design paper). For instance, One of them is Shakespeare's Tragedies and it is mostly blue with some red accents on the spine and covers.
How do the "Oxford World's Greatest Books" compare to the "100 Greatest Books Of All Time". I can find a fair amount of info on the "100 Greatest...", but virtually nothing on the "Oxford" series. The only thing that I've really found on the Oxford series referred to a quarter leather binding.
I can't comment on the question about the Oxford series, but I wanted to make a comment regarding the original topic: Franklin vs. Easton.
I recently read the novel Sister Scarlet Mary from the Franklin Library's Pulitzer Prize series, and I have to say it really made me wish that Franklin had survived. The quality was superb, and the novel, nearly forgotten today, is still a totally engrossing read. How wonderful that Franklin made such unjustly neglected classics available in a quality of production that they never knew before--or are likely to know since the Franklin Library's demise.
My first Franklin Library book has just arrived - apparently posted on the 31st March from about 35 miles away (I just love the Royal Mail!). It's the '76 edition of Walden and I must say that I am really impressed. The size, paper and layout are all really nice, and the binding is a quality thick leather. I currently have one Easton volume - the Ward-illustrated Beowulf from the "Famous Editions" library, which I love, but I also had one of the regular edition Easton books (Moby Dick) which I gave away. I think that the quality of paper and binding on the Franklin vol is superior, and I'll be looking out for more.
The Franklin Library had different standards over the years, but I have to agree the earlier publications are superior to the EP volumes I have owned. Both their Signed 60 and Pulitzer Prize volumes are superb.
I'm reading my Franklin Library Anna Karenina right now. It's one of the partial leather volumes with paper rather than silk endpapers, but it's still a real pleasure to hold and to read - solid boards, great leather, beautiful paper. The illustrations are well-chosen, but only fair as reproductions. I'm a fan of the Franklins, but I also have some later volumes that are more cheaply produced. So, definitely buyer beware.
The first message says "Obviously, the market has decided in favor of Easton Press". To a newcomer like me, though, it's not obvious yet. Can someone fill me in?
>23 Thanks; now I get it.
I don't think anyone here has commented specifically on the relative durability of Easton Press and Franklin Library bindings and papers and leathers. I haven't seen enough myself to comment on that.
I have some Franklin Library books that are 30 years old and are as solid as they can be. I have no Easton Press books of comparable vintage, but the ones I do have--the oldest is the Complete Shakespeare from 1991--seem quite sturdy.
Thanks for the reply. I've just gotten a couple from each publisher. The paper in each is off-white, but I think that's the intended color, not yellowing due to age. The leather (and leatherette) is about perfect. And the bindings are good. I hope they hold up to use.
I received my first Franklin book, Rose by Martin Cruz Smith, a newer printing for Franklin, 1996, and the leather is fine, I like the marbled end papers, the author has signed-I like that personal touch-, and the binding illustration fits the book, with the name ROSE over a gilt rose and framed simply. And Rose is a great read if you can enjoy a mystery with romance, Lancashire coal-mining history, and interesting characters.
>25 and 27
A few observations FWIW
1. Franklin used an off-white or cream color paper quite often.
2. I've had the finer Franklin editions since the early 1970s and Eastons since the early 1980s. All seem equally well produced, and I expect no real difference in how they hold up over the years.
3.Franklin's earlier editions seem to have a heavier grade leather (or however leather thickness is measured), but it's common for leather generally to be thinner as time goes on because of economic considerations resulting in leather being 'harvested' a lot earlier. The old leather jackets of the mid 20th century were much thicker than anything you're likely to find today - most producers just don't let the cattle hang around eating and growing thick hides anymore.
4. One other possible difference between the finer Franklins and Easton: I recall that when I first subscribed to a Franklin Library collection, they promoted their quality editions by stating that the leather was genuine gold stamped (embossed) and the edges were gilt using real gold as well (using gold on the book edges seems pretty costly, so I wonder if I remember this part accurately). Anyway, the features page on Eastons website does not mention gold at all, but the blurb on the home page does say "accented with 22kt gold", which I've always assumed to refer to the leather embossing/stamping. My point is, I'm not sure if Franklin and Easton are equivalent in how and how much they use real gold to decorate the exterior of the books. I'm also not sure how much that matters.
Os., I'm not sure either when it comes to durability. I have several LEC editions 70 years old that have real gold page edges, and in the ones that have obviously been frequently read--such as my 37 volume Complete Shakespeare--the gold is pretty much worn off or dulled (though it still is fairly bright on the Henry VIII and Pericles volumes, giving a good idea of how often those plays were read!). They still are nice, in fact some may think the patina a great improvement on the bright gilt I have seen on new Easton Press volumes, but given the opportunity, I think for most other books I would prefer marbled page edges or fore-edge paintings.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_Library has some info about the gilding and binding.
This is an interesting discussion. I agree with many of you about the production quality of Franklin and Easton books.
A ridiculous collector-adict myself, weighing carefully all extant editions of both publishers (and even a few select Folio Society titles), I've now hundreds of titles from these premier publishing giants. I've continued to opt for some of the Folio fare because I think that the few Folio titles that I've acquired simply possess an intriguingly different (and more colorful) look than those same titles in the Franklin/Easton camps which, by my lights, and only in these rare cases, don't particularly impress in their respective designs ~ again, as per my own tastes.
LOYALTY: FRANKLIN OR EASTON?
Pressed to take a 'loyalist' (and, what can only be, a biased) stand for which product I prefer of these (what once were, and apparently still are!) two major competitors, I would have to say that I lean towards the very early Franklin editions for their matchless quality ~ for in my mind they generally surpass, or at least equal, anything that Easton has ever done . . . Although, I must say that Easton's new foray into extremely limited deluxe collectors' editions is quite remarkable ~ To note, among its most recent offerings: 600 hand-numbered copies of a massive (14 1/2" x 10 1/2", two-volume, 576 pages per volume), delightfully faithful reproduction of an extremely rare 1880 U.S. version of Michaud's HISTORY OF THE CRUSADES in three-color leather stamping (boasting all one hundred, full-page illustrations by Gustave Doré). Very, very impressive ~ FOR YOUR OWN SHELF! ... You know ~ a copy of one of those incredible, deliciously produced (multi-color, embossed) tomes of the late-nineteenth century that you happily, and quite by accident, stumbled upon while perusing the antiquity shelves at your local college library.
The thing about 'early Franklin' is that its quality (in everything ... paper, leather, design, feel -- in a word, its regality) is generally unsurpassed. I prefer over Easton the typical design and look of Franklin Mint's bookcovers ~ supremely elegant: they tend to have a flowing, curvilinear art nouveau feel, as opposed to Easton's proclivity for blockish, geometrical shapes. Easton, too, unfortunately, creates designs that in some cases are ultra-ornate, to the point of being gaudy -- even garish. Cartoonish, in fact, in some instances, as, for example, some gilded cover art is made to take the 'outline form' of people, animals, or objects. This seems to cheapen, in my opinion, what is often an otherwise elegant product. On a shelf, this type of Easton fare appears to be quite 'out of place' next to the restrained dignity and understated elegance of the early Franklin creations.
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS AND FRANKLIN MINT: One Brief, Shining Moment
Franklin even had a brief, shining liason with Oxford University Press in the early 1980s that produced astonishing dual-tone 'leather upon leather', or deep image-embossed bindings that, remarkably, out-classed even 'early Franklin'! (Most of these titles boast an elegant inlaid filigree-motif 'ticking', or gold-leaf 'blind stamping', that exquisitely borders the moiré endsheets and runs along not only the inside edges of the boards but also along the top and bottom edges of the spine! CLASSY). I refer here to Oxford/Franklin's full-leather Shakespeare and Dickens 'Complete Works' series and its untouchable 'Oxford Library of the World's Great Books' series. Oxford/Franklin did, however, produce two grades of binding: the elegant full-leather issue just mentioned, but also a beautiful quarter-bound edition (which generally exceeds Franklin's 'standard fare' of quarter-bound offerings) that were produced, together with Franklin's concurrent hardcover/cloth and faux-leather issues, in the early 1980s. In terms of titles offered, however (particularly those in full-leather), the Oxford/Franklin alliance was much more discriminating in its choices (i.e., which lucky titles it would afford such rich, unparalleled treatment) than either Franklin or Easton alone have been, and it ultimately produced a rather 'elitist' offering -- only the 'Classics of the Classics' were so magnificently produced.
Good luck in capturing some of these rare and wonderful Oxford/Franklin beauties! You CAN see them from time to time elusively darting through eBay's great halls ~ Catch them while you still can!
FRANKLIN LIBRARY'S FINEST
The Franklin Library, the publishing division of The Franklin Mint, was of course, at one time, the nation's largest publisher of great books in fine bindings. Founded in 1973, it ceased publishing in 2000. Its early editions ~ fully bound in genuine premium-grade, hand-cut leather, selected for quality of grain and texture ~ were designed and bound by The Sloves Organization, Ltd., an affiliate of the mint, whose bindery was one of the few in the world devoted exclusively to the crafting of fine leather books.
Printed from 1981 to 1985,* the Oxford/Franklin volumes are gorgeous ~ absolutely stunning in their production qualities. Oxford University Press, in fact, specially chose the publishing division of The Franklin Mint to design and produce its World's Great Books series because of Franklin's unsurpassed skill in achieving a premium-quality product: each Oxford book must also be 'a wonder' in the finest of bookbinding traditions and, if possible, exceed Franklin's high standard. By that prestigious election, Franklin thus was also doubly honored and formally recognized for the awesome reputation it had achieved in the publishing world throughout the decade of the 1970s. It is because of that 'brief, shining moment' in publication history that these fine classic Oxford/Franklin editions generally surpass anything else ever produced either before or after that time by either of these renowned publishing giants. Relatively few titles in the multi-edition Great Books series were given the fabulous full-leather edition treatment; most were quarter-bound volumes ~ very lovely indeed by the lights of their own publication merits ~ but still unable to boast the same 'Rolls Royce' elegance of their full-leather counterparts.
*This was the same glorious period of time when The Franklin Mint and Oxford University Press collaborated to also produce a stunning 21-volume dualtone premium leather (burgundy/black, with the trademark inner-board / spine-edge gilt stamping) Limited Edition set of "the Great Inimitable's" complete works, The Oxford Library of Charles Dickens (1982-85), featuring Dickens' original illustrators' works on premium archival paper (mimicking in glorious fashion the original Nonesuch editions of the 1930s), privately printed and bound, and limited to only 7,500 copies for those very lucky subscribers. Much the same was done to honor London's Bard in Franklin/Oxford's three-volume Library of William Shakespeare.
LEATHERBOUND CLASSICS: THE 'PREFERRED' BINDINGS
For those interested in just one person's verdict, beelow is a link to those early Franklin titles which I think have the 'upper hand' over the same titles produced by Easton. When it's a tie (that is, in my own mind), I so state. I've also included, immediately following the Franklin (Oxford/Franklin) list, those Easton or Folio titles that I've secured in clear preference to Franklin, when I've felt that each, respectively, held the 'edge' over the Franklin title (or, by default, when no such Franklin title had ever been produced). The lists are clearly not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they exhaustive of my acquisitions, but they do constitute what might be seen (for lack of a better descriptive) as generally recognized 'Classic' titles (ClassicsInventory.pdf):
Here's a link to a 'combined list' of the Franklin / Easton / Folio titles (ClassicsCOMBINED.pdf):
Wow, I must say thank you for your insight. The more I am reading across forum topics about EP and FL the more I am buying - it is becoming impulsive. BTW I just bought Michaud's History of the Crusades
I could not access the first link.
PS. thanks for the combined list. What is you opinion of the The Tomb of Tutankhamen published by EP? You mention in your list the regal three-volume set, is that the current one published by EP?
Indeed quite an impressive list. Not a huge fan of FL or EP. Given that pretty much all of the Easton Greatest Books have been previously published in a much nicer state with the LEC, I really have no use for them. That being said, the Crusades volume definitely catches my eye. I have been on the lookout for the original for a while, and while the reprint definitely looks interesting, for the price of the EP version, I can find the original one for the same price.
35: the Limited Editions Club are wonderful, but to find a complete book (book + slipcase) in fine condition will often be insanely expensive! Unless you want to spend lots of money and time tracking those, EP offers a relatively inexpensive second option. As for the price of the original Crusades, you can certainly find used copies for less than the EP price, but you won't find them in particularly good condition. I'd rather have a reprint in new condition than an original in worn condition, but of course that is just my taste in books :)
Thats a good point. A lot of it is based on taste. Personally, the historicity of the original outweighs the condition or readability issue, but if money wasn't an object, I would certainly have both!
Yes, ironjaw, the Tut set on the above list is the same as the current EP offering. Not the luxurious Michaud creation, but certainly the most beautiful leatherbound edition now available of that title.
Congratulations on getting Michaud's History by EP. The set's absolutely gorgeous. And like astropi, I'm definitely a collector of 'facsimile' reprints, because I love having in my hands and on my shelves not only classic vintage titles but also ones that are bound in fresh new leather!
To see the Original 1880 Michaud edition, copy and paste the following link to your browser address bar:
To see the new Easton edition, paste these links:
EP's New CRUSADES is stunning, truly remarkable in its production qualities ~ It's a feat of modern publishing. They don't make them like they used to, but FL, Franklin/Oxford, and EP have come the closest.
P.S. To view the Franklin / Easton / Folio lists that I've referred to above, move to the right the (-/+) viewer slide at the top of the the Acrobat.com page (to the 'Fit Width' setting). I hope these lists are helpful to those interested. Thanks.
Thank for you for that very informative post, chauvelin2000. I have one specific question for you. You indicated that you preferred the 1982 Franklin/Oxford edition of Virgil's Aeneid. I've seen that edition on eBay and Abebooks in the quarter-leatherbound version, but never in full-leatherbound. Do you know if Franklin/Oxford published that edition in a full-leatherbound edition? Please advise. Thanks.
Yes, all the 'Franklin/Oxford' titles that I have so designated with accompanying dates are only the full-leather Oxford editions. The 1982 edition of Virgil's Aeneid that I list, then, is the full-leather edition, and it's gorgeous...
Along with the Oxford editors' exclusive introduction to this GREAT BOOKS edition, it's reproduced from a rare edition of the OPERA VIRGILIANA, published in 1529 in Lyons by Jean Crespin with woodcut illustrations by Johann Gruninger.
Supremely elegant gilt-stamping of Gruninger's images that literally canvas the black leather boards (which are flanked by silver-grey moire endsheets) are only out-classed by the stunningly embossed roundel centerpiece of Gruninger's 'His ardour warmed his fainting friends'. So, it's a particularly beautiful Franklin/Oxford full-leather edition.
Just a side note: Oxford borrowed this very valuable 1529 publication from Princeton University's Junius S. Morgan Collection of Virgil to craft this definitive edition.
There is presently an eBay listing for a lot of Franklin/Oxford full-leather titles, including the Virgil title: eBay Item# 190451181990 . Though the photographic lighting isn't ideal, the photos do show Virgil's Aeneid (the black-leather volume laying flat in the foreground). But I wish they showed more clearly the beautiful detail of the Gruninger image-stamping and the embossed roundel centerpiece referred to above. Also, the seller might have included photos of the elegant goldleaf 'ticking' that borders the moire endsheets and which lines the ends of the spines on several of the auction titles.
Here's a link to the Franklin/Oxford photos referenced above:
Thank you very much, chauvelin2000. It is gorgeous, indeed. In fact, I think I will allocate my money and effort toward procuring a copy of it in Fine condition, rather than purchasing Folio Society's new limited edition of the Aeneid. It seems as if the Franklin/Oxford edition is more heavily illustrated than the Folio's. Although Folio's limited edition is very attractive and enticing, its paucity of illustrations (for the $$$ of a limited edition) gave me pause even before I read your posts about the quality of Franklin/Oxford editions. In the meantime, I have acquired the Franklin/Oxford editions of the Iliad & Odyssey, and James Joyce's Ulysses. I very much look forward to receiving them in the coming weeks.
Thank you again for your helpful and informative posts.
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