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Silent's Guide to the Easton Press Reader's Choice editions

Easton Press Collectors

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Edited: Oct 16, 2016, 3:44pm Top

Easton Press began publishing its annual Reader's Choice collections in 2006. As described in the 2013 announcement, each year's offering consists of "the ten most requested titles from the past year". How much truth there is to this claim may be a matter of debate (it exudes the undisguisable scent of marketing hype); it is undisputable, however, that the Reader's Choice books provide one of the most affordable ways to branch out and expand your leather-bound library with titles that are currently not available in one of EP's subscription series.

Although it is convenient to speak of these annual publications as if they formed a series, this is a little misleading. Each year, Easton Press announces ten titles that it will print in limited quantities and offer at a relatively affordable price. For the first few years, EP advertised these sets as "Reader's Choice" volumes. Today, although they are no longer always called that in the flyers that announce each year's collection, the Easton Press web site continues to label them as "Reader's Choice" books.

Unfortunately, there is a significant variance in the quality of the books that have been published in the Reader's Choice collections. There are some real gems—books that would stand their ground against any of EP's regular-priced offerings. There are also some disappointments, including "dumbed down" reprints of books previously offered in other series. And there are definitely some duds—books whose production quality is simply not up to par. Most of the books fall between these various extremes. This thread is my attempt to help other EP enthusiasts navigate the tricky waters of this series.

The majority of the Reader's Choice books fall into one of two categories. Many of the fully illustrated volumes are reprints of classic Easton Press editions, most of which were themselves reprints of editions first created for the Limited Edition Club and then later published by the Heritage Press (the reprint rights to these books were bought by EP's parent company in the 1970's). In the other category are books that, prior to the Reader's Choice edition, have never been published by Easton Press. These books often have no illustrations other than a specially-commissioned frontispiece. Over time, some trends have emerged within this category, such as a strong preference for books that have been made into successful movies. Also, in recent years, a promising new category has been emerging—facsimile reprints of lesser-known genre fiction of the early 20th-century (specifically, editions that are now in the common domain), including vintage illustrations.

Web pages for the first seven Reader's Choice sets still exist on the Easton Press web site, even though some combine titles from multiple years or omit books that sold out quickly. The pages for 2012-2015, on the other hand, were removed from the site after the sets sold out. Starting in 2006, EP stopped creating web pages for the annual RC sets; instead, each book is given its own page (which is deleted after that title sells out):
Reader's Choice I (2006)
Reader's Choice II (2007)
Reader's Choice N/F Titles (2007)
Reader's Choice III (2008)
Reader's Choice IV (2009)
Reader's Choice V (2010)
Reader's Choice VI (2011)
Reader's Choice VII (2012)
Reader's Choice VIII (2013)
Reader's Choice IX (2014)
Reader's Choice X (2015)
Reader's Choice XI (2016)
Reader's Choice XII (2017)
Although books from recent sets may still be available for purchase, the majority of the titles have sold out indefinitely. It is therefore wise, before ordering, to contact Customer Service to determine availability.

Notice that two series were published in 2007, one comprised entirely of non-fiction titles (an experiment that was not repeated in subsequent years). In fact, EP must have disowned this poorly-selling set altogether; when referring to the different RC sets by number, they act as if the non-fiction set had never existed. For instance, the tenth set (announced in 2014) is listed as "Reader's Choice IX" on EP's shipping invoices.

One of the ironies of this "series" is that, although these editions have been designed to be (relatively) affordable—with EP sometimes cutting a corner or two in order to keep the price down—online resellers will demand top dollar for some of these books. This is, of course, simply a matter of supply and demand. With the majority of Reader's Choice books enjoying only a single press run, there are significantly fewer copies on the market than there are of older editions published in one of EP's long-standing series. It can be disconcerting, however, seeing a Reader's Choice volume being offered for two or three times the price as the exact same book (with a different cover) from the Collector's Library of Famous Editions.

This thread (actually, an earlier version of this thread) was originally launched in response to queries from members of this group who were trying to decide whether to purchase one or more of these books. Typical questions included "Has Easton Press published this title before?", "Does the book have illustrations other than the frontispiece?" and "Is the frontispiece printed on glossy paper?" For books that were previously published by either EP or LEC/HP, there is always interest in how the Reader's Choice volumes compare with the earlier editions. There are even collectors who try to make sense out of the copyright pages (which is a hobby unto itself, given EP's notorious inconsistencies in this area).

For each book, I've tried to supply this information—which is, I realize, more than a little tedious. So wherever possible I've added a little spice. I look at each book closely—myopically, at times—and describe features unique to that particular volume. I try to limit my comments, more or less, to visible aspects of the edition. You will find no book reports here, no gushing comments of the "I just read the most wonderful book" variety, and (hopefully) very little bloggish regurgutation of information that can be easily found on Wikipedia. For the purposes of this thread, I assume that each book in this series is worth reading; I'm trying to help you decide whether the Reader's Choice edition is worth buying. So when I refer to plot, characters, symbols, style, subject or theme, it is nearly always to elucidate some physical aspect of the book. That said, I have a tendency to get carried away. Mea culpa. My fear of being verbose is dwarfed by my fear of being excessively mundane (not that the two are mutually exclusive).

Each book that I discuss below is linked to the corresponding entry in my LibraryThing catalog (although, at any given time, there may be a number of titles that I have not yet catalogued). For each volume that I have logged, however, I have filled out the "Other Authors" section in the catalog with the names of all contributors of illustrations, frontispiece art and introductions (as well as translators, where applicable). One of the foremost pleasures of compiling this list has been developing a greater familiarity with the various artists who received multiple commissions from the LEC (including Robert Shore and Edward A. Wilson) or who have been regular contributors to Easton Press editions past and present (including Jonathan Talbot, Richard Sparks, Dan Brown, Dennis Lyall and Laurence Schwinger).

Please remember that this thread is intended to be a resource for collectors of Easton Press books. I realize that a good number of these books have been published (often in nicer editions) by other fine presses. In fact, for those books that are reprints of editions originally published by the Limited Editions Club, you can pretty much count on the illustrations and internal decorations in the LEC edition being superior to those in the RC edition (not to mention their being signed by the illustrator). One's preference in covers, on the other hand, is usually a matter of individual taste and, although there are certainly fine presses out there that might bind books in superior grades of leather, what many longtime collectors of Easton Press books enjoy most is seeing their wall of leather grow (and Easton Press—the Reader's Choice series in particular—offers, arguably, the most affordable means of accomplishing this). So, although I consider myself to be relatively troll-tolerant, I would nevertheless appreciate it greatly if you would refrain from using this thread as a bulletin board to pronounce your fine press predilections (there are plenty of other threads where you can do this, should you wish). That aside, your questions, comments and feedback are always welcome.

So that this page doesn't take too long to load as the number of photos grows (and to prevent dependency upon third-party sites), all pictures will be posted as thumbnail links to larger images uploaded to the LibraryThing Wiki. Please don't embed any full-sized images in your postings to this topic. Also, before posting your own photos, please remember that I will eventually include photos and reviews of every Reader's Choice title (and, given the length of this thread, it would be wise to avoid redundant photos). On the other hand, if you own a different EP edition from mine, please feel free to upload thumbnail links to photos of your cover and title page (for instructions, see message 16 in this thread), so that we all can compare editions.

Thank you.

Edited: Oct 15, 2016, 6:21pm Top

Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson (frontispiece by Dan Brown)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2012):

The I Ching, or Book of Changes, by Anonymous (translated by Richard Wilhelm)

For the 2007 Reader's Choice non-fiction set, Easton Press obtained permission from Princeton University Press to reprint the famous Wilhelm/Baynes translation of the I Ching from the Bollingen Series. Like many of the books from the RC non-fiction set, this book (which was published in early 2008) has no specially commissioned elements—other than the cover, that is. So let's start there...

At first glance, the only thing that stands out as particularly Chinese about this book's cover is its bright red leather. Spend some time gazing at it, however, and you'll soon notice the axial and diagonal symmetries of the central emblem, perhaps recognizing it to be a small gilded simulacrum of a traditional Chinese paper cutting. Moreover, the rectangular border is based on a variation of the lucky clouds motif—one of the most "auspicious" chinese decorative patterns. Compare the chain of swirling figures that make up the book's border with the three clouds carved in relief on the upper half of the stone on the left in this photo.* Both the paper cutting and cloud patterns are repeated on the book's spine. In short, this cover is simultaneously rich and understated...and quintessentially Chinese!

The Chinese writing on the frontispiece states that the book has been translated by Richard Wilhelm and that the calligraphy is by Tung Tso-pin. Believing the two large characters on this page to be an artistic rendering of the book's title, I searched for confirmation—first in a Chinese dictionary† and then on the Internet. I eventually discovered that the copyright page of the Bollingen edition explains that these characters are Chou I (Zhouyi, in pinyin)—an alternative title of the I Ching. This, of course, led me back to my own copies of the book. Sure enough, the same explanation appears in both the Princeton and Easton Press editions. Having arrived—after an hour or so of searching—right back where I started, I can only hope that (in the words of the Chinese proverb) the journey was its own reward.

*The picture of lucky clouds was cropped from this photo of stone arches at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

†To look up a word in a Chinese dictionary, one must not only identify the primary radical for each character, but also determine the number of pen strokes necessary to inscribe the standard representation of that character (something that, without some familiarity with Chinese penmanship, is often more difficult than it sounds). The difficulties are compounded with calligraphy, where deviation from the standard representation is pursued for aesthetic reasons.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2008):

Pictures of Princeton University Press edition (1997):

Since I've included pictures of the Princeton UP edition (so that you can share the same "Oh, it's that book!" moment that I had), I might as well point out some small differences between the two books. First of all, the frontispiece page in the Reader's Choice book is, in the Princeton book, printed on a double-width sheet of pale yellow paper that is folded so that it serves as both half title and frontispiece (the other side of the paper—hidden within the fold—is blank). This page, which is referred to as the "CHINESE TITLE PAGE" on the copyright page of the Princeton volume, is called the "CHINESE FRONTISPIECE" in the Reader's Choice book. Another folded yellow page appears at the end of the Princeton book; on this page (inside the fold, so that it can be opened up as a guide) there is a chart that lists, for each pair of trigrams, the number of the section that describes the corresponding hexagram. This chart is also included at the end of the RC edition, although the folded page is printed on the same white stock as the rest of the book.

The God's Themselves, by Isaac Asimov


Pebble in the Sky, by Isaac Asimov (frontispiece by unspecified artist)

This book from the Reader's Choice VIII set is what is known in the industry as a First Edition Thus—that is, the first printing of an edition that is either substantially different from the original First Edition of the book (due the inclusion of additional text, fresh artwork, new introductory material, etc.) or which constitutes the first appearance of that book in a new format (paperback, leather-bound, illustrated, etc.). Now, this Reader's Choice volume not only appears to be the first printing of Asimov's first novel in a leather-bound edition (although Doubleday published a faux-leather edition in the 80's), but it is also the first edition to include the "special contents" for which EP claims protection on the copyright page. In this case, the special contents consists solely of the frontispiece art that was created for this edition. In fact, every book that has a specially-commissioned frontispiece—including the majority of the Reader's Choice books—can be legitimately called a First Edition Thus. So, NeBBB!! (Naive eBay Buyers Beware!!)

Depicted on the book's full-color, semi-glossy frontispiece (anonymously, the only illustration in this edition) are three of the many domed cities that recur throughout Asimov's fiction—including both the Foundation and Robot series—and which have been featured on the covers of paperback editions of Pebble in the Sky. Asimov suffered from agoraphobia, the fear of having a panic attack in a place or situation from which there is no apparent means of escape (often resulting in the avoidance of crowded public areas or wide open spaces). Partly sublimation, perhaps, and partly mimetic catharsis, Asimov created fictional worlds in which this same fear—along with claustrophobia—informed the character of entire civilizations, manifesting itself (to a greater or lesser extent) as a form of societal madness.

With this in mind, we might hazard a speculative interpretation of the abstract design stamped onto the book's cover (those of you with no stomach for wild-ass conjecture may want to skip the rest of this paragraph). Basically, the cover design is composed of two sets of elaborate frames—an outer set of concentric rectangles surrounding an inner set of concentric diamonds. Just within the outermost rectangle is a running motif that resembles a layer of clouds. One can easily imagine this to represent the atmosphere which, due to radioactivity that has caused large areas of the planet to be otherwise uninhabitable, is a potential danger to the denizens of Earth's domed cities. Appropriately, the central area of the cover is protected from this ring of clouds by four rectangles, each one slightly thicker than the one enclosing it. Within the innermost rectangle there is a single layer of small spikes—a motif that I have elsewhere likened to an open jaw*—indicating, perhaps, that the domes inflict a psychological damage of their own. Isolated within this rectangular framework is a central figure comprised of four diamonds that mirror the framing rectangles (with each diamond slightly thinner than the one that encloses it). Within the diamond barrier is a repetition of the cloud motif, a microcosmic return of the repressed, an inner contamination (or phobia) that is the unintended byproduct of the long-term sequestration. Alternatively, we might view the inner clouds as the radiation virus that is weaponized within Asimov's novel—a virus that surreptitously infects its victims with the same malady that the domed citizens have gone to such lengths to avoid.

I realize, of course, that the preceding paragraph is highly speculative, but at least it provides you with something on which to ruminate as you gaze upon the cover of this attractive little book. I invite you to offer your own "reading" of this—or any other—cover, should you feel so inclined.

*This same motif appears on the covers of the Reader's Choice editions of Dangerous Liasons and White Fang.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2013):

In the Heat of the Night, by John Ball


Jaws, by Peter Benchley (frontispiece by unspecified artist)

This book (published by Easton Press for the first time as part of the Reader's Choice IV set) is not only one of the smaller books in the Reader's Choice series, but also one of the most modest. The cover design is a model of simplicity; a silhouette of a shark, surrounded by a border of tiny triangles that resemble shark teeth, is embedded into deep and luminescent blue leather. Other than the frontispiece (discussed below) and four appearances of a small drawing of a shark in a hand-drawn oval (on the title page and preceding each of the book's three parts), the book has no illustrations.

On the frontispiece is a full-page glossy representation of the book's notorious opening scene. Viewing the imminent attack from below, it recreates a camera angle that, had it been as well-lit in the movie as in this painting, could have cost Jaws its PG rating. There's one key difference, however. On the Reader's Choice frontispiece, the young victim-to-be is shown wearing a white bikini bottom. One could easily imagine a scandalous backstory in which the artist (who later asks to remain anonymous) submits a painting of the opening attack that is slightly too risqué, in reply to which Easton Press demands that clothing be added to the skinny-dipping girl. Although certainly not on the same scale as loincloths being painted over the offending members in Michelangelo's Last Judgment, it is nevertheless an odd act of self-censorship by a press that until recently proudly published an unexpurgated edition of the Burton Thousand and One Nights.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2009):

The Long Ships, by Frans G. Bengtsson


The Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce (frontispiece by Richard Sparks)

This "dictionary" is a collection of humorous definitions from Bierce's years as a San Francisco columnist (a period when he was known as "the laughing devil" for his irreverent reflections on human nature). Originally compiled and published by the author himself in 1906 (A-L) and 1911 (M-Z), the book was posthumously expanded with a large number of additional definitions (some of them spurious) that were unavailable to Bierce as he prepared the two volumes for publication. The book published by Easton Press in 2008 (as one of the 2007 Reader's Choice Non-Fiction Titles) includes the 1000 definitions that appeared in Bierce's inaugural editions of the work.

The copyright page of the Reader's Choice edition tells us that the cover design and frontispiece illustration were contributed by artists Jonathan Talbot and Richard Sparks (both of whom have long-standing relationships with Easton Press). Over the years, EP has indicated—in Publisher's Introductions and in separately printed notes—the names of many cover designers; this is, however, the first time (to my knowledge) that they've included the cover designer's name on a book's copyright page. Talbot's audacious cover defies convention, yet eludes summary: gaudy, witty, energetic, abstract, provocative—all of these words fall short. Unfortunately, the one adjective that truly fits is marred, because Talbot's remarkable design has been sadly compromised by production techniques that were not up to the task (look at the numerous flaws in the gilding of my copy). The book is still undeniably attractive, but in a collectable sort of way, rather than in a fine book sort of way. The author portrait on the frontispiece, reproduced on glossy paper, is the book's only illustration. This is the first time that this title has been published by Easton Press.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2008):

Lorna Doone, by Richard Doddridge Blackmore (illustrations by John Austen)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2013):

Pictures of Famous Edition:

Psycho, by Robert Bloch


The Bridge Over the River Kwai, by Pierre Boulle (frontispiece by unspecified artist)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2006):

Planet of the Apes, by Pierre Boulle (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall)

Nearly everything I could tell you about this attractive little volume you can learn for yourself by looking at the photos below. Embedded into the book's amber boards and spine is a trail of small foot-prints (which are easily attributed to apes, thanks to the opposable big toes). Dennis Lyall has contributed a painting of two uniformed gorillas, their weapens at the ready as they patrol the jungle mist. This full-page glossy frontispiece is the book's only illustration. Published in 2010 as part of the Reader's Choice IV set, this is the first time that this title has appeared in an Easton Press edition.

This book appears to have been designed as a companion volume to the Reader's Choice edition of Jaws (also published in the RC-IV set). Not only were both books the inspiration for immensely popular movies (each a thriller in which man is "victimized" by animals), but both volumes are the same size,* both are bound in brightly-colored leather, and both have cover designs that feature an iconic motif framed by a simple rectangular border. It would not surprise me if quite a few collectors already have these two books sitting side by side on their bookshelves.

*These two books are in a four-way tie for the smallest format book in the Reader's Choice series, along with Breakfast at Tiffany's and Hiroshima (the I Ching also uses the same page size, but is a substantially thicker book).

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2010):

The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall)

Opposite the title page of this well-appointed book from the Reader's Choice VII set is a picture of the man whose illustrated body provides both literary conceit and framing narrative for the eighteen short stories that make up this collection. Reproduced in full-color, semi-glossy glory, the full-page frontispiece—created especially for this edition by frequent Easton Press contributor Dennis Lyall—is the book's only illustration. Surrounding the eponymous figure are a series of life-like animations that have emerged from his body in the form of stories: a charging lioness ("The Veldt"), a man fleeing a nuclear attack ("The Highway"), an astronaut drifting in space ("Kaleidoscope") and a violent thunderstorm ("The Long Rain"). Staring at us from the center of this fantastic assemblage is a sultry auburn-haired beauty, her recumbent portrait provocatively cropped at the bust. Because she bears a strong resemblance to actress Claire Bloom, I believe this woman to be the unnamed wife in "The Last Night of the World"—a role that (along with Lydia Hadley in "The Veldt") Bloom brought to life in the disastrous 1969 film adaptation of three of the book's stories. However, because in the book neither of these women resembles a femme fatale, I prefer to think of the frontispiece vixen as the time-travelling witch (also played by Bloom in the movie) that tatted up these tales from a future both fantastic and terrifyingly familiar—a woman who, according to the Illustrated Man, "looked a thousand years old one moment and twenty years old the next".

Bound in dark green leather, this is the first time that this title has been available from Easton Press. Shallowly stamped onto both the front and back boards is a swirling motif that conjures up the impression of ink on flesh. Nestled between this pattern and the simple rectangle that frames it are a series of stars, tiny cresent moons and rocket ships (appropriately, since rockets are either featured or mentioned in thirteen of the book's eighteen stories). These same elements appear on the book's spine—along with the rose blossom that appears on the Illustrated Man's palm.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2012):

Destry Rides Again, by Max Brand (frontispiece by Richard Sparks)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2015):

The Thirty-Nine Steps, by John Buchan (frontispiece by Richard Sparks)

The design on the cover of the Reader's Choice V edition of this quick-read thriller is constructed almost entirely out of tiny 3-step staircases. This motif appears 13 times on the book's spine—a total of 39 steps—as well as on each side of the thick border framing the front and back boards. The central figure, however, although it is constructed out of this same motif, feels like a Mensa puzzle of the "How many times can you find this shape?" variety. The only method I've found that arrives at the number 39 is somewhat akin to climbing stairs in the world of Escher's Relativity—so it's probably not a viable solution. I suppose that this means my "I-could-so-join-Mensa-but-why-bother" days are so over.

On the full-page, glossy frontispiece—commissioned specially for this edition and the book's only illustration—longtime EP collaborator Richard Sparks recreates what many consider to be this period thriller's most famous scene: protagonist Richard Hannay being chased across the Scottish Lowlands by a biplane. This iconic scene (instantly recognizable to movie buffs*) does not actually occur in the book, where a monoplane (not a biplane) is employed in the search for the fugitive Hannay. Moreover, Hannay usually manages to keep out of view while the plane circles overhead; in the book's one true chase scene, he flees his airborne pursuant on a bicycle!!

*I strongly suspect that the frontispiece painting was inspired, at least in part, by this photo from the 2008 television adaptation (it even includes the wing-mounted machine gun from the RAF S.E.5 used in the movie—which, because the plane did not enter service until 1917, drew criticism for being historically inaccurate). Of course, the ur-instance of this scene is the one of Cary Grant fleeing the cropduster in Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 thriller North by Northwest—a scene that is understood to have been inspired by Buchan's novel. Curiously, in Hitchcock's own 1935 adaptation of The 39 Steps, Hannay is pursued not by a plane, but rather an autogyro.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2010):

The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck (frontispiece by Laurence Schwinger)

I'm not sure what to make of this book's cover. On both the front and back boards, a little above true center, there is a figure in which four circular sectors, each quadrant in the form of a maze, are enclosed in two concentric circles. This figure is framed by an ornate geometric border constructed out of triangular mini-spirals. I have no idea if this design relates to the book's contents in any way—perhaps it represents some sort of traditional chinese labyrinth (to be honest though, it reminds me more of native american art than anything else). Perhaps it is merely decorative. In the old days, Easton Press would often explain relevant aspects of a book's design in a Publisher's Introduction. But that was then. Nowadays, we are left mostly to our own devices...so, has anyone ever seen a chinese labyrinth?

The only illustration in the Reader's Choice II edition of The Good Earth (the first time that this book has been published by Easton Press) is the full-page glossy frontispiece, which depicts Wang Lung and his family working the plot of land that he valued so dearly and which is thematically central to the novel. The Good Earth won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932—seventeen years before the Chinese Revolution.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

The Ugly American, by Eugene Burdick & William J. Lederer (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2015):

At the Earth's Core / A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (illustrations by Ron Miller)

The first Easton Press edition of this leather omnibus was included in the now-defunct Masterpieces of Science Fiction series. The book is notable for its glossy frontispieces—one for each novel—along with eight full-page black and white illustrations. The frontispiece for At the Earth's Core shows David and Abner, having just emerged from the "iron mole" into Pellucidar, gazing with astonishment at the enormous Dyryth* that stands threatening them. On the frontispiece for A Princess of Mars, a green martian and a red martian battle for our attention. On the one hand, we see John Carter fighting with a double-decker green martian warrior (an image that reminds me of the "chicken fights" we had when I was a kid); the other figure commanding our attention is Dejah Thoris—the red martian princess of the title—who watches the battle from the foreground in all her pulp-fiction glory.

On the inside, the Reader's Choice IV and MoSF editions are nearly identical. Both books include the same introduction by L. Sprague de Camp, both have the same illustrations—even the copyright pages are the same. The only difference—other than the endpapers (silk for the RC edition; paper for the MoSF)—is the color of the ink used on the title pages, which in each case was chosen to match the color of the cover.

The outsides of these two editions, however, are as different as their interiors are similar—and yet I'd be hard pressed to tell you which cover I prefer. Stamped deeply into the indigo leather of the MoSF edition is a simple yet iconic image of David Innes teaching Dian the Beautiful how to use a bow and arrow to fend off Mahar predators (a gilded and slightly less-explicit rendition of the sensual black and white illustration that appears at the end of the first novel). For the Reader's Choice edition, the dark red cover features an elaborately framed picture of a hexaped green martian with a long spear in his left hands—an image clearly derived from the illustration that accompanied each installment of Under the Moons of Mars (the original title of A Princess of Mars when it was serialized in 1912). On the book's spine, however, are images that reference the other novel: two sets of bow and arrows, along with a picture of the heads of David and Dian, closely cropped from the cover of the earlier edition (it even includes a diagonal segment of the bowstring from the original image).

This book was also published by the Heritage Press in 1996—the same year as the MoSF edition. This was not a coincidence; at that time, HP was no longer under the aegis of the George Macy Companies and was temporarily an imprint of EP's parent company MBI. Not surprisingly, the two sibling books are pretty much identical on the inside, the only exceptions being the information on the copyright page and the color of the ink on the title pages (the Heritage Press edition used the same brown ink that would later resurface in the Reader's Choice edition).

*According to the Encyclopedia Barsoomia, a Dyryth is "a giant slothlike animal similiar to a megatherium." (So now you know.)

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2009):

Pictures of Masterpieces of Science Fiction edition (1996):

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (1996):

Family bookstack:

I suppose that I owe you a confession: the interiors of these volumes are so identical that I only photographed the illustrations for one book and then repeated the pictures for the other two. I know, I know...I'm a lazy ass...but I couldn't bear the thought of all the time that I would have to spend in Photoshop just to ensure that my pics look as similar to each other as the ones in the different books do. I promise not to make a habit of this...

The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain (frontispiece by Dan Brown)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2011):

The Myth of Sisyphus, by Albert Camus (frontispiece by Richard Sparks)

This book of philosophical essays, originally published in 1942 at the height of the existentialist movement, was included (its first time in an Easton Press edition) in the 2007 set of Reader's Choice Non-Fiction Titles. Stamped into the book's jet-black cover—and surrounded by an elaborate frame—is the obligatory picture of Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill (the same image appears in miniature on the spine). With its bulging musculature and iconic pose, the laboring body manifests a superhuman, almost godlike strength. Depicted more as a Titan than as a man, this stylized figure—with a few adjustments to position, scale and setting—could easily have represented Atlas holding up the heavens.

Whereas the cover of this edition emphasizes the mythological aspect of the Sisyphus story, the frontispiece painting by Richard Sparks (the book's only illustration, reproduced in full color on glossy paper) emphasizes the myth's human aspect. Instead of stylized features and physique, the former Corinthian monarch (whose crown has been exchanged for a...headband?) has realistic features and a body of modest human proportions. Close-cropped and unframed, this picture draws the viewer in, eliminating any mythologizing distance and focusing attention on the efforts of a specific, yet representative man as he struggles with his fate.

Incidentally, according to Camus, the quintessential existential moment in each sisyphean cycle occurs not as the boulder is rolled up the hill, but rather just after it has rolled back down, for it is during his descent that the absurd hero contemplates his wretchedness. We might add that the contrapasso for Sisyphus's transgressive trickery is realized not in the interminable toil of the ascent, but rather in the inescapable reflection on his failure during the descent.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

The Plague, by Albert Camus (frontispiece by Dan Brown)

Although The Stranger—Camus' most widely-read novel and de facto poster child for the fiction of the absurd—has been reprinted by Easton Press in various subscription series over the years,* the Reader's Choice edition of The Plague (published in 2011 as part of the RC-V set) marks the first time that the French-Algerian Nobel laureate's second-most-famous contribution to literary absurdism has appeared in an Easton Press edition.

The abstract design on the book's cover is particularly intriguing. On it, thirty-three sets of wave-like lines, each flowing horizontally across the space of the cover, are broken up by a series of concentric frames. It is easy to imagine these waves representing how, in a time of pestilence, the air itself is no longer perceived as an absence, but rather as a virulent and infectious presence. Alternatively, the waves might represent the sea which, being cut off from the quarantined residents of the bay-side town of Oran, looms as a symbol of unattainable vitality and comfort. Now, although the concentric frames interrupt the continuity of these wave forms, isolating some of them in the center of the cover, this apparent attempt to impose order on chaos does not result in a better understanding of the waves themselves. This image thus presents a perfect metaphor for absurdist philosophy—how man perpetually struggles to find order and meaning in the face of a world that perpetually defies it.

For those who prefer their imagery to be more literal, the book's full-page, semi-glossy frontispiece eschews metaphor for metonymy. Depicting a small section of the city wall of Oran (with barbed wire draped over it and the warning "EN QUARANTAINE!" spray-painted across it using a military stencil), this image evokes the socio-political dilemma faced by the town's inhabitants—specifically, their state-mandated confinement and the martial law that has been adopted to enforce it. The book's only illustration, this simple but effective frontispiece was created by frequent Reader's Choice contributor Dan Brown.

*The Stranger was included in both the Collector's Library of Famous Editions and the Great Books of the 20th Century series.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2011):

Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three Stories, by Truman Capote (frontispiece by Daria Jabenko)

In addition to the title work (which Capote referred to as a "short novel"), this attractive little book from the Reader's Choice II set contains the three short stories—"House of Flowers," "A Diamond Guitar" and "A Christmas Memory"—that were published in the same volume back in 1958. This is the first time that this book has been printed by Easton Press.

The cover of this Reader's Choice edition artfully demonstrates the attention to detail, in terms of both design and production, that has traditionally made Easton Press books special. The gilt pattern—a diamond motif inspired by glamorous art deco designs of the 1920's and 30's—is deeply embedded into the blue-green leather (a characteristic of quality that is becoming less and less common in newly-published editions). One could easily imagine encountering this design on the doors of a luxury high-rise in early 20th-century Gotham.

The frontispiece, by contemporary fashion illustrator Daria Jabenko, perfectly captures the feigned elegance of Tiffany's diamond-digger society girl. The cartoon-like style, which is very unusual in an Easton Press book, pays homage to great fashion magazine illustrators of the art deco period, like Erté and George Barbier. An exploration of Jabenko's on-line gallery confirms that the painting (which was indeed commissioned by Easton Press) was executed using gouache and ink—a favored medium for the art deco illustrators (a small, but interesting detail that it would have been nice to learn about in a Publisher's Introduction). Incidentally, the relationship between these fashion artists and Truman Capote is more than superficial—a good number of Capote's stories (including those in this collection) were first published in magazines like Harper's Bazaar and Mademoiselle.

Unlike the movie adaptation, Capote's "short novel" is set in the early 1940's, when art deco had only just fallen out of style and was "derided as gaudy and presenting a false image of luxury" (Wikipedia). So, if we imagine this book in the hands of a 1943 reader, we discover that the sham opulence of the book's cover and frontispiece mirrors perfectly that of Holly Golightly, the society girl who maintains a front of wealth and glamour, yet only survives by persuading wealthy men to pay for her necessities.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2008):

Edited: Oct 15, 2016, 6:25pm Top

The Hunting of the Snark, by Lewis Carroll (illustrations by Henry Holiday)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2015):

Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll (illustrations by John Tenniel)

This book from the Reader's Choice VII set is the latest of a long line of reprints of an edition that was designed for the Limited Editions Club in 1941 by W. A. Dwiggins.* Featuring John Tenniel's iconic illustrations from the original 1871 edition, this book has been reprinted at least twice by Heritage Press and numerous times (with at least five different cover designs) by Easton Press. Other than the publisher details on the title and copyright pages, the only difference between the different reprints is the color of the line that frames each illustration—red/brown in the RC book, various shades of blue in the other editions. This color is also used for the words "Through" and "Alice" (and sometimes the publisher's logo) on the title page of each book. Other than that, each book is roughly the same size† with the same text and illustrations, the same typeface and margins, the same introduction by John T. Winterich, the same Author's Preface...and yet, these books are far from equal.

Comparing side-by-side the different EP editions of Through the Looking Glass, one cannot help but notice that the 1983 Collector's Edition has higher quality reproductions of the original illustrations than the later volumes. This is particularly apparent in areas with significant shadow detail, such as the wings of the Jabberwock. I never imagined that I would ever steer collectors away from books in the Collector's Library of Famous Editions—arguably the most consistently excellent series ever published by Easton Press—but this is one title in that series where the illustrations definitely suffer in comparison with those in earlier editions. Unfortunately, the illustrations in the Reader's Choice book are no better than those in the Famous Edition(s).

So, if you are looking to purchase a copy of this book to add to your collection of books from Easton Press, I would definitely go for the Collector's Edition, which is attractively bound in blue leather and decorated with small chess pieces (matching the edition of Alice in Wonderland included in the 100 Greatest Books series at the time, which was bound in red leather and decorated with spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs). There is also another early EP edition of Through the Looking Glass (bound in red leather) that, being considerably overvalued on the aftermarket, was not available for this comparison.

Finally, a few words about publishing dates. All of the books described here are reprints of an edition that, as I mentioned above, was published by the LEC in 1941. This copyright date appears in most of these books, along with its renewal in 1969, twenty-eight years later. The copyright renewal date was, of course, not included in the WWII-era Heritage Reprint of this book (which I have attributed to 1943, the date of the first steel penny). The blue Collector's Edition does not list the date it was published by Easton Press (having bought my copy directly from EP after receiving a flyer in 1983, I've used that date for this edition). The first Famous Edition adds the date 1995 to the 1941/1969 couplet; curiously, the second Famous Edition eschews the original dates, listing 2001 as the only copyright. Curiouser and curiouser, the Reader's Choice book gives us four copyright dates: 1939, 1967, 2001 and 2013. I'm not sure what "special contents" EP is protecting with its 2001 and 2013 copyrights, since these editions have the same contents as all earlier reprints (only the covers are different). Of course, the dates 1939 and 1967 are, in a word, wrong.

*Paired with Alice in Wonderland, this two-book set signed by Alice Hargreaves (née Lidell, the original "Alice") is among the most coveted of all LEC publications—and one of the most pricey. It's right up there with the LEC editions of Lysistrata and Ulysses (which are signed by Picasso and Matisse, respectively). Of course, if you are lucky enough to own one of the 250 copies of Ulysses signed by both the artist and the author, then I have one simple question for you...What in the hell are you doing in this thread? I mean, why bother slumming through my sad descriptions of books in EP's "budget" series when you can clearly afford the finest of collectable volumes? It's not like we're about to envy your anonymous ass.

†The first Reader's Choice volume is a smidgen less wide than the other books—with the exception of the Heritage Reprint, which was subject to a wartime injunction to save paper (I've included below a picture of the notice explaining this) and is thus slightly smaller in both height and width.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2013):

Pictures of Famous Edition (2001):

Pictures of Famous Edition (1995):

Pictures of Collector's Edition (~1983):

Pictures of Heritage Press edition:

Pictures of Heritage Reprints edition (~1943):

Family bookstack:

The Innocence of Father Brown, by G. K. Chesterton (illustrations by Sydney Seymour Lucas)

The Reader's Choice VII edition of The Innocence of Father Brown reproduces the first edition of 1911—including the original illustrations. This was Chesteron's first collection of stories featuring the unassuming catholic cleric (although most had previously appeared in the Saturday Evening Post and other periodicals). The RC edition, which started shipping in the first half of 2013, is the first time this title has been available from Easton Press.

In a small oval situated in the center of the book's sienna-colored boards we find the obligatory portrait of Father Brown, gazing off to the side in a pose more attentive than contemplative. He is depicted in clerical cassock and collar, with his signature spectacles and saturno.* This portrait is enclosed within a large rectangular frame based on an abstract floral motif, with each corner marked by a large rosette enclosed within a square (this same rosette, along with two fragments of the framing motif, also appears on the book's spine).

The Reader's Choice edition includes all eight of the original black-and-white illustrations by Sydney Seymour Lucas—the son of the Victorian painter John Seymour Lucas. As can be seen in the pictures that I've included below, Lucas chose to illustrate scenes whose drama can be encapsulated by posture and gesture. Look, for instance, at the picture of Father Brown standing at water's edge. One hand holds on to the railing of the small dock; the other arm is extended slightly to his side—as if he has just recovered from a start and is trying to maintain his balance as he leans forward to get a better view of the activity downstream. Although a few of the other pictures feel a little posed, there's no denying that these illustrations are among the most painstakingly realized in the Reader's Choice series.

*In "The Blue Cross", the story that introduced Father Brown to the world, the priest is described as wearing a "shovel hat" (a hat worn by English clergymen, its brim bent up at the sides so that it resembles a shovel). A later story describes Father Brown's hat as "a broad-curved black hat, clerical but not common in England" ("The Absence of Mr. Glass" in The Wisdom of Father Brown). This jibes with most depictions of the priest, which show him wearing a capello romano (commonly called a saturno because it looks like saturn and its rings). So, did Father Brown sport the curvy but common "shovel hat" or the flat-brimmed Italian saturno? Or perhaps the physical aspect of Chesterton's iconic cleric evolved over time. Or maybe the priest simply wore a different hat in each story. Of course, the Parisian detective Aristide Valentin may have jumped to a hasty conclusion when (in "The Blue Cross") he asked the local English policeman if he had seen "two clergymen in shovel hats" (after all, he introduces this detail without having seen the men in question). Or did Father Brown (like Pope Benedict XVI in 2007) merely roll up the sides of his saturno so that it looked like a toy cowboy hat? Ah...but my interest has been exhausted by all this speculation, so I'll leave this question to someone whose curiosity is more insatiable than my own.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2013):

And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie (frontispiece by Richard Sparks)

On the title page of this Reader's Choice IV selection, we are informed that the book had been previously published under the title Ten Little Indians. Seeing this, many moviegoers may nod their heads, since this was the name of the most recent of the book's five screen adaptations. Longtime fans of Dame Agatha's work, on the other hand, will perhaps tighten their lips a bit, opening their eyes a little wider as they remember the book's infelicitous original title (which, because it can be uncovered on-line with very little effort, will not be repeated here).

The full-color glossy frontispiece, painted by Richard Sparks, depicts Anthony James Marston—the book's first victim—just after he has been poisoned. Looming in the background is mansion-topped Soldier Island, upon which the book's action is confined. This island was named Indian Island in Ten Little Indians and, difficult as it might be for today's readers to believe, _______ Island in the first edition (using that word from the original title). This frontispiece, specially commisioned for this edition, is the book's only illustration.

Shallowly stamped onto the book's black leather cover is a gothic design appropriate to this title. Spaced around the perimeter, and hidden among the fronds and flourishes, are ten small human-like figures (one of them also appears on the spine). Unfortunately, at least for my copy, there are a number of tiny holes where the gilding appears to have been applied too thinly to remain intact across the coarse-grained leather (a flaw that plagues several other books in the Reader's Choice series), mildly blemishing this otherwise attractive volume.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2009):

The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall)

The Hunt for Red October holds the dubious distinction of being the only book, published for the first time in an Easton Press edition, to have already been on sale when it was announced that it would be included in the Reader's Choice set for that year. Not surprisingly, it was the first book to ship in the RC-IX set, arriving (for early subscribers) several months before the other books were published.

The cover of this book (which is appropriately bound in red leather) presents us with a simple yet effective mix of representational and decorative motifs. Shallowly gilt-stamped onto the front and back boards, the silhouette of a Typhoon-class Russian submarine is centered within a circular grid that resembles a PPI sonar display.* This central image is enclosed by a large frame comprised of concentric rectangles, a series of wave-like lines and, at each corner, a four-point compass rose. On the book's spine are two images of a broached sub—its sail riding high above the surface—along with an emblematic hammer and sickle.

For this edition, frequent RC contributor Dennis Lyall† has created a conceptual collage that serves as the book's sole illustration. Reproduced on semi-glossy paper, the expansive blues and vibrant reds of the frontispiece reflect perfectly the book's thematic contrasts between loyalty and revenge. Looming beneath the surface, the renegade Russian sub anchors the entire composition while, in the skies above, a pair of F-14 Tomcats scramble in a burst of red clouds. These stormy cloud formations fuse seamlessly into the image of a Soviet flag that slashes across the middle of the page, dividing the massive instruments of institutionalized warfare from the personnel (including Marko Alexandrovich Ramius, commander of the Red October) whose individual actions provide the occasion for—as well as the resolution of—the covert Cold War crisis that constitutes the action of the book.

*A PPI (Planned Position Indicator) scope, although typical of radar, is a relative rarity for sonar (except in the movies, where it is widely used to depict both technologies). On a PPI scope, detected objects are plotted from a bird's-eye view—like on the screens used by air traffic controllers. On a true PPI scope (such as the one depicted on the book's frontispiece), a submerged sub would show up as a blip on the screen, not as an image in full profile. So we must consider the cover image to be another conceptual collage—one playing on the word "Hunt" in the title—in which the submarine is centered in what looks like the telescopic sight of a subaqueous sniper rifle.

†Dennis Lyall was commissioned to create the frontispiece art for five of the books in the 2014 Reader's Choice set: The Guns of Navarone, The Hunt for Red October, The Magus, The Silence of the Lambs and Timeline. Moreover, he was actually given credit on the title page of four of these books—the sole exception being The Magus. If I sound surprised, it is because Lyall's contributions to the Reader's Choice series have often gone uncredited (see The Egg and I, The Four Feathers, Rob Roy and A Confederacy of Dunces) and can only be identified by his distinctive signature.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2014):

King Rat, by John Clavell (frontispiece by Alan Reingold)

The Reader's Choice VII edition of the first novel in Clavell's Asian Saga (which would include the immensely popular books Shōgun and Noble House) was published under a special agreement with Dell Books. Shipping to subscribers in early 2013, this is the first time that this book has been published by Easton Press. The frontispiece for this edition was created by one of the most published illustrators in America, Alan Reingold. Known primarily for his magazine covers* and movie posters, Reingold has here depicted Peter Marlowe behind barbed wire, staring into space with an intense expression as he contemplates the moral ambiguities of life in Changi, the WWII Japanese POW camp in Singapore where he has been confined.

On the book's cover a central star (associated with the military insignia of officer rank) is surrounded by chevrons and stripes (which appear in the insignia of enlisted men). Nearly lost amidst the hundreds of chevrons are another twenty peripheral stars. If there is symbolism here, it is perhaps intended to illustrate how established hierarchies break down and new patterns emerge during internment.

*Reingold, who has contributed art for the covers of over 100 magazines, was the youngest artist to have a portrait featured on the cover of Time magazine—a picture of peanut farmer (and presidential hopeful) Jimmy Carter. Reingold went on to become one of America's foremost presidential portraitists. Originally, Reingold sketched America's leaders in person; he later switched to working from photographic sources after finding that presidents make particularly poor models (according to Reingold, they simply "do not sit still"). King Rat is not Reingold's first work for Easton Press; he also provided the illustrations for the EP editions of Intruder in the Dust (from the Faulkner collection) and In Cold Blood (from Great Books of the 20th Century).

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2013):

The Manchurian Candidate, by Richard Condon


The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale, by Joseph Conrad (frontispiece by Richard Sparks)

On the cover of this Reader's Choice II volume is a swirling figure that, depending on whether you interpret it as centrifugal or centripetal, could be either a radiating sun or a spinning vortex. The full-page glossy frontispiece depicts a man with a cane, dressed all in black, standing on a deserted Victorian steetcorner after dark (perhaps it is meant to be Adolf Verloc—the secret agent of the title—awaiting a late-night rendevouz outside his London pornography shop). Other than the frontispiece, there are no illustrations in this book, a first-time publication for Easton Press.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2008):

Youth/Typhoon/The End of the Tether, by Joseph Conrad (illustrations by Robert Shore)

This Reader's Choice III selection is a reprint of an edition first published by both the Limited Editions Club and Heritage Press in 1972, and later by Easton Press in the Collector's Library of Famous Editions. According to Heritage Press, artist Robert Shore created eight full-color illustrations for this book ("three spreads, one each for the three stories, and five single-page paintings"), as well as a half-dozen smaller line drawings. Although I can only find seven of the eight paintings in my Reader's Choice copy of the book (one of the two-page spreads appears to have been omitted), this book is by no means a disappointment. On the contrary, as it is, this book stands out as one of the few Reader's Choice volumes to contain multiple glossy, full-page, full-color illustrations.

One of this book's distinctive characteristics (one that will intrigue some collectors and exasperate others) is that some of the illustrations are extremely dark—so dark, in fact, that you might at first question the exposure level of my sample photos. If you've ever tried to make out the images on an oil painting hung in one of the side chapels of a venerable european cathedral, a canvas darkened from centuries of exposure to smoke from thuribles, torches and votive candles; the experience is not unlike trying to pick out the details that lurk in the shadows of this book's illustrations. Unfortunately, it cannot be determined (without reference to earlier editions) whether this darkness is inherent to the original artwork, or whether it is the result of inferior graphic reproduction.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2009):

Pictures of Famous Edition (1996):

Pictures of Heritage Press edition:

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition (1972):

Family bookstack:

The Pilot, by James Fenimore Cooper


The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground, by James Fenimore Cooper (illustrations by Henry C. Pitz)

This book may well be the most disappointing volume in the entire Reader's Choice series. Published in 2009 as part of the Reader's Choice III set, it is a reprint of a classic illustrated edition published by the Limited Editions Club and Heritage Press in 1963, and later by Easton Press in the Masterpieces of American Literature series. One wouldn't know this from the copyright page, however, which lists only a "special contents" copyright date of 2009.

The book is bound in quality, coarse-grained black leather; unfortunately, the gilding appears to have been applied to the surface of the leather (rather than embedded into it) in a layer so thin that the texture of the leather shows through. Worse yet, on my copy there are numerous pin-sized holes in the gilding, perhaps due to a mismatch between the choice of leather and the gilding method. As a result, the cover feels cheap and I fear that extensive handling of this book (such as, you know, if I were to actually read it) might rub the gilt right off of the cover.

The book includes more than fifty monochrome illustrations by Henry C. Pitz, printed using a charcoal gray ink. However, in earlier editions of this book (including the edition published by Easton Press in the Masterpieces of American Literature series) twenty-eight of these illustrations were printed using multiple colors! The illustrations don't look too bad in monochrome—until you compare them to the color ones and realize how much detail has been lost in the charcoal-colored shadows (I have included photos of the Heritage Press edition so that you can make your own comparisons). There's this little fiction that the books in the Reader's Choice series are all titles that have been requested by Easton Press subscribers... Do the folks at EP actually believe that someone who might have requested a reprint of this classic edition would be happy spending over fifty dollars for this?

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2009):

Pictures of Masterpieces of American Literature edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (1964):

Pictures of Heritage Press presentation copy (1964):

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition (1963):

Family bookstack:

The Silver Chalice, by Thomas B. Costain (frontispiece by Larry Schwinger)

Offered by Easton Press as part of the Reader's Choice VII set, this edition (which was published with the permission of Doubleday/Random House) is the first time that Costain's popular historical novel has been given the EP treatment. The book's full-page glossy frontispiece, created for this edition by Philadelphia artist Larry Schwinger,* captures what may well be the book's most dramatic moment. Simon Magus has built a tower in the gardens of Nero's palace to demonstrate to the Roman Emperor that he can fly like an angel. This tower has been secretly rigged with a device that will make it look as if Simon can fly. Nero, hoping that the miraculous display will lure Christian leaders out of hiding, has opened up the gates so that all of Rome could witness the spectacle:
Simon the Magician, Simon of Gitta, the greatest performer of magic tricks the world had ever seen, stepped to the edge of the platform. He turned in the direction of the palace and raised both arms in the air as a salute to the majesty of the throne. A series of bows to the dense throngs followed. The raised arms made a final gesture as a signal that he was ready. For a moment he stood poised on the tips of his toes, then without any hint of hesitation Simon Magus cast himself forward in space.
Perhaps the most successful aspect of this book is its cover. Deeply stamped† into the dark brown leather is a gilded copy of the chalice that appears on the cover page of both this edition and the original edition of 1952. The imagery is based on that of the Antioch Chalice—an ancient vessel that, when it was discovered in the early 20th century, was at first believed to be the Holy Grail. If you look at the cover of the Reader's Choice edition in direct light, it might seem at first to have been over-gilded. If you tilt the book slightly, however, so that the light hits the cover at an angle, you will discover that the gilding is actually textured. In some cases, this effect is created by closely-spaced parallel lines; in others, by furrows etched into the gilding itself. The overall effect is spectacular and—to my knowledge—different than for any other book published by Easton Press.

*Schwinger, known primarily for his science fiction illustrations, also created the frontispiece art for all five volumes of "THEY WALK AMONG US", the Easton Press collection of alien visitation classics. He is a regular contributor to the Reader's Choice series.

†When reviewing books that were published in the first several years of the Reader's Choice series, I expressed concern at the shallow gilding on many of the covers. In recent years, however, EP appears to have reversed this trend. On both the boards and spine of this edition, for instance, the gilding has been stamped deeply into the leather. You can feel the difference as you run your fingers across the surface of the book. Very nice, EP.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2013):

The Great Train Robbery, by Michael Crichton (frontispiece by Paul Bachem)

In his seminal essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", Walter Benjamin discusses how the aura that inheres in an individual work of art—its sense of uniqueness, authenticity and authority—is lost when art is reproduced mechanically. A painting or a performance has an aura to it that is completely missing in a photograph or a recording. If art imitates nature, then mechanically reproduced art is an imitation of that imitation. Now, in many of the reviews that appear in this thread, we scrutinize artwork that Easton Press has commissioned especially for the Reader's Choice series—focusing, for instance, on the relationship between the images on a book's frontispiece and the plot, subject or theme of that book. By viewing the illustrations as essential elements of these books, we emphasize their role as commodities, as one of several facets that contribute to a book's inherent value (and desirability) as a collectible—albeit mechanically reproduced—artifact.

Every once in a while, however, one comes across an image so painterly that it transcends its function as an illustration and reminds us that an original, honest-to-goodness artwork (executed in oils, watercolors or what have you) exists outside the pages of the book, a unique work of art that we can access only through its reproduction. Such is the case with Paul Bachem's masterful frontispiece in the Reader's Choice edition of The Great Train Robbery. Bachem's oil painting* captures both the romance and the realism of railway travel; the canvas is dominated by an image of a steam locomotive—the nineteenth century's supreme symbol of Victorian virility, of industrialized society's ability to conquer both space and time.

Opposite the frontispiece, on the title page, a small train is pictured in silhouette. This train—a black locomotive with coal tender, pulling four black cars (one of which appears to be carrying a black carriage)—also appears on the pages that announce each of the book's five sections. A picture of a period locomotive is gilt-stamped onto the book's cover, along with the four keys that were crucial to the heist's success (these four keys also appear on the book's spine). This fine edition—which was printed in 2013 as part of the RC-VII set—represents the first publication of this title by Easton Press.

*Although any discussion of the reproduction of Bachem's painting as a frontispiece—full-page, full-color, on semi-glossy paper—risks reducing this beautiful piece of original art to its function as an illustration, this edition is in fact lucky to have benefited from this artist's services. Bachem recently retired from his long career as an illustrator (you can witness more of his work in the Easton Press edition of Beloved) so that he could dedicate more time to his specialty, the painting of landscapes and seascapes en plein air.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2013):

Timeline, by Michael Crichton (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2014):

The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, by Daniel Defoe (illustrations by Reginald Marsh)

I ordered this book to replace a flood-damaged copy from the Collector's Library of Famous Editions that I had owned for over 20 years.* To my surprise, I found that I preferred the cover design of the Reader's Choice II edition to that of the older Famous Edition. On the front and back boards of the 1983 book is a line drawing of Moll reclining in a dress so large that a family of four could hide in its folds. The Reader's Choice cover, on the other hand, depicts Moll standing with a parasol, framed by a decorative arch—a layout that, with splendid irony, evokes the balanced elegance of a piece of Wedgwood china. The only thing that bothers me about the RC cover is its "painted on" appearance. If you run the back of your fingernail lightly across the cover, you can detect slight depressions only for the straight lines of the border. The design on the Famous Editions cover was, as with most books printed by Easton Press in the 1980's, deeply embedded into the leather.

The interior of the Reader's Choice book is identical to that of the Famous Edition, featuring a wonderful set of burlesque drawings by famed illustrator Reginald Marsh. The Sandglass pamphlet that accompanied the original Heritage Press edition of this book supplies the following background:
Although he was supposed to make only fifty illustrations, Mr. Marsh made hundreds of them; from which eighty-two were selected...They were all drawn with pen, and are reproduced with line-plates carefully etched in copper. They are not drawings carefully filled in down to the last dotted eyeball and the final twist of the lips. They are suggestive drawings, done with a nimble and facile pen. They bear looking at time after time, they are not the kind of drawings which one sees all of, in one blinding flash, and never cares to look at again. These are illustrations done by a great artist and a great draughtsman...They are the kind of illustrations, these illustrations by Reginald Marsh, of which the publishers can well be proud; and it would even be possible for the publishers to say, to any reader who does not find joy and delight in them, that the fault lies, not in the pictures, but in the reader. This, however, might be to plagiarize Daniel Defoe!
These tastefully bawdy pics—all of which (including the frontispiece) are printed on the same paper as the text itself—constitute an early 20th-century Harlot's Progress (appropriately, since Defoe's book provided the inspiration, at least in part, for Hogarth's famous 18th-century sequence).

There was initially one small mystery (at least to me) about the history of this edition. The copyright page lists the dates 1942, 1970, 1983 and 2008. The dates 1983 and 2008, of course, correspond to the book's publication by Easton Press as a Famous Edition and as a Reader's Choice volume. One might speculate that 1942 points to this book's publication by the Limited Editions Club and that 1970 indicates the renewal of copyright 28 years later. On-line resources, however, indicate that the Limited Editions Club did not publish this book until 1954 (and that the Heritage Press edition did not appear until 1976). I later discovered that the LEC edition (with its hand-colored illustrations) was actually a deluxe reprint of an even earlier Heritage Press exclusive that was published in...you guessed it...1942. Mystery solved.

*As the pictures below attest, I eventually acquired another copy of the Famous Editions volume (and both the LEC and HP editions as well).

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2008):

Pictures of Famous Edition (1983):

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (1976):

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition (1954):

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (1942):

Family bookstack:

Auntie Mame, by Patrick Dennis (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2015):

Edited: Oct 15, 2016, 6:31pm Top

Deliverance, by James Dickey (frontispiece by Larry Schwinger)

When I first received this volume (as part of the Reader's Choice VI set), I was immediately impressed with the overall feel of the book's cover. The gilt-stamping on the dark green boards is pretty much as deep as it gets—a mark of luxury that I took for granted when I first began collecting Easton Press editions, but which had all but disappeared from their books in recent years.* The pattern on the cover is constructed of broadhead points (large tips used with hunting arrows to slice through the blood vessels of big game) and several small droplets which might evoke, with a little imagination, either the sweat of the hunted or the blood of the victim.

Of course, the small gilded droplets on the cover might also be water splashed from the rapids of the Cahulawassee, the fictional river that provides both the occasion and location for the rising and falling action of the story. On the book's full-color, semi-glossy frontispiece we see the four friends shooting the rapids on the first day of their journey down the soon-to-be-dammed river (you can tell it's the first day because Bobby still shares the first canoe with Lewis (which you can tell because the men in the picture bear a curiously strong resemblance to the actors in the 1972 film adaptation of the novel (which you can tell by comparing the book's frontispiece with this still from the movie))).

Now, although it makes my flesh crawl to open up this venerable, leather-bound tome and find myself gazing at a portrait of Burt Reynolds, my general distaste at what feels like a shameless and belated movie tie-in is at least partially assuaged by the thought that Burt...I mean, Lewis...will, as the four men shoot the rapids again much later in the story, be writhing in pain on the floor of the canoe (oops!...was that a spoiler?).

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2011):

Hans Brinker, Or the Silver Skates, by Mary Mapes Dodge (illustrations by F. O. C. Darley, Thomas Nast, and others)

One of the last titles to ship in the Reader's Choice IX set, this leather-bound edition of Dodge's perennial children's classic sold out so quickly that some collectors who, many months earlier, had placed an order for all ten books in the 2014 set, ended up not receiving a copy. Checking online a few months after this edition went out-of-stock at the publishers, there was only a single copy for sale on eBay (at nearly three times the original price). Fortunately, this is not the first time that this title has been published by Easton Press; there is another edition—originally included in the Library of Great Illustrated Classics—that is not only readily available, but can be obtained at a fairly reasonable price. For which of these two volumes should you dish out your hard-earned guilders?...Well, it's really a question of individual taste.

On the front cover of the Reader's Choice volume—stamped moderately deeply into the warm brown leather—is an image of Hans himself, skating toward the viewer with his hands in his pockets and a sombre look on his face.* His pants are patched at the knees. In the background, a small windmill and a large cloud complete the scene, along with some simple lines representing the shore and the horizon. In contrast to the elegant restraint of the RC cover, with its focus on the book's protagonist, the cover of the Illustrated Classics edition provides a snapshot of the bustling community in which Hans lives. The image—which is adapted from one of the book's illustrations—is laid out on a diagonal, extending back and toward the left from the lower right corner. Standing in the foreground, a woman holding a baby watches eight young people skate on a frozen pond (including a very young girl at the ice's edge). In the distance there are a handful of buildings, most notably a whimsically oblique view of the windmill obligato. Also stamped (deeply!!) into the book's grey leather cover are the title of the book, the name of its author and the names of both illustrators! Topping it all off, the entire image is sprinkled with small dots that represent snowfall.

Both books contain eight pictures—by multiple illustrators. In the Reader's Choice volume, each black-and-white engraving from the 1874 edition (originally published by Scribner, Armstrong & Co.) is reproduced on its own page, using the same paper as the rest of the text. Collectively, these wonderfully detailed illustrations—one of which serves as a frontispiece—evoke a period charm, reminiscent of pictures found in the great serialized novels of the nineteenth century (such as those done for Dickens by Phiz), and capture to perfection the caprice and sentiment of this beloved story. The pictures in the Illustrated Classics edition are reproduced in full (albeit muted) color on glossy paper. Although it is stylistically inaccurate (not to mention chronologically impossible), I cannot rid myself of the notion that these pictures were painted not by Cooke and Enright, but rather by the love child of Vermeer and Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel. To quote the book's preface:
The magical brightness of these color illustrations for Hans Brinker captures the brisk, lively spirit of Holland and the Dutch—from wintry skating scenes to warm, quaint interiors—in a style unequalled before or since this illustrated edition was published in the first quarter of the twentieth century.
Even taking into account the inevitable publisher's hyperbole, "magical brightness" is a bit much. Yes, the pictures in this edition are colorful—but hardly what I would call bright (whether this is the result of Father Time or EP's reproduction process, I cannot tell). But don't get me wrong—this is a gorgeous book and the illustrations are nothing short of charming. My only real complaint is that the eight pictures have been printed on four double-sided pages, meaning that they fall—on the average—70 pages apart (as opposed to 50 pages apart, in the RC edition).

All in all, whether you opt for the compact and classic decorations of the Reader's Choice edition or the more whimsical design of the larger book from the Library of Great Illustrated Classics, you really can't go wrong with either of these two outstanding editions—and if, like me, you simply can't make up your mind...there ain't no shame in buying both!

*On my copy of this book, the sad look on Hans' face is unintentionally accentuated by two tiny flaws in the gilding, immediately under his eyes, that create the impression of tears.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2014):

Pictures of Illustrated Classics edition (1992):

Notes From Underground, by Fyodor Dostoevsky (illustrations by Alexandre Alexeieff)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition:

Pictures of Famous Edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition:

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition:

The Robe, by Lloyd Douglas (frontispiece by unspecified artist)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition:

The Man in the Iron Mask, by Alexandre Dumas (illustrations by Edy Legrand)

The copyright page specifies that the "special contents" of this book are copyright 2001. Since that is the only date given, it would be understandable if the reader or collector with little background in Easton Press publications were to infer that this is a relatively new edition (especially since EP often lists all applicable copyrights). Actually, this book is a reprint of an edition first published by both the Limited Editions Club and Heritage Press in 1965, and then added to the Collector's Library of Famous Editions by Easton Press in 1985. I can't imagine what "special contents" could be copyrighted in 2001, however, since Legrand's marvelous illustrations and the introduction by André Maurois would both be protected under previous copyright.

For the 1985 Famous Edition, the title of the book appeared on the front cover—in the same font used on the title page—along with the names of the major contributors (Dumas, Legrand and Maurois). The cover of the Reader's Choice I edition, however, matches that of The Three Musketeers in the 100 Greatest Books series, so that the two books constitute a set with the same covers, layout (two columns per page), and illustrator. Or, rather, two-thirds of a set. These two books, with the same covers and illustrations, were also published by Easton Press as part of three-book Dumas set. Unfortunately, the third book in this set—20 Years After (another LEC/HP reprint with illustrations by Legrand)—is currently unavailable from Easton Press.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2006):

Pictures of Famous Edition (1985):

Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier (frontispiece by unspecified artist)

This Reader's Choice III selection marks the debut of this title in an Easton Press edition—and what an impressive debut it is. First of all, this medium octavo volume is one of the larger of EP's "first-time" offerings in this series. Its deep burgundy cover flaunts a striking design that is reminiscent of Victorian ornamental ironwork. Moreover, the book's full-page glossy frontispiece not only establishes a gothic gloom appropriate to the narrative, but also foreshadows one of the story's climactic moments (when, on a dark and stormy night, Maxim de Winter's second wife is on the verge of jumping to her death from one of Manderley's upstairs windows). Although it contains no artwork other than that which appears on the cover and frontispiece, this book is nevertheless an outstanding addition to the Reader's Choice series.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2009):

The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco (frontispiece by Larry Schwinger)

The Reader's Choice edition of The Name of the Rose is, in my opinion, one of the more attractive books to come out of Norwalk, Connecticut in recent years. Deeply stamped into the burgundy leather boards is a framing pattern comprised of twenty-two roses in various stages of bloom—including two easy-to-miss rosebuds hidden among the flowers at the top and two aging blossoms, their petals all but scattered, gracing the lower corners. In the center is a medallion inscribed with what appears to be a cross between a crosslet and a rosicrucian cross, with floral points and a rosette at the nexus. Although not of a type normally associated with Franciscans, Dominicans, the Vatican or the Inquisition (the four groups that come into conflict within Eco's novel), this cross nevertheless feels appropriate on this beautiful cover. It also appears, along with a pair of exhibition blossoms, on the book's four-hubbed spine.

The square-like shape of the rosette reminds me of the floorplan of the Aedificium, the medieval tower that dominates Eco's fictional Abbey and houses the labyrinthine library that figures significantly in the plot of the book. As we learn from consulting the book's two black and white illustrations (a map of the Abbey grounds and the key to the labyrinth) the tower is shaped like a square with bastions at the four corners. Larry Schwinger's* atmospheric frontispiece shows William of Baskerville exploring the library and nearly swooning at the sight of the illuminated riches hidden within. In Eco's novel, the library resides (as a two-dimensional labyrinth in the tradition of those found in medieval cathedrals) on the top floor of the Aedificium, where it can only be accessed from the scriptorium below by a single staircase. The library on the frontispiece, however, is clearly not located on the building's top floor. The illustration appears to have been inspired by the multi-level labyrinth in Jean-Jacques Annaud's imaginative film adaptation of The Name of the Rose (which Annaud described as being a palimpsest on Eco's novel). If we set aside the fact that William's Franciscan cowl looks a bit like an oversized bathrobe, the incongruent depiction of the library is the only off-note in this otherwise magnificent edition.

Published in 2014 (as part of the Reader's Choice VIII set), this volume contains English translations of both the novel itself and the author's famous postscript (originally published separately). We are told that both texts were translated by William Weaver and are given copyright dates for both the original Italian (1980, 1983) and the English translations (1983, 1984). Curiously, the copyright page also includes the statement "Translations for the 2014 edition by Richard Dixon". Although it is not mentioned elsewhere, this is apparently the 2014 revised version of the novel, which was published in April, 2014—only a month or so before this book shipped from Easton Press. I have been able to find out nothing specific (at least in English) about Eco's revisions to his most famous work—just that Dixon performed the translations—so I'm afraid that I have no new insights to pass on, other than my admiration at how EP managed to deliver this beautiful copy of a brand new edition at such an affordable price.

*Although we are not told who provided the frontispiece art, the original oil painting—signed by Schwinger—can currently be purchased for $1600 from an on-line vendor of fine art. As I have mentioned elsewhere, the good folks back in Connecticut appear to have become somewhat ambivalent about identifying the individuals who contribute to the design each book. When I began collecting books from Easton Press in the early 1980's, one of the things that impressed me was the incredible care taken with each edition—from the cover design and illustrations to font selection and interior layout. Each book had an editor's introduction (or else separately-printed collector's notes) in which credit was given to those who had participated in each aspect of the creative process. In this, of course, EP was continuing a tradition that had been established by the Limited Editions Club and Heritage Press (who had originally commissioned most of the books published by Easton Press in the early days). Nevertheless, I don't know if Easton Press is aware of the damage they have inflicted upon their own image by abandoning this practice.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2014):

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle


The Art of Living, by Epictetus (A New Interpretation by Sharon Lebell)

This short book by Sharon Lebell is an "imitation" (in Robert Lowell's sense) of the Enchiridion (or Manual) of Epictetus, a handbook of ethical precepts compiled in the early 2nd century by Arrian (who had studied under the Stoic philosopher). Lebell's book is not, in the strict sense, a new translation of Epictetus, but rather a "selection, interpretation, and improvisation with the ideas," the result of Lebell having "consulted various translations" in order to give "fresh expression to what I think he would have said today" (from the Prologue). Although Lebell's highly subjective "improvisations" may give scholars good cause to cringe, they have nevertheless introduced Stoicism (not as historical, but rather as popular philosophy) to a new generation of readers. To appreciate the nature and extent of Lebell's liberties, you need only compare the following three versions of the same passage from the Enchiridion:
Avoid public and vulgar entertainments; but, if ever an occasion calls you to them, keep your attention upon the stretch, that you may not imperceptibly slide into vulgar manners. For be assured that if a person be ever so sound himself, yet, if his companion be infected, he who converses with him will be infected likewise. (1758 translation by Elizabeth Carter)
Refuse the entertainments of strangers and the vulgar. But if occasion arise to accept them, then strain every nerve to avoid lapsing into the state of the vulgar. For know that , if your comrade have a stain on him, he that associates with him must need share the stain, even though he be clean in himself. (1916 translation by P.E. Matheson)
Avoid Most Popular Entertainment: Most of what passes for legitimate entertainment is inferior or foolish and only caters to or exploits people's weaknesses. Avoid being one of the mob who indulges in such pastimes. Your life is too short and you have important things to do. Be descriminating about what ideas and images you permit in your mind. If you yourself don't choose what thoughts and images you expose yourself to, someone else will, and their motives may not be the highest. It is the easiest thing in the world to slide imperceptibly into vulgarity. But there's no need for that to happen if you determine not to waste your time and attention on mindless pap. (Sharon Lebell's "interpretation" of this passage)
The copyright page of the 2007 Reader's Choice edition of this book (one of the Reader's Choice Non-Fiction Titles) tells us that the main section of the book "substantially reproduces" Lebell's text—which is itself an "interpretation" of "various translations" of a handbook derived from lectures that were transcribed from memory by a famous student of Epictetus. That's six degrees of separation!

Stamped onto the surface of the Reader's Choice edition's deep red cover is a pattern created out of small teardrop figures. Unfortunately, the book has no illustrations. The Matheson translation of the Manual (quoted above) was included, almost as an appendix, in the beautifully illustrated edition of The Discourses of Epictetus that was commissioned by George Macy for the Limited Editions Club in 1966 and reprinted by Heritage Press in 1968 (pictures of both books are included below). I have long hoped to add a leather-bound copy of this edition—to which Easton Press's parent company MBI owns the reprint rights—to my library. When I reflect, however, on the likelihood of EP ever reprinting this volume—especially now that Lebell's Epictetus has been included in the Reader's Choice series—more than a few ripples disturb my pool of stoic serenity.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

Pictures of Heritage Press edition of The Discourses of Epictetus (1968):

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition of The Discourses of Epictetus (1966):

Spartacus, by Howard Fast (frontispiece by Dan Brown)

On the copyright page of the Reader's Choice edition of Spartacus is the statement "Published by Easton Press by arrangement with the Howard Fast Literary trust"—a reminder that this book was originally self-published. In 1951, at the onset of the McCarthy era, no major publisher would touch anything written by a known communist sympathizer—especially a book written in direct response to the author's having been called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (and then imprisoned for refusing to name names). Sixty years—and over a hundred million dollars of movie revenue—later, the book has long been embraced by the literary establishment. Luxuriously bound in dark blue leather, the Easton Press edition of this book reveals nothing of its defiant past. Gilt-stamped onto the front and back covers is an eight-pointed star, surrounded by two frames—one circular and the other rectangular—each comprised of two abstract meander patterns that confer upon the book a semblance of classical respectability. These same elements appear on the book's spine.

The full-page, semi-glossy frontispiece (the book's sole illustration) is clearly based on this advertising still from the 2010 television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. However, unlike Kubrick's classic 1960 film Spartacus and the 2004 television miniseries of the same name, the television series that began in 2010 with Spartacus: Blood and Sand—a series whose immense popularity was without a doubt the impetus behind this book's selection for the Reader's Choice V set—was not an adaptation of Fast's novel. Moreover, Andy Whitfield—the actor who played the title role and whose likeness is captured on this book's frontispiece—was forced to abandon the series in September 2010 (not long after Easton Press announced the Reader's Choice titles for that year) after suffering a relapse of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Because Whitfield's health issues had been widely known for several months by the time this volume was published in early 2011, I choose to interpret Dan Brown's frontispiece not as a misguided tie-in to a popular television series, but rather as a heartfelt homage to an actor whose tragic death would inevitably occur a few months after the book's publication.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2011):

Time and Again, by Jack Finney


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2013):

The African Queen, by C.S. Forester (frontispiece by Dan Brown)

This is yet another volume in that subset of the Reader's Choice series that, for lack of a name, we might call: "Books Eclipsed by the Immensely Popular Movies That They Inspired." Because these books* are all first-time publications for Easton Press, I suspect that this category is being intentionally cultivated as each year's Reader's Choice list is compiled. This particular edition appears to have been designed to be a shelf-buddy to the Easton Press edition of The Mark of Zorro (which, like this book, was published as part of the Reader's Choice V set). Not only are both books the same size, but both also have very similar cover layouts—each featuring an image unforgettably associated with the movie, centered over a rectangular rug or tapestry whose pattern reflects the cultural mise-en-scène (in this case, an African tribal pattern).

The steam launch pictured on both the front cover and frontispiece will, of course, be instantly recognizable to three generations of moviegoers. I was going to write four generations, but thought that I had better first test this out on my 21-year-old daughter. So I showed her the cover of this book and asked her if it reminded her of anything. Pause. Nothing. So I opened the book up to the frontispiece. Nothing still, at first...then, finally, after a glance at the title page..."I knew it!!—that's one of the boats from the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland." Indeed. The original Jungle Cruise boats were modeled after this iconic vessel—one was even christened African Queen. As I said, three generations.

The frontispiece painting (reproduced in full-color on glossy paper) appears to be based on this frame from the movie. Of course, there have been some modifications—the foliage on the horizon, the parasol (which appears in the movie, although not in this shot), and the smoke from the steamer were all added by the artist. So, obviously, was the enormous foreground reflection of a German WWI battle ensign. It's almost possible to imagine oneself onboard the Königin Luise as it bears down on Rose and Charlie. For those who know the movie well enough to imagine this, however, you probably also remember that, in this scene, the Queen is fleeing the Louisa into the tall reeds to the right of this frame. The German gunboat should be on the open lake to the Queen's stern—off to the left of the picture (to see this for yourself, fast-forward the film 1 hour, 26 minutes and 59 seconds). Now, the only boat that would have been in position to cast that large a reflection was the camera boat that was filming the movie! Rather than try and bend my mind around this anachronistic absurdity, I'll just imagine this picture (the book's only illustration) to be a conceptual collage.

*When The African Queen was sent out to subscribers in early 2011, this subset included Ben-Hur, From Here to Eternity, Jaws, Planet of the Apes, Lost Horizons, Good-Bye Mr. Chips and The Mark of Zorro. One could also argue for the inclusion of Breakfast at Tiffany's, Zorba the Greek and And Then There Were None, though these books were written by authors of such stature that I can't imagine them ever being fully "eclipsed" by their cinematic offspring.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2011):

The Magus, by John Fowles (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2014):

Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2008):

The Princess Bride, by William Goldman (frontispiece by Deborah Chabrian)

For the Reader's Choice VI set, Easton Press created a beautiful edition of William Goldman's imaginative adaptation of S. Morgenstern's classic tale of high adventure. This book, which was published with the permission of Harcourt, is the first time that this title has been available from Easton Press. The frontispiece, which was created especially for this edition by master watercolorist Deborah Chabrian,* depicts the landscape of Florin with all three of its aspects—urban, rural and wild—in close proximity (it is not without thematic relevance, I suppose, that the unruly patch of buttercups depicted in the foreground is unmistakably a part of the wild).

The book also includes a useful two-page map of Florin & Guilder, with labels for geographical locations (such as Giant Eel Bay and the Fire Swamp), structures of interest (like Westley's Hovel and Miracle's Max's Hut), points that are important to the plot (including the spot where the man in black duels with Inigo Montoya and the site of the picnic where he battles wits with the Sicilian) and even important props (such as the rope hanging from the Cliffs of Insanity and the wheelbarrow outside the Zoo of Death). Other than the frontispiece, this map is the book's only illustration.

Stamped deeply into the book's dark teal cover is a large rectangular frame comprised of 72 small asymmetrical ringlets, each resembling a tiny tendril, rotated in the four ordinal directions and arranged end-to-end in the Florintian style. The outer portion of this frame is a gilded simulacrum of the frames that appear on the book's "chapter pages"—a pattern loosely based on architectural decorations in Florin City—and is one of several details taken from the pages of S. Morgenstern's original edition of the book. On the cover of the RC edition, this frame is lined by a double rectangle, bisected at the top and bottom by a small palmette with tendrils extending from each side. This palmette, a figure that is closely associated with the royal house of Florin†, is also the primary decorative device within the text itself. These same elements appear—in different configurations—on the book's spine.

Now, within this classic Florintian frame, the designer of the cover for the Reader's Choice edition has constructed a large diamond-shaped lattice using another 72 instances of the same tedril motif. The arrangement of these motifs into cardinally-rotated clusters, however, is not typical of the Florintian style—in fact, the gilt additions evoke more the Moorish influence in Spain than Florin's influence among the Italian city states. You need only compare the tight geometry of the central figure with the leisurely meander of the framing flora to appreciate the clash between the two aesthetics. However, although purists might consider this cultural miscegenation to be an artistic abomination, I feel confident that most of us will agree that these small indiscretions do not detract from the innate beauty of this otherwise authentic cover design.

*Chabrian, although she may be unfamiliar to EP enthusiasts, has done work for EP before. She created, for instance, both the color frontispiece and the black-and-white illustrations for the edition of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar that is included in the Great Books of the 20th Century series.

†Long believed to have been a stylized representation of Buttercup's tiara, it is only in recent years that scholars have conclusively demonstrated the Florintian palmette to be a modern refinement of a decorative motif of Etruscan origin.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2011):

Desert Gold, by Zane Grey


She, by H. Rider Haggard (artwork by Frank Kelly Freas)

This book from the Reader's Choice IV collection is a near-exact reprint of the same title from the Masterpieces of Science Fiction series—even the covers are the same! (although the MoSF edition would have paper endpapers, of course). Executed using the stylized pictorial approach that was adopted for many books in that series (cf. The Alteration), the cover depicts Ayesha, the immortal queen of the lost kingdom of Kôr, in her two vital aspects: as a sensuous femme fatale (a woman so beautiful that any man who sees her immediately falls under her spell) and as the 2000 year-old sorceress (and queen of the dead) who rules over her kingdom as She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed.

The frontispiece painting, which was created by the beloved science fiction and fantasy illustrator Frank Kelly Freas, features an idealized portrait of the true She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed—Freas's wife Laura!! The book has no other illustrations, which is thoroughly consistent with EP's de facto policy of reprinting illustrated editions whenever feasible, yet never themselves commissioning anything more than a frontispiece and a cover. The original She was serialized in The Graphic—a folio-sized weekly magazine that was created specifically for the presentation of engravings—accompanied by illustrations by the Victorian artist Edward Killingworth Johnson (which were also included in the first American edition of 1886). You'd think that, like the engravings of Gustave Doré, these illustrations would be in the public domain by now (are you listening Easton Press?).

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2009):

The Man without a Country, by Edward Everett Hale (illustrations by Edward A. Wilson; frontispiece by Edward Acuna)

I own not only the Reader's Choice IV edition of this book, but also editions published by Easton Press in 1979 (as part of the Masterpieces of American Literature series) and by Heritage Press in 1960. All three of these books are reprints of an edition created for the Limited Editions Club in 1936 (with its copyright renewed in 1964, a date that appears on the copyright page of both EP editions). Other than the spines, which at first glance are very similar, the books have three thoroughly different cover designs (the exterior design of the HP book matching that of the original LEC edition). Opinions will undoubtedly differ over which Easton Press edition is better.* The symmetrical scrollwork of the 1979 edition (which is noticeably larger than the RC book) will appeal to collectors of older EP titles—in particular because it is a singularly impressive example of this style (cp., for instance, the cover of Livy's The History of Early Rome). The dark brown cover of the more compact Reader's Choice edition, on the other hand, depicts Phillip Nolan, in full uniform, standing on American soil for the last time, looking at the ship upon which he has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life. This poignant cover will, no doubt, be preferred by some collectors. (Trivia: the border of the RC cover is constructed out of repetitions of a small scroll figure—a figure that appears on the spine of both EP editions of this book).

As is often the case for Reader's Choice editions of titles previously published by EP, the interior layout is nearly identical to that of the earlier edition. In this case, the main difference is that the luxurious margins of the LEC/HP/MoAL editions have been trimmed to a more economical size in the RC book. There are also a half-dozen full-color illustrations, each printed on its own page; in the older books, however, the illustration take up only about two-thirds of the page. The Publisher's Introduction (often omitted from Reader's Choice reprints) indicates that the "specially commissioned" frontispiece portrait of Edward Everett Hale—reproduced in full color on plain paper in both of the EP volumes—was painted by Edward Acuna. In this case, specially commissioned appears to mean "commissioned by Easton Press in 1979 for the MoAL edition" (since the frontispiece does not appear in the LEC or Heritage Press editions).

*To be fair, I must confess that I prefer the cover design of the LEC/HP edition to that of both Easton Press editions. On it, tooled in stunning relief, is a map of North and Central America with the United States missing. For those of you who might be interested in picking up one these editions, I should point out that the relief is not quite as impressive on the HP volume (which appears to be bound in leatherette) than the LEC edition (whose cover, I have no doubt, is genuine leather).

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2010):

Pictures of Masterpieces of American Literature edition (1979):

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (1960):

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition (1936):

Family bookstack:

Note: Although my limited photography skills (including those exercised in Photoshop after-the-fact) are improving with time, they remain more or less ad hoc (or, in a word—inconsistent). So, when comparing the photos for these three editions, please recognize that my methods unintentionally tend to exaggerate minor differences. For various reasons, it is wise to assume that illustrations in Heritage Press publications better capture the quality of the originals from the Limited Editions Club (her sister press) than do those from Easton Press (who is more of a step-sister). The illustrations in the Masterpieces of American Literature edition are noticeably darker than the pics in the HP book (though not as dark as in my photos), yet are equally saturated. The pictures in the Reader's Choice book, on the other hand, are considerably less saturated (and thus a little more "musty") than those in the other two books; they do, however, capture the relative brightness of the HP illustrations.

Edited: Oct 15, 2016, 6:35pm Top

Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy (illustrations by Agnes Miller Parker)

Among the many gems of the George Macy* collection are five novels by Thomas Hardy—all gorgeously illustrated with wood engravings by Agnes Miller Parker. Two of these books (The Return of the Native and Jude the Obscure) are available from Easton Press in the 100 Greatest Books Ever Written series. Although the other three (Tess of the D'Urbervilles, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Far From the Madding Crowd) were all—at one time or another—included in the Collector's Library of Famous Editions, it has been many years since any of these books have been available from EP. The Reader's Choice V edition of Far From the Madding Crowd is a reprint of the classic edition that was created for the Limited Editions Club in 1958, offered by Heritage Press in 1977 and included in the Collector's Library of Famous Editions in 1983 (although, curiously, the only date listed on the copyright page of the RC-V edition is 1999).

Collectively, the nineteen full-page wood engravings that Parker contributed to this justifiably famous edition succesfully capture the conflicting ideals that inform Hardy's novel of pastoral passion. Whether depicting the seasonal toils of the local shepherdry, or those unique moments when fate forces a life-changing decision, the tempestuous energy of these marvelous illustrations provides the perfect complement to Hardy's ambivalent portrayal of country life.

In the "Notes from the Archives" that were included with the Famous Edition of this book, Easton Press writes, "Just as the purchaser of a painting or piece of sculpture is entitled to know of its provenance, you—as a collector of fine editions—are entitled to know the other details of this volume's physical makeup."† These notes offer interesting facts about not only the physical characteristics of the book, but also various participants in its creation. For example, we learn that cover designer Jonathan Talbot (who has contributed to several other Reader's Choice editions) is also "a versatile musician, specializing in classical guitar." For the cover of this book, Talbot created an abstract geometric design based on a cross-hatch pattern that imitates the textures of woven leaves. Stamped into warm brown cowhide (or, for the RC edition, dark blue pigskin), this design evokes a yearning for rural simplicity, yet frames this nostalgia in a distinctly modern context.

Interestingly, EP decided to redesign the spine for the Reader's Choice edition, adding a fourth hub to the Famous Edition's three (the new hub replaces the rectangular "false hub" that appears above the title on the Famous Edition. The cross-hatch emblem that appears below the bottom hub has been split into two halves, the first of which appears above the new hub at the top of the spine. Four thin horizontal lines have been added above and below both the book's title and the illustrator's name (both of which are now more closely spaced). Finally, the E/P emblem, which did not appear on the spine of the Famous Edition volume, has been incorporated into the lower half-emblem. Surprisingly, all gilding on the Reader's Choice edition is slightly thicker than that on the Famous Edition—this is particularly noticeable with the letters on the spine, which appear less fragile than those on the older book. In my opinion, these changes are all improvements that have increased the beauty of this already beautiful volume (and, with the additional gilding on the spine, EP has actually added to the book's overall gold content!!).

*George Macy, founder of both the Limited Editions Club and Heritage Press, commissioned many of the classic editions that were later published by Easton Press.


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2010):

Pictures of Famous Edition (1983):

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (1977):

With the exception of the title/copyright page, the color of the leather, and the small improvements to the cover (described above), the Reader's Choice book is exactly the same as my copy from the Collector's Library of Famous Editions—the two books are the same size, share the same cover design (other than the spine), and have identical illustrations. In short, this is an excellent opportunity to pick up a book of (at least) Famous Editions quality at a Reader's Choice price.

The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall)

A creepy cover for a creepy book. Featuring a Death's Head Hawkmoth as its sole cover image, the Reader's Choice edition of The Silence of the Lambs encapsulates multiple aspects of this haunting crime novel—mystery, forensics, psychosis, horror—into a single unforgettable emblem. Although this moth appears on the cover of most editions of the book, there is nevertheless something particularly arresting about its appearance here, gilt-stamped onto jet black leather. The central image—large enough that we can see the skull on the moth's thorax—is enclosed in a frame of concentric rectangles, the outermost of which is lined by a series of small moth-shaped silhouettes (both images also appear on the book's spine).

Ironically, although this moth is so closely associated with this story that its image alone is enough to conjure up discomforting memories of serial killer Buffalo Bill, the Death's Head Hawkmoth does not actually appear anywhere in Harris's novel. The moth featured in the book is a Black Witch—a huge nocturnal moth (often as large as a human hand) that is widely considered a portent of death throughout Mexico and the Caribbean. For the 1991 film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs, director Jonathan Demme famously opted to use the Death's Head,* rather than the Black Witch; the impetus behind the switch, however, can be traced back to the first edition of the book, where a Death's Head Hawkmoth appears on the cover.

For the Reader's Choice IX edition of Silence—the first time that EP has published this book—artist Dennis Lyall has contributed frontispiece artwork that depicts the novel's triumvirate of memorable figures: psychopath killer Hannibal Lecter, FBI Academy student Clarice Starling, and (represented by the moth) sociopath killer Buffalo Bill. The most dominant feature of this illustration is the large, gruesome splatter of blood that takes up most of the background. Emerging from the depths of this splatter is a handcuffed Hannibal Lecter, an oversized image of a Death's Head Hawkmoth hovering behind his left shoulder like an acolyte. In the upper left corner of the composition we see Clarice Starling, drenched in shadow, her gun at the ready in the book's climactic scene where the hunter becomes the hunted.

*Perhaps the most memorable image associated with The Silence of the Lambs is the grainy black & white picture of a woman with stunning hazel-colored eyes and a harvest-hued Death's Head Hawkmoth covering her mouth. This image has appeared on posters used to advertise the movie, as well as on the covers of VHS, Laserdisc, DVD and Blu-Ray releases of the film. What many people do not realize, however, is that the skull on the moth's thorax in this image is actually a tiny reproduction of the living skull from In Voluptas Mors—a photographic portrait of Salvador Dali in which the artist shares the frame with seven nude women whose bodies are draped across each other to form the appearance of a skull. (This, of course, has nothing to do with the Reader's Choice edition of The Silence of the Lambs; it is simply one of those salacious details that one cannot help sharing.)

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2014):

A Bell for Adano, by John Hersey (frontispiece by Richard Sparks)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2015):

Hiroshima, by John Hersey

This book was included in the set of Reader's Choice Non-Fiction Titles published by Easton Press in 2007. Like several of the titles in this set, it has no illustrations and no frontispiece. Its cover, however, is truly unique. Depicting origami swans against the international symbol for "radiation," this poetic cover is one of my favorites. It does not appear that this title has been previously published by EP (the special contents are copyright 2007), although in Easton Press books, the copyright page is not always a clear indication of an edition's provenance.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse (frontispiece by unspecified artist)

Neither too worldly nor too ascetic, this beautiful edition of Siddhartha from the Reader's Choice III set (which is, I believe, the first time that this title has been published by Easton Press) may well be the perfect vehicle for following the serial epiphanies of the book's protagonist. The attractive cover design imitates the graceful curves and intricate ornamentation of Mughal architecture. Other than the book's ornate cover and the full-page glossy frontispiece—which pictures Siddhartha standing in the river that had taught him what he could not learn from the Buddha himself—there are no other decorations to distract you from your own vicarious quest for enlightenment.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2008):

The Eagle Has Landed, by Jack Higgins


Good-bye, Mr. Chips, by James Hilton (frontispiece by Richard Sparks)

The first book to ship in the Reader's Choice V set, this sentimental bestseller from the 1930's is yet another book that is known today for the movie(s) that it inspired. Symbolically isolated at the center of the mocha-colored cover is a tiny mortarboard with tassle, surrounded by a forest of small figures that are equally arboreal and conflagrant. To my mind's eye, the cap represents Brookfield, with its "rampart of ancient elms," simultaneously protected from the modern world and a focal part for speculation on its horrors. The book's sole illustration is a full-page glossy frontispiece portrait of Mr. Chipping, depicting the elderly schoolmaster formally arrayed in cap, gown and muffler.

On the title page of the Reader's Choice volume, the title itself is reproduced exactly as it appeared on the jacket and title page of early editions of the book. Most elements of the book's interior design—including not only the large and spacious text layout, but also the hand-drawn chapter numbers and flourishes—match exactly those of the edition from Little, Brown and Co. (the only real difference being that all of the original illustrations have been removed). This is the first time this book has been published by Easton Press.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2010):

Lost Horizon, by James Hilton (frontispiece by Dan Brown)

This volume, published in 2010 as part of the Reader's Choice IV set, represents Easton Press's first excursion to Shangri-La. Both the cover and frontispiece depict the same scene — the hijacked private plane of the Maharaja of Chandrapore, flying at night through the Himalayas near Tibet to the Kunlun mountain range where the utopian valley is supposedly located. Other than the full-page glossy frontipiece by Dan Brown, this book has no other illustrations. Two pages prior to the half title (several pages before the title page), there is an "About the Author" page (reproduced below) which, although common enough in the book world, is very unusual to find at the front of an Easton Press publication.

Details from the front and back covers (the plane, the moon and the mountain) are repeated on the book's spine. The splashes of gilt used to "color in" the glacial mountainsides make the cover perfect for comparing the two types of gilding used on all Easton Press books. The gilding on the spine is 22K gold; the gilding on the front and back covers is...well...something else. You can see the difference if you hold the book up to the light and open it so that you can examine the front cover and spine at the same time. (My apologies to any of you who didn't realize...)

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2010):

The Prisoner of Zenda, by Anthony Hope (illustrations by Donald Spencer)


Pictures of Reader's Choice Edition (2009):


Pictures of Famous Edition:

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition:

The Lottery and Other Stories, by Shirley Jackson (frontispiece by unspecified artist)

Reproduced on this book's full-page glossy frontispiece is a painting of a patch of barren land upon which lie a number of large stones—some rough-hewn, others natural—all bearing the tell-tale stains of their terrible history. Superimposed over this scene is the image of a folded sheet of white paper that has been opened to reveal a blotch of black ink. If you are unfamiliar with the premise of this collection's classic title story, then this painting's imagery may be provocative, yet perplexing. Contributed by an artist whose name is not given, the frontispiece is unfortunately the only illustration in this volume from the Reader's Choice III set. The abstract cover design features a suitably creepy pattern, comprised of the recurrence and clustering of three small thorn-like motifs, embedded (shallowly) into dark green leather.

Although this edition (published with the permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux) marks the first time that these stories have been published by Easton Press, Jackson's novel The Haunting of Hill House is available from EP in the Horror Classics collection.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2009):

The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, selected and edited by Saul K. Padover (illustrations by Lynd Ward)

This book, with the same cover design and illustrations, has been bouncing back and forth between Easton Press collections for some time now. To a certain extent, you can tell the collection the book is from by the color of its leather. If you see a copy with a red cover (an edition commonly found on eBay), then it is inevitably from the Library of the Presidents. I used to own an older copy with a grey leather cover from the Masterpieces of American Literature series (I now own an even older copy from that series bound in dark brown leather). The current medium brown-covered edition debuted in 2008 with the Reader's Choice Non-Fiction Titles (2007).

Three copyright dates appear in the Reader's Choice edition of this book. The first (1967) predates the existence of Easton Press by about a decade. This is the date of the original publication of this edition by both the Limited Editions Club and Heritage Press. It is also the only date on the copyright page of the MoAL volume—a book printed by Easton Press in the late 70s or early 80s. The second date (1995) documents EP's renewal of the original copyright (28 years after the book's initial publication). The third date (2008), which of course marks the publication of the Reader's Choice edition, was actually unnecessary, since this edition contains no special contents that were not previously published in the MoAL edition (whose protection should continue until the year 2062!!).

Having owned numerous copies of this book (all with the exact same cover design), you'd think that I would have recognized that the pattern stamped onto the cover (which, according to the introduction, was "created exclusively for this edition") had been shanghaied into service with an extremely popular book in another series. In 1980—one year after the Easton Press introduced the Masterpieces of American Literature series—the original cover of one of the 100 Greatest Books Ever Written was replaced with a new one based on this same design. I didn't notice this until I began preparing for this review. Take a look at the cover of the Jefferson book and then compare it with the ornamental design (created by graphic artist Richard Traunig) that graces the boards of this classic edition of Wuthering Heights. As evidence, I submit for your consideration the following three exhibits: side-by-side close-ups from the lower-right corners, middle edges, and spines of the two books. You be the judge.

Lynd Ward's illustrations for this book are in that monumental, patriotic style that was used to adorn grade school history texts back in the 1960's. Jefferson himself looks like a nickel come to life. There are sixteen or so two-color lithographs, in black and blue,* as well as numerous monochrome drawings. A full-page lithograph precedes each major writing or document. For instance, the picture of four children—of various races—all basking in rays of blue light that exude from a large stack of books floating above their heads on a bed of flowers (gee...I wonder if the imagery is meant to be symbolic...?) precedes "A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge."

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

Pictures of Masterpieces of American Literature edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (II):

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (I):

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition:

*The blue coloring in the lithographs from the Reader's Choice volume is noticeably lighter than in those from the Masterpieces of American Literature edition—a difference that is perhaps unfairly exaggerated in these photographs, where the lighter shade of blue hardly registers. However, although the shades of blue are different, the overall quality of the illustrations is comparable.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, by Dorothy M. Johnson


From Here to Eternity, by James Jones


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition:

Pictures of Collector's Edition:

Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis (frontispiece by unspecified artist)

The decorative motifs on the cover of this Reader's Choice III volume (a first-time publication for Easton Press) will be immediately recognized by most readers as being of Greek origin. The anthemia (or palmettes) around the perimeter are similar to those on the EP editions of Plato's Republic and the Politics and Poetics of Aristotle. Perhaps the most recognizably Greek element, however, is the broken meander that appears in the central figure and inner border. Variations of this pattern—also known as a Greek key—are, of course, very common on the covers of books from or about ancient Greece. For fun, test your EP knowledge by matching the following five Greek key patterns to the Easton Press book upon whose cover it appears:
Greek Key 1 | Greek Key 2 | Greek Key 3 | Greek Key 4 | Greek Key 5

a. The Odyssey (Homer)
b. Dialogues on Love and Friendship (Plato)
c. Medea, Hippolytus, The Bachae (Euripides)
d. Argonautica (Apollonius Rhodes)
e. Mythology: Myths, Legends and Fantasies
Anyway, back to our book. The Apollonian symmetry of the classic Greek cover pattern is perfectly suited to the intellectual self-containment of the book's scholarly narrator, whose well-ordered life is both challenged and forever changed after he comes in contact with Alexis Zorba's Dionysian zest for life. The anonymous frontispiece—the book's only illustration—depicts Zorba on the beach in Crete, dancing (by himself) with a bottle of wine in his hand. Surprisingly introspective, the Zorba-principle is depicted here as an Epicurean celebration of the self, rather than as an outburst of Rabelaisian elán. (You were all thinking exactly the same thing, right?)

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2009):

The Story of My Life, by Helen Keller (frontispiece by unspecified artist)

I used to own a copy of this book, bound in deep red leather, that was part of the Easton Press Library of Great Lives. Unfortunately, I had picked up the book second-hand and it suffered from foxing, so I ordered a replacement copy from the Reader's Choice Non-Fiction Titles (2007). I was pleased to discover that the Reader's Choice edition has the exact same cover design as the 1988 Great Lives edition, the only difference being that the book is bound in green leather rather than red. I later picked up another copy of the earlier edition (pictured below), bound in reddish-brown leather. For both editions, the cover design, which ironically resembles a large Rorschach inkblot, is deeply stamped into the leather—not as deeply as for some of the books in the 100 Greatest Books and Famous Editions series, but more deeply than is customary for a Reader's Choice title.

This book has no illustrations other than the glossy, full-color portrait of Helen Keller at the beginning of the book (the artist, unfortunately, remains unnamed). One unusual feature of this edition is that this portrait appears opposite the half title, rather than the title page. The interior elements of the Reader's Choice edition match exactly those of the Great Lives edition, with two small exceptions. On each book's title page, "The Story of My Life" is printed using ink that matches the color of the binding.* Moreover, in the earlier book, there is a statement at the end of the Foreword indicating that it had been "written expressly for The Easton Press Library of Great Lives" edition. Not surprisingly, this statement has been omitted from the Reader's Choice reprint of the book.

*Which naturally makes me wonder...in my original "foxy" copy, was the title was printed in red?

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

Pictures of Library of Great Lives edition (1988):

Family bookstack:

The colors on the two frontispieces are almost exactly the same (much closer than they appear in my photos). The pink background on the Reader's Choice edition is perhaps the slightest bit lighter than that in the Great Lives book—a barely distinguishable difference that is probably not even worth mentioning...

Edited: Oct 31, 2015, 12:54pm Top

Profiles in Courage, John F. Kennedy

Written by John F. Kennedy when he was a senator, this book was previously published by Easton Press in 1992 as part of a matching set of five books written by John and Robert Kennedy:
The Enemy Within (Robert F. Kennedy)
Just Friends and Brave Enemies (Robert F. Kennedy)
Nation of Immigrants (John F. Kennedy)
Profiles of Courage (John F. Kennedy)
Why England Slept (John F. Kennedy)
For each book, the title and author name are gilt-stamped onto the front cover, surrounded by a frame pierced at each of its four corners by an inward thrusting flourish. An ornate symbol—different for each book—appears in the center of the cover, at each corner of the frame, and three times on the spine. The books are bound in dark blue leather with two patches of red leather on the spine.

When Profiles in Courage was reprinted for the Reader's Choice Non-Fiction Titles (2007), the same cover design was used — the only difference being that the RC edition was printed using a single color leather (dark blue). I imagine that serious collectors of historical or presidential volumes will probably want to either chase down a full set or collect the individual volumes from that set (all with the two-toned leather). Unfortunately, other than the text itself, the RC edition gives us very little to get excited about; the book has no illustrations, no frontispiece, no special introduction and no red leather on the spine (so it would look odd if used to complete the set).* In fact, I'm not sure why I bought this book myself (oh yeah...it probably had something to do with that addiction thing).

*Perhaps in partial atonement for this, Easton Press published a matching edition of Let Every Nation Know, bound in the same monotone blue as the Reader's Choice Profiles.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

Captains Courageous, by Rudyard Kipling


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2013):

Kim, by Rudyard Kipling (illustrations by Robin Jacques)

It's difficult to offer a harsh critique of a book that you know many collectors would be pleased to own. Generally speaking, I don't like to rain on anyone's parade. Occasionally, however, Easton Press reprints a book that falls so short of the mark set by earlier copies of that same edition that I feel obliged to overcome my critical reticence. Such is the case with the latest incarnation of Kim, one of the last books to ship in the Reader's Choice VIII set. This volume is ostensibly a reprint of a book that Easton Press published in the mid-1980's (in the Collector's Library of Famous Editions), which was itself a leather-bound reprint of an edition published twenty years earlier by both the Limited Editions Club and Heritage Press. The book's copyright page lists the original copyright (1962), its renewal twenty-eight years later (1990) and the date of the Reader's Choice edition (2013).

The 2013 Kim is an attractive, well-executed volume that should please anyone who is not familiar with the earlier Easton Press edition of this book. Unfortunately, the Reader's Choice book differs significantly from the Famous Editions copy in a number of ways, ranging from the usual (and thus not unexpected) downsizing to some profoundly disappointing omissions. The cherry on top, so to speak, is one inexplicable discrepancy that—once you are aware of it—is as frustrating as it is confounding.

Let's speak first of the downsizing. As I have mentioned for other books in the Reader's Choice series, I usually consider margin-shaving to be one of the less objectionable means of keeping costs in check.* Now, although the height and width of each page in the RC book have been trimmed by about a half-inch (with the size of the print space remaining the same), the reduced margins do not feel uncomfortable—even when compared to the more luxurious margins of the Famous Editions volume. To make this work, a few of the illustrations—in particular, the drawings that appear in the book's margins—have been scaled down to fit the smaller page size. It's all very nicely done; I may not even have noticed if one of the pictures hadn't been moved to a different page. The small drawing of a sweeper that appears in the lower left margin of page 98 in the Famous Edition has been moved to page 95 in the Reader's Choice book, where it now resides—in reduced size—beside the chapter heading. The three-color frontispiece (which is printed on the same paper as the rest of the book) is also slightly smaller. This is the first time that I remember EP reducing illustration sizes for one of their publications. Nevertheless, if these had been the only modifications, I would have had nothing but praise for how Easton Press handled this edition.

What disappoints me most about the Reader's Choice version of Kim is that all but one of the fifteen color plates by British illustrator Robin Jacques (which were commissioned for the Limited Editions Club and then reproduced—with a reduced, less saturated palette—in both the Heritage Press and Famous Editions volumes) were left out. Omitted. Not included. Zilched. This is particularly sad since other, more elaborately illustrated editions have previously been reprinted as Reader's Choice books without significant omissions (The Swiss Family Robinson and The Art of Love come immediately to mind). Anyone who, having seen a picture of this book, may have recognized that the cover is based on that of the Famous Editions volume would be sadly mistaken if they were to conclude that this is a faithful reprint. Instead, we have been given a book whose only remaining color illustration is the frontispiece. Perhaps the good folks back in Connecticut were banking on nobody ever comparing the two books; after all, collectors not familiar with the earlier volume would never know what they're missing...right?

Which brings us to the most confounding discrepancy of all—one for which no explanation can suffice: the cover pattern was printed upside down! Now, if the cover were to have featured an abstract motif, this could easily have been dismissed as a creative variant. Unfortunately, the design on the cover is "allusive" (to quote the "Notes from the Archives" that accompanied the Famous Editions volume). The individual figures—each an amalgam of two elephant heads and a cupula-topped tower—are virtually unrecognizable in their inverted state. So, rather than admiring how the vertical symmetry of the tower suggests its image in a reflecting pool, or noting that the figures had been re-drawn for the RC book with slightly different dimensions, we instead find ourselves reflecting upon how Easton Press could have let an error this egregious slip through the cracks. Is it actually possible that noone involved with the production of this book realized that there were eighty elephants on the cover? Perhaps this was a manufacturing error; if so, did it slip through undetected or was it a "management decision" to release the books anyway? None of these possibilities reflect well upon the current state of things at Easton Press—and I, for one, will be reminded of this every time I look at this book.

*We must remember that the Reader's Choice series is a "budget" series, offering books for $20 less than the price of books in the Collector's Library of Famous Editions when that series was discontinued in 2010.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2013):

Pictures of Famous Edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (1962):

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition (1962):

Family bookstack:

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, by Ernest J. B. Kirtlan (decorated by Frederic Lawrence)

Having previously published his translations of The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, Beowulf, and The Fall of Arthur, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that, for the Reader's Choice IX edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Easton Press did not select J.R.R. Tolkien's translation (first published posthumously in 1975) of this great 14th century romance. In fact, Tolkien has been a cash cow for EP, so it's surprising that the Tolkien Gawain was not issued in a separate, higher-priced edition. But no. For their first publication of this classic title, EP selected the Reverend Ernest J. B. Kirtlan's 1912 rendering into "Modern" English prose—a selection I suspect was based more on that edition's extensive decoration and agreeable illustrations than on the quality of the translation.

For each of the book's 101 sections, there is an large initial (designed by the translator's friend Frederic Lawrence). The initials starting off each of the four cantos are considerably larger than the rest, with a jumbo-sized "M" also beginning the 50-page introduction. Morover, for the first canto there is a large illuminated figure presenting the title of the book; smaller decorative banners—each with their own initial—announce each subsequent canto (there also being one for the introduction). That makes 107 decorative elements—not counting the illustrations! There is some repetition, of course; the letter "T", for instance, begins nearly a third of the sections, the same image being used for each. The overall impression is somewhat of a cross between the hand-decoration of a medieval manuscript (executed in black & white) and the Pre-Raphaelite illumination of books printed by Kelmscott Press at the end of the previous century, some twenty years prior to the publication of Kirtlan's Gawain in London by Charles H. Kelly.

Of the book's five illustrations (one of which appears as the frontispiece), two really stand out. The first shows an armored Gawain mounted on a richly caparisoned horse, holding a jousting lance and a kite shield emblazoned with a pentagram—an image that would feel right at home in the Rider-Waite tarot deck. A reworked version of this image appears on the book's cover, where it is gilt-stamped onto both amber-colored boards and engirdled by a vinelike meander. The book's final illustration shows a contrite Gawain kneeling with his helmet in his hands and his sword on the ground beside him as the Green Knight lifts his axe high into the air in preparation for the ultimate, epic blow. Standing on his toes to maximize downward accelleration and force, his long hair and elegant robes swept up in vigorous anticipation, the Green Knight embodies Fate in its dual aspects—as inescapable destiny and as the consequences of free will.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2014):

A Separate Peace, by John Knowles (frontispiece by Alan Phillips)

This book was required reading when I was in high school—and also when my daughter was in high school. At least a generation of American students have bought and read an inexpensive paperback edition of this book. Despite this, I suspect that not only do very few of us still own the copy that we read in high school, but very few of us even remember what happened to it (let alone what happened in it). Now, for the first time in its history, Easton Press offers us the opportunity to replace our long lost copy with a deluxe, leatherbound edition—a book that very few of us are likely to ever misplace.

On the cover and frontispiece of the Reader's Choice II edition we find the same symbols—the chapel, the river and, of course, the tree—that we wrote about in our high school essays (and that countless students continue to write about each year). The book's single illustration, on the full-page glossy frontispiece, takes this symbolism one step further with the addition of a single autumn leaf which, having become separated from its branch, remains frozen—like a haunting memory from our youth—in the midst of its brief descent to the ground.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2008):

Dangerous Liaisons, by Choderlos de Laclos (illustrations by Chas Laborde)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2013):

Pictures of Famous Edition (1986):

Pictures of Nonesuch Press edition (1940):

Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence (illustrations by Richard Miller)

Published in 2008 as part of the Reader's Choice II set, this book is a reprint of an edition published twenty years earlier (according to the copyright page). With its burgundy leather cover and art deco-inspired design, it was created to be a companion volume to the edition of Lady Chatterly's Lover currently included in the 100 Greatest Books Ever Written series. A third volume by Lawrence, Women in Love, is available from EP in the Great Books of the 20th Century collection; however, although the book is the same size as the other two and is bound in matching burgundy leather, the book's cover design is notably different. The three books were previously available as the 'D.H. Lawrence 80th Anniversary" collection.

The illustrations for this edition consist of 5 pencil drawings by Richard Miller and a full-color glossy frontispiece portrait (of Lawrence, I presume). In comparison to the other two "companion" volumes (also illustrated by Miller), the Reader's Choice book has by far the fewest illustrations. Also, the frontispiece artist is not specified (unless, of course, it was by the same artist—although the frontispiece illustration is sufficiently different from the pencil drawings that this cannot be simply assumed).

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2008):

How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn (frontispiece by Dan Brown)

Its first appearance in luxurious Easton leather, this edition of Llewellyn's sentimental family saga was published in 2012 as part of the Reader's Choice VI set. Centered on the book's dark green boards are concentric groups of scroll-like tokens, creating a figure whose octagonal symmetry suggests calligraphy viewed through a kaleidoscope. Tokens from this figure also appear, laid lengthwise, within the clipped rectangular frieze that frames the composition. The result is very nice indeed—not only do the leaflike scrolls evoke the false idyll of the Welsh countryside, but the fine balance between variation and repetition on the book's cover perfectly suits this novel in which a single traditional family's struggles with syndication and attrition are representative of the fate of an entire community.

The scene depicted on the full-color, glossy frontispiece appears to have been at least partly inspired by this iconic publicity still for John Ford's 1941 film adaptation of the book. Artist Dan Brown de-sentimentalizes the scene, removing Gruffyd and Huw from the daffodil-lined bower and raising the "camera" angle so that the mining town of Cwm Rhondda can be seen in the valley below. The two figures no longer hold hands; instead, the coal mine itself is visible in the space that separates the minister who had once been a miner from the promising young man who will later be forced to abandon his studies to work in the mines. Overall, the image splits the difference between the nostalgic verdure conjured up by the older Huw and the black, slag-covered hills spread out before his eyes as he narrates his story.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2012):

Edited: Oct 15, 2016, 6:45pm Top

White Fang, by Jack London (illustrations by Lydia Dabcovich, frontispiece by Richard Sparks)

This book from the Reader's Choice I set is a reprint of an edition originally published by the Limited Editions Club in 1973 (copyright renewed in 2001) and by Heritage Press in 1974. It was later included in the Easton Press Masterpieces of American Literature series. My MoAL copy lists only the LEC date on the copyright page, so it is difficult to say precisely when it was printed (although, having marbled endpapers, it is clearly from one of the earlier runs of the series). The book's illustrations—described as "color linocuts" in the introduction, although the majority are black and white—are simultaneously whimsical and atmospheric, making this the perfect book for the high-schooler (or...ummm, ok...former high-schooler) who has a soft spot for the illustrated classics of their childhood.

Comparing the RC and MoAL printings of the book, the illustrations are nearly identical. There are slight differences in the color of the linocuts—hardly noticeable except in the blue ink (which in the MoAL book leans toward sky blue, whereas in the RC book it is more of a teal)—and minor variances in the hues of the frontispiece portrait (which, for both books, is printed on plain, rather than glossy, paper). The only difference to the interiors worth noting is that, in the earlier book, the pages that "announce" the different chapters (each with a small picture, along with the chapter number and name) have a dark beige background that covers the entire front side of the page. These pages are printed without the background color in the Reader's Choice edition.

Deeply stamped into the dark red leather of the book from the Masterpieces of American Literature series is a decorative pattern (created by Jonathan Talbot) that complements perfectly the unassuming charm of the book's illustrations. One can easily imagine this cover being inspired by Yukon folk art (an indigenous representation of snowflakes, perhaps??). One thing is for certain: the MoAL cover uses a lot of gilding. The cover of the Reader's Choice book, albeit more economical, is equally intriguing. The geometric design, which also feels inspired by folk art, situates a diamond within multiple rectangular frames. Lining the inner perimeter of both the central diamond and the outermost frame are a number of small tooth-shaped figures. If you imagine these to be canine teeth, then the cover's abstract design reveals itself to be thematic—a schematic representation of the gaping jaws of a wolf, confined within an even larger set of jaws constructed by nature's greatest predator.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

Pictures of Masterpieces of American Literature edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (1974):

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition (1973):

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, by Anita Loos


The Egg and I, by Betty MacDonald (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall)

The copyright page of this edition of The Egg and I—Betty MacDonald's humorous memoir of life on her husband's chicken farm—tells us that the book was first published in 1945 (with its copyright renewed twenty-eight years later). Two years after its initial publication, this immensely popular book was made into a hugely successful movie (which we can largely thank for esconcing the characters of Ma and Pa Kettle—as prototypical country bumpkins—into the American cultural imaginary). Published by special arrangement with HarperCollins, this book from the Reader's Choice VIII set represents the first appearance of this title in an Easton Press edition.

Gilt-stamped onto the book's caramel-colored cover is the unavoidable hen, framed by a double oval and three dozen small eggs. Surrounding this central figure is a larger rectangular frame, in the corners of which we find four slightly larger eggs (with their yolks showing). A smaller gold-plated chicken appears on the book's spine, surrounded by—you guessed it—another egg. On the spine you can also find four small eggs framing the book's title. All in all, there are three chickens and seven dozen (plus one) eggs on the cover of this book and (believe it or not) it doesn't look silly at all.

The book's sole illustration—the full-page, semi-glossy frontispiece painting by Dennis Lyall*—shows Betty performing the obligatory morning ritual of rural life...feeding the chickens. With her eyes raised to heaven as she offers alms to the pecking horde, Betty is depicted as the paradigmatic wifely martyr, the devoted helpmate who supports her husband in whatever endeavor (however far-fetched) he chooses to apply himself. Of course, it is precisely this attitude—a central tenet of the value system instilled in Betty by her parents in the early decades of the twentieth century—that is sent up so splendidly in this book. Lyall's frontispiece is not all irony, however; the forest and mountain range that appear in the background remind us—in the most beautiful manner possible—that MacDonald's farm was located on Washington's Olympic peninsula, not far from some of the last "unexplored" areas of the country.

*Actually, we're not told the artist's name (yet another instance of unexcusable oversight from a company that once proudly announced all contributors to a book's design). Fortunately, Lyall's signature is immediately recognizable (to those who notice such things)...so there you have it.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2013):

The Guns of Navarone, by Alistair MacLean (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2014):

Ice Station Zebra, by Alistair MacLean


Where Eagles Dare, by Alistair MacLean (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2015):

Mr. Midshipman Easy, by Frederick Marryat


The Four Feathers, by A.E.W. Mason (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall)

This book, which was included in the Reader's Choice III set, is a first-time publication for Easton Press. It has a "special contents" copyright date of 2009 (although the work itself, which was first published in 1902, is in the public domain). Embedded into the leather of its dark-blue cover are four star-like figures, each constructed out of sixteen (four sets of four) tiny feather-like shapes. Around these figures are a number of decorative borders, one of which is constructed out of repetitions of a similar four-feather pattern. All in all, there are 216 little feathers on the front cover, 216 on the back cover and 48 on the spine (counting half-feathers)—a total of 480 in all. In case you were wondering.

Opposite the title page, the full-page glossy frontispiece reproduces a painting by Dennis Lyall (whose work can be easily identified, if not by its style, then from the artist's distinctive signature). For those unfamiliar with Lyall's work (including numerous contributions to Easton Press publications), the frontispiece would appear to be of anonymous origin, since Easton Press for some reason does not mention any contributors other than the book's author. Once upon a time, everyone involved with the design of an Easton Press book was given credit—the cover designer, the person responsible for the interior layout, the creator of the typeface, the illustrator, the frontispiece artist, etc. This practice was carried over from the Limited Editions Club (and later, Heritage Press), which originally commissioned the "special contents" of many classic books now associated with Easton Press. In recent publications, however, EP has been much less consistent in their recognition of contributors' efforts. This is a shame in particular for this volume, since the frontispiece painting is not only impressive, but is also the only artwork in the book (other than the drawing of a feather that appears once on the title page and once on the half title-like page that follows the table of contents).

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2009):

Somewhere in Time, by Richard Matheson


The Moon and Sixpence, by W. Somerset Maugham


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition:

Pictures of Famous Edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press Edition:

The Razor's Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham (frontispiece by unspecified artist)

This fine edition of Maugham's obscurely (auto)biographical novel was published in 2009 (its first appearance in an Easton Press edition) as part of the Reader's Choice III set. The book's glossy, full-page frontispiece features a portrait of Tyrone Power, the actor who played Larry Darrell in the 1946 film adaptation of the novel (his image, it would seem, is based on this publicity still from the movie). Along with this portrait, the frontispiece depicts the two foci of Larry's lengthy search for meaningful experience: Paris (which is represented by the Eiffel Tower) and India (symbolized by what looks like a temple or monastery at the foot of the Himalayas). Unfortunately, we are not given to know either the name of the frontispiece artist or whether Larry is pictured before or after attaining Moksha (the Hindu equivalent of Nirvana).

The puzzles compound as we contemplate the book's exterior. For those of us who—not unlike Larry Darrell—are predisposed to search for significance (hoping to find, if not meaning, then at least a satisfying aptness), the abstract design on the cover of this Reader's Choice book would, at first glance, seem to defy interpretation. However, if there's one thing that I've learned from writing about the covers of these Easton Press books, it is that if one stares at something long enough, meaningful patterns will tend to emerge—if only out of the depths of one's own mind. (In the remarks that follow, please excuse my self-indulgent speculation.)

The most prominent aspect of this book's cover design is the almond-shaped figure that appears sixteen times on both the front and back of the book. This shape, which is known as a vesica piscis (or "fish bladder"), has long been a mainstay of both symbolic and practical geometry.* It provided the mathematical basis for the arc brisé (or "broken arch"), one of the defining characteristics of gothic architecture (as exemplified in the extensive ogive vaulting, the elaborate tympana crowning all major portals, and the pointed apices of colorful lancet windows). This figure's resemblance to the gothic arch—a shape that is closely associated with Paris (and loosely indicative, we might surmise, of the earlier "western" stages of Larry Darrell's quest for meaning)—is emphasized by its appearance on the book's spine as a golden tympanum crowning the book's title.

If we look even more closely at the cover, we notice that adjacent "almonds" are separated—both horizontally and vertically—by thin tendrils that split in two at each end and then curl back toward the center. These tendrils come together in the spaces between the primary figures to create a series of four-pointed stars, each with a small diamond in the center (this interstitial figure also appears once by itself on the book's spine). Miniature versions of this shape also appear (in triplicate) within each of the vesicae piscis. By concentrating on this shape—more ogee than ogive—we unlock the cover's more eastern aspect. I cannot say that this figure is unequivocally Indian (although that would resonate with the plot of this book); however, the play between the two shapes—almond and star—does resemble the shifting figuration of this Indian motif, in which the primary and secondary elements emerge and recede, depending upon where you focus your attention.

*Also known as a mandorla (the Italian word for almond), this shape is formed by overlapping two circles of equal radius so that the circumference of each passes through the epicenter of the other. Although, as a sacred symbol, the mandorla predates Christianity, we are today most familiar with its role in Christian iconography, where it is the shape most closely associated with Jesus (both as an aureola in sacred art and in the form of the ixthus).

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2009):

The Mark of Zorro, by Johnston McCulley (frontispiece by Richard Sparks)

Depicted on the cover of this Reader's Choice V volume is the eponymous initial of the book's protagonist, slashed into what appears to be a tapete zapoteco—a rug or tapestry woven on a traditional hand-operated loom in the Mexican state of Oaxaca (more specifically, the meandering motif reminds me of the Mitla-inspired textile patterns from the village of Teotitlán del Valle).

The book's frontispiece—a full-page, full-color glossy representation of a painting by longtime EP collaborator Richard Sparks—places you on the receiving end of Zorro's artistry. In addition to the frontispiece, there is a small drawing of Zorro's mask on the book's title page and a picture of his sword in the top margin of all but the first page in every chapter. This is the first time that this title has been printed by Easton Press.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2010):

Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller (frontispiece by Mahendra Singh)

The Reader's Choice I edition of Death of a Salesman (which shipped in the first half of 2007) has the same cover design as the signed edition of the book that was published by Easton Press in the Signed Modern Classics series in 2002. Other than the color of the leather (which for the RC book is dark gray, whereas the hide covering the earlier volume had been dyed a nice warm brown), the only difference in the two books' exteriors is located at the base of the spine, where the pattern is interrupted on the SMC edition to make room for the "Signed Edition" label. On the spine of the Reader's Choice edition, this label has been replaced by an additional hub (which, for what it's worth, leaves room for a slightly larger version of the E/P logo).

Now, imagine my surprise when, comparing the insides of these two editions, I discovered that they are two entirely different books. Not a single page is alike in these two Easton Press editions of this classic play—even the bastard title uses a different font! The Signed Modern Classic edition reprints (with the permission of Penguin Putnam) the 50th Anniversary edition of the book (1999). In addition to the play itself, it contains a new preface by Arthur Miller, an afterword by Christopher Bigsby, a chronology of the most significant productions of the play over its first fifty years, and eight pages of photographs—half from the original 1949 production and half from the 1999 Broadway revival. The only illustration (not counting the photos) is an image of Willy Loman, the titular salesman, ranting on the title page of that edition.

The Reader's Choice edition of the play—again published with the permission of Penguin Putnam—lacks the author's preface, photos and chronology that were included in the 50th Anniversary edition of the book. Christopher Bigsby's afterword has been moved to the front of the book (where it now serves as an introduction). The book's frontispiece depicts a barefoot Willy Loman alone in a room with his socks and his luggage. His body language suggests that of a man who, having had all his hopes and dreams slowly stripped away, has finally come face to face with his own mortality. Created especially for this edition by freelance pen-and-ink specialist Mahendra Singh, this candid and expressive portrait is the book's only illustration.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

Pictures of Signed Modern Classics edition (2002):

Family bookstack:

Logan's Run, by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson


Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell (frontispiece by Jonathan Talbot)

The cover of this book, one of the Reader's Choice Non-Fiction Titles (2007), features an intricate pattern that was perhaps inspired by the complex symmetries of traditional Spanish tiles. The more I stare at this cover, however, the more I see spades, hearts, clubs and diamonds. Although Orwell was, of course, no stranger to playing cards (remember the card game at the end of Animal Farm?), I am nevertheless hard-pressed to see how these symbols are relevant to this book. I'll chalk it all up to an overly-active imagination (mine).

The only artwork in this edition of the book (the first published by Easton Press) is the frontispiece illustration by collage artist Jonathan Talbot. Pictured on the frontispiece is a map of the Cataluña coast, over which has been superimposed the image and text from an actual afiche de reclutamiento (recruitment poster) of the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista—the Trotskyist political party in whose militia Orwell fought as a volunteer during the Spanish Civil War (an experience the recounting of which makes up the substance of this book).

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2008):

The Art of Love, by Ovid (illustrations by Eric Fraser)

Easton Press has done a lovely job with this book. As I write this, I can already hear a chorus of devotees crying out that the credit should go not to Easton Press, but rather to the George Macy companies, who commissioned this beautiful edition. Indeed, it was not until well after its original 1971 publication by the Limited Editions Club (and by Heritage Press two years later) that EP came out with their Collector's Edition of this book.* Now, in 2011, we have been treated to this beautiful Reader's Choice volume (one of the final books in the RC-V set). Easton Press should be applauded—not only for returning this wonderful edition to print, but also for having the good sense not to mess with a good thing.

A large part of this book's appeal can be attributed to Eric Fraser's fanciful illustrations, whose comicbook classicism and playful virility set the tone for the entire volume. For the Reader's Choice edition, EP has reproduced all thirty of these drawings (ten of which are full-page, two-color plates). On the book's cover, a small Roman lyre is gilt-stamped into the deep red leather, surrounded by a large frame whose intricate filigree complements the graceful curves and sharp points of the central image.

Another distinctive aspect of this edition—one immediately apparent as you begin to read it—is its extended use of stylistic ligature. The glyphs for the letter pairs st and ct, which are connected at the top by a small bridge, really stand out. Ligatures are also used, of course, to "clean up" several letter combinations that begin with an f (such as fi, fl, and ff)—although this practice is more or less ubiquitous in contemporary printing. All in all, the ligated typeface lends a pleasant strangeness to a text which, although it uses modern spelling, reads like an example of early typography.

*The copyright page of the Reader's Choice volume lists the dates of the original LEC publication (1971), the renewal of copyright 28 years later (1999) and its publication as a Reader's Choice selection (2011). In the Collector's Edition, only the original copyright (1971) is listed. Unfortunately, from these dates, it is impossible to tell when EP published the Collector's Edition of the book (although we might presume that it was sometime before the copyright was renewed in 1999).

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2011):

Pictures of Collector's Edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition:

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition:

Edited: Oct 15, 2016, 6:50pm Top

Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton (frontispiece by Peter Fiore)

The cover of this Reader's Choice I volume features a provocative figure-and-ground type design that, depending upon how you look at it, can be seen as a series of sheaves of harvested grass or as a series of stylized eyes. To an active mind, this visual dialectic might conjure up a series of binary oppositions that could prove useful for interpreting this novel: man vs. God, laborer vs. overseer, working the land vs. work of the mind, rural vs. urban, economic utility vs. artistic merit, traditional vs. modern.

Despite its interesting design, I must confess to being disappointed with this book's cover—largely because of the production techniques used. Simply put, the cover feels cheap to me; the gilding appears to have been painted onto the surface, rather than embedded into the leather (as it is with higher quality, but not necessarily more expensive, books published by Easton Press). This has been happening more and more frequently, a trend that has me more than a little concerned. In fact, I'm hesitant to read this book out of fear I might damage the gilding (something that I would've never had to worry about ten or twenty years ago). Sigh.

Back to the plusses: the glossy, full-page frontispiece painting by landscape artist Peter Fiore is very nice, depicting (I presume) Stephen Kumalo walking across a field of tall wind-blown grass toward the sunrise that ends the book. Despite this optimistic symbolism, the narrative tragically details the social conditions that would lead to apartheid in South Africa a short while after the book's initial publication in 1948. The frontispiece is this book's only interior artwork (which is not surprising, since it is not a reprint of a prior Easton Press or George Macy edition); however, included with the novel proper is a host of secondary information. There is an Introduction, a Foreword, and separate notes to the 1948, 1959 and 1987 editions. Finally, at the end of the book, there is a glossary that defines the various Afrikaans words that appear throughout the novel.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

Men of Iron, by Howard Pyle (illustrations by Howard Pyle)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2015):

The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism, by Ayn Rand

This book will appeal to a few specialized groups of Easton Press collectors. To obsessionists—those who wake up every morning with an acute jones for Easton leather—very little need be said (we've probably all bought the book already). For collectors who already own the four-volume set of Ayn Rand's novels, you will be happy to learn that this book was printed with not only the same cover design, but also using the same blue leather (unless you own the Rand novels in dark red leather, in which case...never mind!). For subscribers to the Great Books of the 20th Century series, this book will be a nice pick-up too; it is the same color and size as that series's edition of The Fountainhead (although, for some reason, EP went with a different cover design in that series).

Finally, to those who find objectivism—Ayn Rand's neo-Aristotelian system of thought—persuasive (or if you are a libertarian who finds inspiration in Rand's philosophical writings), this book gives you the opportunity to own, in a nice leather-bound edition, a set of essential articles in which Rand outlines her idiosyncratic moral philosophy. Purists should be warned, however, that five of the book's nineteen essays were written by psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden—student, business partner, collaborator and lover of Ayn Rand when the book was originally published—who was later ostracized from the main Objectivist movement after his acrimonious break-up with his mentor.

It would not be surprising, however, if the majority of Easton Press collectors were to pass on this book. The cover is unexceptional and there are no illustrations—not even a frontispiece. Unfortunately, this is true for several other Reader's Choice Non-Fiction Titles (2007)—undoubtedly a factor that has contributed to this set's relatively slow sales.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2015):

The Black Swan, by Rafael Sabatini (frontispiece by Larry Schwinger)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2014):

The Chronicles of Clovis, by Saki


Bambi: A Life in the Woods, by Felix Salten


William Tell, by Friedrich Schiller


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2012):

Pictures of Famous Edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (1952):

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition (1951):

Kenilworth, by Sir Walter Scott (frontispiece and illustrations by Clarke Hutton)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2012):

Pictures of Famous Edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition:

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition:

Rob Roy, by Sir Walter Scott (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall)

This book has one of the more impressive covers in the Reader's Choice IV set; the coat of arms (with lion rampant) and crossed flintlocks—stamped onto deep blue leather boards—are quite striking. The frontispiece, a full-page glossy representation of a painting of Robert Roy MacGregor arrayed in battle kilt and cross-gartered stockings, is very nice as well. Unfortunately, the book has no other illustrations. This is the first time that this book has been published by Easton Press (the special contents are all copyright 2010). The copyright page also mentions that this book was published "with the permission of Aegypan Press"—so this appears to be a leatherbound version of one of their books. All in all, another strong entry into the lists for EP.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2010):

A Town Like Alice, by Nevil Shute


Quo Vadis, by Henryk Sienkiewicz (frontispiece by Salvatore Fiume)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2012):

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith (frontispiece by Laurence Schwinger)

The kaleidoscopic foliage pattern on this book's cover—although less ornate than some of EP's more treasured flora-inspired designs (such as these classic covers for Jane Eyre and The Poems of John Keats)—is appropriate to the book's urban setting and looks beautiful both on the shelf and in the hand. The glossy, full-page frontispiece is impressive as well. It depicts Francie Nolan on the fire escape of her tenement building, studying. From her makeshift balcony, which overlooks the alley that separates the neighboring buildings, Francie has a panoramic view of the area and its single tree:
The one tree in Francie's yard was neither a pine nor a hemlock. It had pointed leaves which grew along green switches which radiated from the bough and made a tree which looked like a lot of opened green umbrellas. Some people called it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky. It grew in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps and it was the only tree that grew out of cement. It grew lushly, but only in the tenement districts.
Unfortunately, like most "new" titles in this series, there are no other illustrations. Published "with the permission of HarperCollins," this book from the first Reader's Choice set has a "special contents" copyright of 2007. It is, to my knowledge, the first time that EP has published this title.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck (frontispiece by unspecified artist)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition:

Edited: Oct 15, 2016, 6:54pm Top

The Black Arrow, by Robert Louis Stevenson (illustrations by N.C. Wyeth)

In 1916, N.C. Wyeth created sixteen large oil paintings for The Black Arrow—one of a dozen Wyeth-illustrated volumes now known as the Scribner Illustrated Classics. All but one of these pictures are included in the Easton Press Reader's Choice IV edition of this book. Beneath each glossy, full-color illustration—which appears on its own page (with generous, though not excessive, margins)—is a quotation from the text. Here are the captions for the six pictures that I've included below:
1. "They cannot better die than for their natural lord," said Dick (p. 4)
2. So the change was made, and they went forward as briskly as they durst on the uneven causeway (p. 39)
3. In the fork, like a mastheaded seaman, there stood a man in a green tabard, spying far and wide (p. 55)
4. "We must be in the dungeons," Dick remarked (p. 128)
5. The little cockle dipped into the swell and staggered under every gust of wind (p. 174)
6. First came the bride, a sorry sight, as pale as the winter, clinging to Sir Daniel's arm (p. 233)
With a couple of minor exceptions, this book is an exact reprint of the Scribner's edition.* It was previously offered by Easton Press in 1991 as part of the 14-volume set Classics of Adventure illustrated by N.C. Wyeth and was later included in both the 10-volume and 5-volume versions of this set. The cover of that book, like all the other volumes in the Wyeth set, featured a small applique version of one of the illustrations.

For the Reader's Choice edition, the cover depicts a knight on horseback, surrounded by an elaborate gilded frame. The image is based on a figure on Wyeth's title page for the Scribner's edition (in the RC volume, this page appears opposite the bastard title). Although the story is set during the Wars of the Roses—with the protagonist Dick Shelton ultimately being dubbed a knight himself—the motivations behind the plot (Dick's desire to rescue his beloved from the clutches of his former guardian, and discover the truth about his father's murder) are simultaneously so personal and so universal that a member of the armoured cavalry may seem an odd emblem to represent the book as a whole. Thematically, however, the book can be interpreted as an essay on loyalty—to faction, family, friend, and fiancé—and the figure of a medieval knight is as appropriate a symbol as any to illustrate this theme.

For the cover of the Scribner's edition, Wyatt painted a dramatic portrait of Dick Shelton, his crossbow at the ready and a dagger at his side, standing protectively in front of the unarmed Master John Matcham (no spoilers here!!). This cover image, incidentally, is the only one of Wyatt's illustrations not included in the Easton Press edition of the book. Also, for the book's endpapers, Wyatt created an oddly-balanced painting of a band of archers stalking through the forest. In Easton Press editions of the book (which, like most other EP publications, have fabric endpapers), this painting was included as a two-page illustration at the end of the book.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2009):

Pictures of Scribner's Deluxe Limited Edition:

*Once again, a quick comparison of my pictures of these editions will inevitably reveal more about my limited skills as a photographer than about the books themselves. There are, however, some differences worth mentioning—the illustrations in the EP edition are warmer and slightly sharper, whereas in the pics from the Scribner's edition the contrast is more pronounced. Unfortunately, my photos of the two books—taken using different lighting conditions, lenses, exposures and post-processing techniques—exaggerate these differences to a fault. On-line reproductions of these pictures (such as in the Brandywine museum catalog) lead me to believe that the EP's reproductions are a little too warm. Without recourse to the original paintings, however, there's no way to know for sure.

Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson (illustrations by Hans Alexander Mueller)

This Reader's Choice II edition is a reprint of a book originally published by the Limited Editions Club in 1938 (with its copyright renewed in 1966) and by Heritage Press in 1977. The wood engravings in this volume are executed in a style that one might call "Easton Press classic"—a mixed set of black on white, black on a single drab color, a single (drab) color on white, and multi-(drab)-colored. Some of these illustrations—the black-on-white ones in particular—are quite striking. Many of them, unfortunately, are underwhelming; they feel like bad copies of bad copies of Mueller's original 1938 illustrations (did I mention that the colors are drab?). Although this edition has no frontispiece, it does have a nifty trifold map bound into the front. This book may not appeal to collectors who are mostly familiar with newer Easton Press editions, but I suspect that it will scream "classic EP" (however poorly executed) to longtime collectors.

I also own an older Easton Press edition that was individually published as a "Collector's Edition" (not part of an EP set or series). In this printing, the dark, multi-color illustrations are reproduced slightly better than those in the RC book, which are so dark that it is sometimes difficult to make out what is pictured. Several of the single-color and two-color pictures, however, are printed using an awful drab yellowish ink. To their credit, EP abandoned this color (mostly) in the Reader's Choice volume. If you compare the pictures below, you can see that in one case, a picture was printed using a paler shade of yellow, in another case using a charcoal gray, and in a third using a reddish beige.

Oh...my Collector's Edition of Kidnapped does not contain a map. I bought the book second-hand, so I can't say whether one was originally included with this edition...

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2008):

Pictures of Collector's Edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition:

The Master of Ballantrae, by Robert Louis Stevenson (illustrations by Wal Paget)

With the Reader's Choice IX edition of The Master of Ballantrae, Easton Press has once again left me scratching my head and wondering about what could have been. There is already an edition of this book in EP's back catalog—an edition illustrated by Lynd Ward, designed for the Limited Editions Club in 1965 and subsequently published both by Heritage Press and by EP in the Collector's Library of Famous Editions. Although long out-of-print, the Famous Edition is readily available on the secondary market (for those who might be interested, I've included pictures below). However, rather than reprint this edition for the Reader's Choice set (which could easily have been done, I presume, since EP already owns the reprint rights), they opted to use an edition originally published by Cassell and Company in 1914.

The attractive, yet non-representational, cover of the Reader's Choice book frustrates all my attempts to draw meaning from the abstract. When I try to attach significance to its decorative motifs, I end up with winged chesspieces, legless gingerbread men, elongated acorn-phalli and flying whales holding giant lollypops in their mouths (backwards!). Like a Rorschach test, this clearly says more about me than about the book itself; rather than turn a critical eye upon my own perverted thought processes, however, I think I'll limit further comments to aspects of the book's interior.

Ostensibly a reprint of the 1914 edition, the RC book differs from its source in one major facet: Wal Paget's illustrations—originally executed in full color—have been reproduced here (on plain paper) in a singularly unimpressive grayscale. In 1995, an edition of this book was published in the Reader's Digest "The World's Best Reading" series—with full-color illustrations!! To see what I was missing, I bought a used copy for $5. Rather than try and describe the difference in words, I've included pictures below so you can see for yourselves. Spoiler Alert: EP does not fare well in the comparison. Moreover (and at this point I'm rubbing salt into the wounds), the Reader's Digest book includes eleven illustrations by Paget, plus a reproduction of John Singer Sargent's portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson. The book from Easton Press, on the other hand, has only eight pictures, none of them in color, six of which are located in the first third of the book. Please forgive me if I'm underwhelmed—no, it's worse than that—offended by this book. This is the second time in as many years that EP has published a Reader's Choice volume that, in my somewhat less than humble opinion, constitutes an affront to longtime collectors of their books.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2014):

Pictures of Reader's Digest edition (1995):

Pictures of Famous Edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition:

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition (1965):

Family bookstacks:

The Lair of the White Worm, by Bram Stoker (illustrations by Pamela Colman Smith)

Inspired, perhaps, by the positive response to the Reader's Choice V edition of The First Men in the Moon, Easton Press included in the following year's set another attractive reprint of a lesser-known genre fiction classic—this time, a tale of horror by the author of Dracula. Like The First Men in the Moon, the Reader's Choice edition of The Lair of the White Worm reproduces the original text—with the original illustrations—in a modern edition that tastefully updates the classic design of the book's first publication.

The RC edition of White Worm—the first time this book has been published by Easton Press—contains the full text from the original edition of 1911 (forty chapters in all), rather than the twenty-eight chapters of the heavily-abridged (and much-criticized) version of 1925. The book's interior has been designed in accordance with the "secret canon" of book design—a systematic method (in use since the middle ages) of constructing a page with aesthetically pleasing proportions. Because the canon results in margins that collectively comprise over half the area of each page,* it is considered a waste of valuable space by many modern publishers and is often abandoned in favor of more economical alternatives. Today, when a book follows the canon, it feels either dated (to some readers) or classic (to the rest of us).

Stamped into the jet-black leather of the White Worm's cover is a creepy medusan mandala: a ring of writhing serpents, bounded by a double circle, and situated—with the arcane symmetry of a dark ritual—around a central void. The medallion is surrounded by a series of large frames. The innermost frame is constructed of worms—sixteen in all—stretched out head to tail. The outermost frame is filled with rectangles, alternating long and short, with the longer rectangles bisected on the bias. Although the cover design does not resemble that of the first edition, both the worms and the alternating rectangles are based on elements that were used to frame the title on the original cover. These same elements appear on the spine of the RC edition, along with a small picture of the moon and a star hovering over a ragged horizon that represents either a cityscape or treetop foliage.

Last but not least, this RC edition of White Worm includes full-color glossy reproductions of all six of Pamela Colman Smith's original illustrations. Each illustration—with one exception—has been placed opposite the same page as it was in the first edition (this can be confirmed by comparing the page numbers that appear on the images in the Reader's Choice book with online reproductions of Smith's illustrations). The sole exception is the illustration that originally appeared opposite page 294, which is included as the frontispiece in the Reader's Choice edition. The List of Illustrations that follows the table of contents has been updated to reflect this change—one of very few modifications to the otherwise vintage interior of this book.

*The secret canon—also known as the "golden canon" or the "Van de Graaf canon"—results in four unequal margins that are 1/9 of the page width (inner margin), 2/9 of the page width (outer margin), 1/9 of the page height (upper margin) and 2/9 of the page height (lower margin). If you do the math, you'll discover that the margins take up 5/9 or 55.56% of the total real estate. To save space, modern editions will often allow content to cover a greater overall percentage of each page (although the ratios between the four margins may remain unchanged).

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2012):

Ghost Story, by Peter Straub (frontispiece by Larry Schwinger)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2012):

A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall)

A Confederacy of Dunces feels out of place in the Reader's Choice series. Written in 1963 (yet published posthumously in 1980), the book would have certainly held its own in the Great Books of the 20th Century series, where it would have rubbed shoulders (and jostled for position) with Catch-22 and Portnoy's Complaint. It would also have been perfect for the Signed Modern Classics series, if it weren't for the small complication of the author being deceased. Perhaps, if he were still around, Toole would have appreciated the irony of Confederacy making its fine press debut in one of Easton Press's "budget" editions, as if the book itself were receiving the comeuppance that we as readers so ardently wish upon its self-absorbed characters.

The relatively staid exterior of the Reader's Choice VIII edition of Confederacy (published by special arrangement with Louisiana State University Press) belies the carnivalesque ebullience of the book's peripatetic and periphrastic (not to mention dysperistaltic*) protagonist. The gilded pattern stamped onto the gray leather cover reads like the sober reveries of a Bourbon Street mixologist during the off-season—a tasty blend of Crescent City deco and Scenicruiser chic, with just a dash of Mardi Gras panache. Open the book, however, and you will be confronted almost immediately with the much more vibrant concoction that constitutes the book's frontispiece. Specially commissioned for this edition, this colorful painting by Dennis Lyall† (reproduced in full color on semi-glossy paper) is a collage depicting several of the book's more memorable "dunces". Front and center—brandishing a hot dog in an almost obscene grip—is Ignatius J. Reilly. Often compared with Don Quixote, Ignatius is without a doubt one of the more unforgettable characters in the history of literature. Lyall's frontispiece portrait captures, with commendable precision, the imagery of the book's opening sentences:
A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black mustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs.
On the frontispiece, Ignatius is depicted in the early days of his reluctant and unsuccessful employment as a hawker of wieners. Surrounding him are his maroon-haired mother Irene, the affable Burma Jones (wearing his ever-present shades), the timid yet loyal Mr. Gonzalez and the none-too-smart wannabe "exotic" Darlene (in her one-time performance as Harlot O'Hara). In the lower left corner of the composition is an atmospheric image of the French Quarter after dark. Regardless of whether you collect leather-bound books purely as an investment or with the intention of actually reading them, consider for a moment the relatively affordable price level and relatively short print run of this fine edition of one of the 20th century's great comic novels. Upon reflection, you'd be a dunce not to get yourself a copy while the gettin's good.

*You own a dictionary, eh? Go on, look it up...I dare you!

†Once again, Lyall's contribution of a book's only illustration goes completely uncredited (see my reviews of the Reader's Choice editions of The Egg and I and The Four Feathers above).

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2013):

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, by B. Traven (frontispiece by Richard Sparks)

Published with the permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, this is the first time that this classic tale of greed and adventure has appeared in an Easton Press edition. The copyright page lists the original copyright of 1935 (along with its renewal 28 years later) and a "special contents" copyright of 2012 (the year of the Reader's Choice VII set). Stamped into the book's red leather cover is a rectangular design reminiscent of a tapete, a loom-woven carpet or tapestry of Mexican origin.* Moreover, on the book's spine there appears a small figure constructed out of the three utensils most closely associated with prospecting for gold: a pickaxe, a shovel and a mining pan.

The book's full-page, semi-glossy frontispiece depicts Curtin, Dobbs and Howard (the book's three adventurers) standing in the midday sun, their faces partially obscured by shadows cast by their own hats. Behind them, the brightly lit Mexican countryside smoulders expectantly. Richard Sparks, whose impressionistic style renders the heat almost palpable, has provided yet another atmospheric contribution to this series. Unfortunately (though by no means unexpectedly), this frontispiece is the book's only illustration.

*Another Mexican tapete pattern was featured on the cover of the Reader's Choice edition of The Mark of Zoro, published two years earlier.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2012):

The Eiger Sanctions, by Trevanian


The Diaries of Adam and Eve, by Mark Twain


Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne (illustrations by Edward A. Wilson)

When I signed up for the first Reader's Choice set, I originally asked for this book to be crossed off the list—not because I had any doubts about the Reader's Choice edition itself, but rather because the copy that I already owned from the Collector's Library of Famous Editions is one of my most prized books from Easton Press. I don't know if the copy that I own is highly sought after, or even very rare. What I do know is that this book, with its distinctive cover (depicting a hot air balloon) and high production values, is one of a handful of books that set the bar as to what can be expected from an Easton Press cover. Today, over 30 years after I purchased it, I find that the cover has aged beautifully—the textured leather is now glove-soft, the exceptionally-clean and deeply-embedded gilding has not lost any of its shine, and the fine details (such as the wickerwork on the balloon's basket) are as sharp as they were on the day I bought it.

The Reader's Choice book is a reprint (with a different cover) of the 1983 Famous Editions volume, which was itself a reprint of an edition first published by the Limited Editions Club and Heritage Press in 1962. The book has 16 multi-color drawings by Edward A. Wilson (an illustrator who should be well-known to long-time collectors of LEC/HP/EP books) and 37 small monochrome pictures for the chapter openings. The cover has the same monogrammed design used for the Reader's Choice editions of A Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Mysterious Island.

Which of these two Easton Press editions of this book should one add to their library? For me, at least, the answer is a no-brainer: the hot air balloon edition, if in excellent condition, is definitely a book worth paying for (perhaps even overpaying). Personal preferences aside, however, there are a variety of reasons why some collectors might prefer the Reader's Choice edition. Some might like the fact that the cover design matches those of the other Reader's Choice titles by Jules Verne; some might prefer buying new books to books printed over 25 years ago; and some collectors may be bothered by the hot air balloon which, although featured famously in the movie, does not appear at all in the book. At any rate, regardless of which edition you decide to acquire, you will no doubt be pleased with your purchase.

Pictures of Famous Edition (1983):

A Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne (illustrations by Edward A. Wilson)

This book—or, rather, an edition with the exact same interior design, illustrations and introduction—was first published by the Limited Editions Club in 1966 and the Heritage Press in 1967. It was later published by Easton Press, first in the Collector's Library of Famous Editions, then again in the early 1990's as part of a three-book Jules Verne set. This Reader's Choice II printing therefore constitutes at least the third time that this edition has been published by Easton Press. For some reason, however, only the original Limited Editions Club copyright (1966) is listed on the copyright page.

In his introduction to this book, Isaac Asimov draws attention to the skillful way in which Verne, with intentional imprecision, attributes the surprising visibility afforded his characters miles beneath the earth's surface to a certain "electricity" in the air—using a word that, according to Asimov, had a near-magical resonance for 19th-century readers and would thus require no scientific specificity. Creating the illustrations for this volume, which had to show visible details despite there being no discernible sources of light, Ed Wilson faced a similar problem—a problem that he solved using what he referred to (equally imprecisely) as "fireworks" (quoted in the "Notes from the Archives" included with the Famous Edition). In Wilson's realizations of Verne's subterranean storyline, there is very little play of light and shadows in the traditional sense; instead, bursts and splashes of color are used to represent the reflection of light on surfaces. In the example illustrations that I've included below, this can be seen in the calico coloring of the volcanic tube and in the pastel glow of the giant mushroom forest. It is to Easton Press's credit that the illustrations for the Reader's Choice volume were printed in full color,* since as monochrome imitations they would have lost their unique character.

To reduce the size of the Reader's Choice edition, EP shaved a little off the left and right margins (although it remains the same height as the Famous Edition). Of all the techniques used to keep costs down for this "value-priced" series—techniques that include thin and shallow gilding, the removal of interior decorative elements, and the monochrome reproduction of illustrations that have been previously printed using multiple colors—margin reduction is perhaps the least objectionable. In this case, I would have never even noticed the difference if I hadn't compared the books side by side.

On the cover of the Reader's Choice edition, which is bound in dark brown leather, is a pattern comprised of three interlaced ribbons, at the center of which appears a monogram composed out of the initials JV, intertwined in an ornate font. Surrounding this is a border constructed out of small round tokens. This design is very different from that of the dark red Famous Editions volume, upon which there is a picture of a volcano spewing a spiral of smoke that rises up to form the letter E in the "Earth" of the book's title (Verne, Wilson and Asimov's names are also listed on the cover of this edition).

A Special Note for "Those-Who-Stare-at-Covers" (you know who you are):
EP cover-geeks will have already noticed that the covers of the RC Jules Verne volumes are based on the covers of the blue set from the 1990's. A closer examination of the blue set, however, reveals that each volume actually had a different cover (with the same ribbon pattern and monogram, but different borders and different rosettes on the spine). The books in the Reader's Choice series, on the other hand, all have the same cover design; the border from the blue Around and the rosettes from the blue Journey have been combined with the monogram and ribbon pattern to create a Frankenstein's monster of sorts from the parts of two expired volumes.
Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

Pictures of Famous Edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (II):

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (I):

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition (1966):

*EP did an excellent job with the illustrations for the Reader's Choice book. Hue, saturation, brightness and contrast are all very close to that in the Famous Edition (I can't vouch for how well the pics in either of these books resemble those in the original LEC publication, however). Unfortunately, for all my efforts, my photos of these illustrations fail to capture how similar these two editions really are. Excellent job, EP! — Piss poor job, me (sigh).

Edited: Nov 11, 2015, 9:37am Top

The Mysterious Island, by Jules Verne (illustrations by Edward A. Wilson)

At 568 pages, this is perhaps the bulkiest of all the Reader's Choice volumes. It's certainly the largest of the RC-III set and by far the fattest of the three Jules Verne titles (whose royal octavo pages are the largest of all the Reader's Choice books). Bound in brown leather with the same cover design as the other books by Verne, it is clearly intended to be part of a matching set—all illustrated by Edward A. Wilson. These books (with the same interior design, illustrations and introductions) were available from Easton Press as a set (with blue covers) back in the 90's; prior to that, this edition of The Mysterious Island was included in the Collector's Library of Famous Editions (with the eponymous island depicted on the cover). Misleadingly, the copyright page of the Reader's Choice volume lists 2008 as the copyright date for all special contents of this edition—misleading not only because this is not the first time that Easton Press has offered this book (with the same "special contents"), but also because it is clearly a reprint of a classic illustrated edition first published by both the Limited Editions Club and Heritage Press in 1959.

Wilson's illustrations, which for this volume are reproduced in black and white (or, rather, in monochrome charcoal), were originally printed with multi-colored highlights—not only in the Limited Editions Club and Heritage Press editions, but also in editions previously published by Easton Press. Although the pictures do not look too bad in grayscale—certainly not bad enough to ruin this impressive volume for people who don't know any better—it is nevertheless disconcerting to realize that one has received what amounts to an inferior copy of a book that has been enjoyed (in one printing or another) by fine book collectors for the last fifty years. It is also curious that, after packaging the RC Jules Verne books in matching covers, Easton Press included color illustrations for only two out of the three.

Included in the Reader's Choice 2008 edition of The Mysterious Island is a full-color, glossy frontispiece (by an unspecified artist) that replaces the illustration by Wilson that appeared on the frontispiece for earlier printings of this book. On it is a full-page reproduction of a painting that I believe depicts this scene from the novel:
And the "Bonadventure" sailed as near as possible to the rocky shore. Perhaps some cave, which it would be advisable to explore, existed there? But Harding saw nothing, not a cavern, not a cleft which could serve as a retreat to any being whatever, for the foot of the cliff was washed by the surf. (370)
The more I study the frontispiece, the more I am convinced that it was painted by N.C. Wyeth. Perhaps in partial atonement for the monochrome illustrations in this edition, it was decided to include one of the illustrations from the Easton Press Classics of Adventure edition of this book, which (like all fourteen books in that collection) was fully illustrated by Wyeth.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2008):

Pictures of Famous Edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (1959):

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition (1959):

King Kong, conceived by Edgar Wallace and Merion C. Cooper, novelization by Delos W. Lovelace (frontispiece by Gerard Stiles)

This book, making its first appearance in a leather-bound Easton Press edition, constitutes a minor twist on EP's customary practice of reprinting—as Reader's Choice selections—books that had originally inspired massively-popular movies. In this case, we have a book that was created specifically to help make a movie become massively popular. First published in December 1932 (three months before the movie King Kong was released), this must have been one of the first advance marketing tie-ins ever published.

For the Reader's Choice IX edition of King Kong, the designers in Connecticut have done a phenomenal job of avoiding the seemingly inescapable chiché. On the cover, for instance, rather than the predictable image of the raging primate fending off attacking aircraft from atop the tallest building in Gotham, we are instead confronted with the unexpected—yet equally iconic—image of the massive doors in the perimeter wall, built by the natives of Skull Island to protect themselves from Kong and other fearsome jungle predators. These doors, with their sturdy boards and heavy wooden bolt, are enclosed within a thick gilded frame densely covered by a foliage motif—a small stem with seven tiny leaves—that also appears on the book's spine (along with the obligatory image of Kong).

A simpler three-leaved variant of this same motif is used on the book's frontispiece, where it frames the artwork contributed to this edition by Gerald Stiles. With the Empire State Building in the background, Kong is depicted in the process of breaking free of his chains (you see him brandishing the manacle that he has just wrested from one wrist). The picture eschews pulp fiction vibrancy, adopting instead a surprisingly effective watercolor-like approach to its subject. Sadly, this frontispiece painting—which appears, on plain paper, opposite the half title—is the book's only illustration.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2014):

Ben-Hur, by Lew Wallace (frontispiece by Carol Heyer)

This Reader's Choice II volume is a reprint of an edition first published by Easton Press in 1995 as part of the set Epics of Christianity. Comprised of matching editions of Ben-Hur, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Quo Vadis* and The Robe, this set has been described by Firsts: The Book Collector's Magazine as being "among the scarcest" ever published by Easton Press. The cover of the Reader's Choice edition matches that of the 1995 edition, the only differences being the color of the leather (caramel-colored, rather than dark burgundy) and the E/P spine logo (which was omitted in 1995). The full-page glossy frontispiece, this book's only illustration, depicts Judah Ben-Hur having just rounded a turn in the famous chariot race. In this picture, Ben-Hur's chariot is drawn by four snow-white horses, rather than the bright bay arabians described in the book—a liberty no doubt inspired not only by the white horses in the 1959 film adaptation, but also by the predilections of illustrator Carol Heyer, a specialist in fantasy and children's books.

The Epics of Christianity edition of Ben-Hur was not the first one to be published by Easton Press, however. The publisher also owns the reprint rights to the 1961 Heritage Press edition (a fully-illustrated edition that had been commissioned by the Limited Editions Club one year earlier). Easton Press included an impressive reprint of this edition, bound in burgundy (and, later, maroon) leather, in the Masterpieces of American Literature series. Two different cover designs were used during the book's tenure in that series, both of which depict a stylized floor-plan for a Roman circus (where chariot races were held). On the first of the MoAL covers (both of which are depicted below), the racecourse is enclosed in concentric ovals that present three different views of the vaults and arcades that run beneath the stadium's seating. Even more stylized, the circus that appears on the other cover has interior dimensions resembling those of an amphitheatre. Of the nine† full-page, four-color illustrations and twenty-two half-page, two-color drawings that Italian-American artist Joe Mugnaini contributed to the LEC/HP edition, only the two-color drawings (in black with blue-gray or terra cotta coloring) were included in the EP reprint—the four-color artwork was omitted from this otherwise definitive edition.

Because the Reader's Choice edition of Ben-Hur sold out quickly (and the other EP editions mentioned above are all long out-of-print), this book can now only be acquired second-hand. Although more ambituous investers and collectors may think nothing of dishing out $800+ to obtain a full Epics of Christianity set, most of us will have to consider the trade-offs as we decide which of the individual editions suits us best. Aesthetically, the shiny leather and full-color frontispiece of the Reader's Choice edition will appeal to collectors of Easton Press's more recent publications, whereas the cover design(s) and illustrations of the MoAL edition will be preferred by those with a penchant for older Easton Press editions (such as those in the 100 Greatest Books Ever Written series). On-the-go readers will, on the one hand, appreciate the more portable RC edition—the size of the MoAL book is due not to a larger font, but rather to more generous margins (considered a mark of luxury by some, a waste of paper by others). On the other hand, the MoAL edition has useful chapter headings and a table of contents that are wanting in the bare-bones RC edition. Finally, collectors and readers who place a high value on illustrations may wish to forego the Easton Press editions entirely and pick up a more fully-illustrated LEC/HP copy of the book.

*Quo Vadis had been previously published by Easton Press in the Collector's Library of Famous Editions.

†Eight of the nine four-color drawings appear in both the Limited Editions Club and Heritage Press editions of the book. The ninth—a two-page spread depicting the chariot race—appeared only in the LEC edition; a two-color version of this drawing, however, was printed on the cover of the HP edition. Moreover, in the Heritage Press volume, one of the four-color drawings was moved to the front of the book to serve as a frontispiece.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

Pictures of Masterpieces of American Literature edition (2):

Pictures of Masterpieces of American Literature edition (1):

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (1961):

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition (1960):

Family bookstack:

The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole (illustrations by unspecified artist)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2015):

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition (1975):

The First Men in the Moon, by H.G. Wells (illustrations by Claude A. Shepperson)

This book from the Reader's Choice V set is a reprint of the original London edition of 1901. It is also a minor milestone for Easton Press. After five years and over fifty Reader's Choice titles, this is the first illustrated book in the series that has not been previously published in an Easton Press edition (in other words, the only first-time EP publication in this series to be fully illustrated). Illustrator Claude A. Shepperson (1867-1921), whose contributions sadly go uncredited in both the original and Easton Press editions, provided twelve black & white drawings to bring Wells's scientific fantasy to life. Viewed as a sequence, there is a stylistic progression from the whimsical line drawings that accompany the book's early chapters to the monochrome shading in his atmospheric renditions of the events that transpire on and beneath the moon's surface.

The cover design is based on that of the first edition: the Celtic knot, crescent moon, and unique lettering have all been taken from the original cover. There are, however, a number of differences. The crescent moon from the original book's spine is repeated on the front and back of the Reader's Choice book, where the surrounding clouds dissolve into a series of scroll-like figures that frame the other elements. The Celtic knot (a work of art in its own right) now also appears on the book's spine, whose elements have been redistributed to fit neatly between the hubs. All in all, Easton Press has done an outstanding job updating this book's layout so that it meets the expectations of EP collectors, yet still maintains the vintage feel of the original edition.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2010):

The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition:

Pictures of Famous Edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition:

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition (1973):

The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder (illustrated by Jean Charlot)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (1990):

Pictures of Collector's Edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition (1962):

The Caine Mutiny, by Herman Wouk (illustrations by Dennis Lyall)

This Reader's Choice I selection was published by Easton Press (for the first time) in 2007, with the permission of Doubleday/Random House. Stamped onto its dark blue cover is a rectangular frame embellished with small anchors and wave-like flourishes, surrounded by a decorative border which, being constructed of chevrons and stars, calls to mind the insignia of military rank. Reproduced at both the beginning and end of the book is a two-page map of the travels of the USS Caine under the command of Lieutenant Commander Queeg, plotting the boat's location during the events that lead up to the fateful typhoon that precipitates the crew's mutiny.

The standout feature of this edition is the full-page glossy frontispiece—other than the map, the only illustration in the book—upon which is reproduced a dramatic painting of the Caine braving waves that have nearly submerged the ship's stern, have flooded the entire flush deck and threaten to inundate the entire ship. With admirable attention to detail (note the three smokestacks, typical of a quad-stack WWI destroyer with one of its boilers removed during its conversion for WWII minesweeper duty), artist Dennis Lyall submits for our judging eyes a pictorial testimony of the conditions that presented the occasion for Queeg's executive paralysis.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

Beau Geste, by Percival Christopher Wren (frontispiece by Dennis Lyall, illustrations by Helen McKie)


Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2015):

The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann Wyss (illustrations by David Gentleman)

One of the crown jewels of the Reader's Choice series, this book will please Easton Press collectors of many persuasions. It is a reprint of the classic edition created for members of the Limited Editions and Heritage Clubs in 1963 (its copyright being renewed in 1991) and later published by Easton Press in the Collector's Library of Famous Editions. One of the more profusely-illustrated editions of a novel ever published by these presses, the book's extensive artwork is described in the June 1963 edition of "The Heritage Club Sandglass" (the forerunner of the "Collector's Notes" and "Notes from the Archives" included with books in many Easton Press series):
For our sumptuous Swiss Family Robinson David Gentleman has created thirty-one full-page deliciously quaint, marvelously detailed wood-engravings which, combined with line drawings for the color areas, have been printed in various two-color combinations...Nor are they all. He has also fashioned some three dozen smaller black-and-white wood-engravings which are strewn richly throughout the text. In addition he has engraved a series of chapter headings, not all different, but alternating throughout to give a simulated differentness. And, lastly, he has drawn for the endpapers a two-color map that would have saved the Robinsons a lot of trouble in exploring their island.
As in the earlier Famous Edition, the map is reproduced at the front of the Reader's Choice I book (on the pages preceding the half title). Gentleman's fanciful illustrations exhibit an attention to detail worthy of a naturalist (for fun, check out the dodo-like bird lying on its back in the bushes at Ernest's feet in the picture where he calms Fritz's eagle by blowing smoke in its face). All but one of Gentleman's original illustrations have been included in the Reader's Choice edition of the book—the sole exception being the small seashell that appeared on the title page of the LEC and Heritage Press editions (which was replaced by the Famous Editions laurel when Easton Press first published this book).

The cover design for this volume is excellent as well; on both the front and rear boards, a stylistic depiction of the famous house in the banyan tree is deeply embedded into the dark green leather (a detail that will be appreciated by long-time collectors). It is interesting comparing the cover of the Reader's Choice book with the image that appears on the rear cover of the Famous Edition. Both cover images are clearly based on the illustration that accompanies chapter 23 of the book, yet each emphasizes different details of this illustration. In a nutshell: regardless of which edition you prefer, this quality book belongs on the shelf of every professed fan of Easton Press publications.

Pictures of Reader's Choice edition (2007):

Pictures of Famous Edition:

Pictures of Heritage Press edition:

Pictures of Limited Editions Club edition:

Aug 17, 2010, 11:09am Top

You should demand compensation from EP for all the work you've done Silent. Thank you so much for your efforts.

Aug 17, 2010, 11:14am Top

> 11

I second that. This is a superb reference source for these books. With the paucity of information on the EP site, this is very useful.

Aug 17, 2010, 10:39pm Top

Well, guess it makes sense to keep these all together, so I have moved my meager contribution to Silent's magnum opus to this thread as well:

From Here to Eternity, by James Jones (illustrations by Frank Mayo)

Fictional World War II story from the author of "The Thin Red Line." The book is based loosely on some of Jones's actual experiences, though he insists it is a work of fiction. This tome is massive, and weighs in at 861 pages. I like war stories as much as the next guy, but I had no idea this book was so long. It is going to take some commitment to get through this one. Disappointingly, there is no frontispiece portrait, although there are illustrations. Unfortunately, they are quite bland, and there are only 3 of them. For such a lengthy book, there was certainly enough material and space to include a few more, so I consider this a tragic missed opportunity. At least the book does include a nice introduction. The plates that the pictures are on are not glossy, but they are made of a slightly different kind of paper than the other pages in the book; it's somewhat less porous, and a bit thicker. The end-boards and spine are nice and thick, and are reminiscent of a 100 greatest book, and it feels sufficiently weighty in the hands.

A Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne (illustrations by Edward A. Wilson)

This edition, special contents copyright 1966, is apparently an exact reprint of the Famous Edition which has gone through several reprints since its 1966 debut. Given the fact that the copyright date has not changed for the Reader's Choice edition, it is unlikely that there have been any changes to the contents of the book, though with Easton Press, even the copyright dates cannot be trusted. If anyone has the blue cover or orange cover versions of this book, a comparison would be appreciated.

This deep chocolate-colored cover is a beautiful edition to any library, and the photos do not do it justice. It's not just another brown book, but has a truly dark and dramatic color, which always looks slightly different in different light. The cover, of course, matches the other two volumes by Verne that were/are available in the Reader's Choice collections, and I believe brown was the only color that was ever used in these bindings. I was pleasantly surprised to find this edition has an introduction by the great Isaac Asimov, which I am greatly looking forward to reading.

The illustrations throughout the book are rendered by the inimitable Edward A. Wilson, who's work should be instantly recognizable by long-time collectors. The illustrations are a mix of different sizes, from small doodles to full page plates, but are all in color. Though the illustrations employ the use of more colors than some of my favorite Wilson works, say Treasure Island, they have a very dull and bleary effect on the eye. This may be intentionally done to convey the claustrophobia and sense of dark menace lurking beneath the earth...or it may simply be creative drought.

Edited: Aug 23, 2010, 11:44pm Top

Silent, thanks so much for the update! You gotta let us know when you add new books to your thread, man! (or are you just waiting until your masterwork is complete to unveil it all at once?) Either way, there are those of us who are excited every time you post an update.

Breakfast At Tiffany's is the next book that EP is shipping me from this series, and I must say your description got me excited about it. The cover reminds me more of a door on a Vegas-Style Casino, and I simply love the frontispiece; both for its unique style and relevance to the story.

Thanks for the historical info on The Spy. Again, I say, it's a good thing we have folks like you to point out when EP is blatantly RIPPING US OFF by reprinting illustrations in black and white. I must admit, I would have found it strange to see an entire two-page spread drawing done up in greyscale; I would have had my suspicions at that point, too. Your close-up photo of the leather gilt was very well-done as well, and truly displayed what you are referring to. I have seen some EP volumes with this problem as well, and I'm not sure why it continues to plague certain volumes more than others. Even with that aside, I find the cover tessellation obnoxious to the eye, and it would probably not please me even if the gilding was more well executed.

I truly hope that you are correct in assuming that EP reads this message board, and indeed this thread, to get a feeling for what fans of the books are really thinking and requesting. Our thoughts here represent more of a "reader's choice" than the patronizing RC reprints ever will. (Isn't it amazing that nearly 60% of the reader's choices just happen to be reprints of books EP already owns the rights to? What mad universe!)

Edited: Feb 1, 2011, 9:48pm Top

Patience, folks -- I'm not holding out on you guys...I haven't announced my latest batch because it's not done yet!! Rest assured, I will call everyone's attention to my additions when they're ready for scrutiny...and no sooner.

That said...

Thanks for your comments. I really hope that my praise of the good and censure of the not-so-good ultimately results in more excitement, increased anticipation, greater appreciation and less disappointment.

I have no idea whether EP is reading this thread...or if they ever will. Regardless of whether or not they ever become aware of my comments, I nevertheless believe that, over time, an informed collectorate can only be a good thing.

Aug 29, 2010, 3:40pm Top

Ok -- I finally finished up another batch. Sorry it took me so long. The new entries are:
Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three Stories (Truman Capote)
The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground (James Fenimore Cooper)
She (H. Rider Haggard)
Zorba the Greek (Nikos Kazantzakis)
Homage to Catalonia (George Orwell)
Journey to the Center of the Earth (Jules Verne)
I've also updated my entries for The Mysterious Island and Cry, the Beloved Country

Let me know what you find useful, where you agree/disagree with my opinions, or can corroborate/contradict my speculations.

Sep 8, 2010, 2:07am Top

I have a question related to the Dumas set mentioned above. Is it correct to say that EP has only printed, out of the D'Artagnan romances, The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and The Man in the Iron Mask? And therefore not the rest of The Vicomte de Bragelonne?

Sep 8, 2010, 8:36am Top

>17 mujahid7ia:: It is correct to say that.

Sep 8, 2010, 8:45am Top

Yes, you are correct. The three volumes were offered several years ago as The Greatest Novels of the Three Musketeers (Item No. 0448). EP's edition of The Man in the Iron Mask contains 88 chapters, beginning with Two Old Friends. Some editions contain 60 chapters, beginnning with The Prisoner.

Sep 9, 2010, 12:19am Top

18,19 : Thanks for the information. What a pity, I would have liked to have matching EP editions of the rest of the series. Hopefully I can find Twenty Years After in the EP edition. Maybe I'll look into other fine press editions for the other two volumes of The Vicomte de Bragelone. Hopefully other fine press publishers went with the three-volume division.

Sep 15, 2010, 5:14am Top

I added pictures and descriptions for another five books:
Planet of the Apes (Pierre Boulle)
Youth/Typhoon/The End of the Tether (Joseph Conrad)
The Lottery and Other Stories (Shirley Jackson)
The Virtue of Selfishness (Ayn Rand)
The Caine Mutiny (Herman Wouk)
I hope you find them useful!

Edited: Sep 30, 2010, 4:42pm Top

I've now added photos and descriptions for the following:
The Devil's Dictionary (Ambrose Bierce)
The Art of Living (by Epictetus)
Far From the Madding Crowd (Thomas Hardy)
Good-bye, Mr. Chips (James Hilton)
Ben-Hur (Lew Wallace)
My review of Ben-Hur is actually a double review (since Easton Press has published two completely different editions of this book).

I have also included pictures of the Heritage Press edition of The Discourses of Epictetus (for reasons that I explain in my description of The Art of Living).

I thought it would be fun to include my old copy of Far From the Madding Crowd (from the Collector's Library of Famous Editions). I hope, for all your sakes, that the upcoming Reader's Choice edition will be a reprint of this wonderful book!!

My copy of Good-bye, Mr. Chips only arrived yesterday. Pretty book. I whipped out some suitably pretentious words last night before I went to bed and took the photos before I left for work this morning. I'll replace the stand-alone spine shot with a group portrait when I log my next batch of titles.

Finally, I added color pictures from the Heritage Press edition of The Spy, so that you can compare them with the black and white versions in the Reader's Choice volume (I also rewrote the last paragraph of that book's description accordingly).


Sep 30, 2010, 6:29pm Top

EP's American Lit. edition of "The Spy" has the colored illustrations as in the HP/LEC editions.

Sep 30, 2010, 7:51pm Top


Thank you for confirming that -- I suspected as much.

The Spy is certainly not the only Reader's Choice book with B&W illustrations that had been previously been published by EP in color.

I will update my description to reflect this.

Thanks again

Sep 30, 2010, 8:00pm Top

Not very good publicity for E/P. I don't imagine people being enthusiastic about re-issues if they find out that they've been dumbed down from the original issue. Keep 'em on their toes, Silent.

Edited: Jul 2, 2011, 2:44am Top

After a long hiatus, I've added new entries for the Reader's Choice editions of the following books:
The Myth of Sisyphus (Albert Camus)
The African Queen (C.S. Forester)
Profiles in Courage (John F. Kennedy)
The Mark of Zorro (Johnston McCulley)
The Black Arrow (Robert Louis Stevenson)
I have also added descriptions and photos of the following non-RC editions:
The Man Without a Country -- Heritage Press Edition
White Fang -- Masterpieces of American Literature Edition
Kidnapped -- Easton Press Collector's Edition
Ben-Hur -- Heritage Press Edition
The Black Arrow -- Scribner's Deluxe Limited Edition
In the original version of my entry for the The Man Without a Country, I reviewed the Masterpieces of American Literature edition of the book (with photos of only that edition), since I did not own the Reader's Choice edition of the book. I recently picked up an RC copy and was surpised to discover a major difference between this book and the earlier edition(s). The existing entry has been updated (w/ pics) to reflect this. Also, in the text description I've added a link to a family portrait of the three editions.

Let me know what you think.

Jul 5, 2011, 11:29am Top

Wow, Silent, I can't tell you how much I appreciate this. Several books I had skipped are now on my buying list. Even though I have Rebecca in Folio I am tempted to buy the EP edition for the cover alone. Thanks for the awesome work!

Jul 6, 2011, 8:55pm Top

Thanks for the kind words, natashaslove. It's certainly easier to maintain momentum on long-term projects like this when you know that someone else finds them useful.

Of course, wailo's stick produces similar results...

Jul 6, 2011, 9:33pm Top

In that case, let me be the first to say that my FIRST stop when I land on this page is to see if you've updated this thread. Your guide is invaluable, and it has really helped me see the folly of EP's ways in a lot of instances. No one's perfect, but honestly, when you have the reprint rights to a book like "The mysterious island," how hard is it to NOT print the illustrations in B&W...seriously?

Anyway, I can't wait for your next project, MOAL or otherwise. I lurk in the shadows with rapt attention and feverish anticipation.

Jul 6, 2011, 11:29pm Top

Darn you Silent, I just bought a copy of the Swiss Family Robinson because of your entry. Please stop ;-)

Jul 7, 2011, 1:06am Top

Thanks!! (29) and Sorry!! (30).

Edited: Aug 31, 2011, 11:13pm Top

Any chance of some info on The First Men in the Moon in the near future, Silent?

Edited: Sep 1, 2011, 4:08am Top

Sure...I'll hop to it...

Edited: Sep 13, 2011, 5:36pm Top

Ok, I've now added entries for the following Reader's Choice books:
The I Ching (Anonymous)
The Thirty-Nine Steps (John Buchan)
And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)
The Art of Love (Ovid)
The First Men in the Moon (H.G. Wells)
I've also added pictures of the following alternative editions:
A Journey to the Center of the Earth -- EP Collector's Library of Famous Editions
The Mysterious Island -- Heritage Press edition
The I Ching -- Princeton University Press edition
Last but not least, I've learned a new word: anthemion (plural anthemia). Since the word bears directly on the cover decoration of Zorba the Greek, I've updated the entry for that book to show off (I mean...share) my newfound erudition (using the word casually, of course, as if we all knew the meaning all along). See how clever we all become just from collecting EP books -- we don't even have to read them to get all smart and stuff!!

Feedback is always welcome...

Sep 14, 2011, 7:16am Top

Excellent - thank-you, Silent. I agree with the plaudits that you award to the Art of Love and First Men in the Moon. I love the EP I ching, as well. Three wonderful books for the series.

Sep 15, 2011, 1:09am Top

I'd also like to thank you for your hard work on this thread, Silent. I ordered a copy of "The First Men in the Moon" solely based on your review and description. I am still curious what your "bonus" project was going to be once you cataloged all the RC editions. Any word on that yet? You seemed to imply that you had a cunning plan that might even involve getting the attention of the folks at EP. I've been waiting a year and I'm dying to hear, so PM me if you don't want to share with the masses and the spies :)

Sep 15, 2011, 3:21am Top

Easton Press mascot and cheerleaders with gilt hair and silk moire outfit :)

Sep 15, 2011, 9:12am Top

I'm in the same boat as sludge, I ordered a copy based on this fantastic overview. Many thanks for posting this!

Sep 17, 2011, 8:12pm Top

Thanks for this thread... received my Planet of the Apes today!

Dec 10, 2011, 3:00pm Top

Could anyone tell me what the Copyright year is listed as on the 2006 RC edition of The Swiss Family Robinson?

Dec 10, 2011, 4:49pm Top

>40 Arknight:: 1963, 1991, 2007

Dec 11, 2011, 10:33pm Top


1963 -- original publication of this edition by the Limited Editions Club (who commissioned the illustrations)
1991 -- renewal of original copyright 28 years later
2007 -- date of the Reader's Choice 2006 edition

Incidentally, I include a photo of the copyright page for each edition that I list in this guide. The entry for The Swiss Family Robinson appears at the end of message 10 (the entries are sorted by author's last name). The fourth thumbnail at the bottom of that entry (under "Pictures of the Reader's Choice edition") is linked to a photo of the book's copyright page

Mar 2, 2012, 2:38pm Top

I have the Helen Keller "The Story of My Life" and it states "Library of Great Lives"? It's the same as the picture in the 2007 catalogue except that it's a (milk) chocolate brown colour. The publishing date listed is 1988.

Were there two versions of this or are they one in the same?

Mar 2, 2012, 3:57pm Top

The Reader's Choice edition is a reprinting of the book from the Library of Great Lives. I once owned a slightly damaged copy of the LoGL edition of this book. Based on a quick comparison that I made when I still owned both books (and before I started this "guide"), the only difference between the two books--other than the color of the leather--was the edition information that appears on the title page (and perhaps copyright page). Otherwise, I believe the books are identical. Even the gilt on the cover is stamped deeply into the leather for the RC edition--just as it is for the LoGL edition. I'll have to double-check the wording at the end of the introduction of my RC edition when I get home tonight -- if what I've said here is correct, it should still reference the LoGL...

Mar 2, 2012, 4:00pm Top

FYI: I haven't completely abandoned this resource (although I haven't updated it for a few months). I plan to do another round of updates before long...

Mar 2, 2012, 4:03pm Top

I just wanted to say how appreciative I am about all the hard work that goes into this thread, and others trying to make sense of lists and preserve prices/history.

A valuable resource, and I've learned a lot in a short amount of time from this group.

Thanks to all.

Mar 3, 2012, 3:05pm Top

Your contributions and enthusiasm are equally appreciated. It is always nice to get some fresh blood in here to stir things up and ask questions you never knew you wanted the answers to and revive old dormant threads.

Edited: Oct 30, 2013, 9:54am Top

I miss this thread.

Edit: Doh, just noticed that is being updated, just that the edits don't bring it to the top of the list on the main page. Well, here's a free bump.

Oct 30, 2013, 4:12pm Top

Silent, this is awesome! Nice work and thanks for the plethora of information!

Edited: Nov 2, 2013, 3:57am Top

48> Ah...you've caught me out. Yes, I've been editing this thread on the down low. I planned on announcing the updates soon, but since you've outted me, I might as well do so now.

First of all, I've added placeholder entries for all Reader's Choice books--including those that I have not yet described or photographed (so that you can all see how much I have left to do).

If you've visited this page before, my most recent batch of updates includes new descriptions and pictures for the following eight books:
At the Earth's Core / A Princess of Mars (Edgar Rice Burroughs)
The Innocence of Father Brown (G. K. Chesterton)
King Rat (John Clavell)
The Silver Chalice (Thomas B. Costain)
Deliverance (James Dickey)
The Princess Bride (William Goldman)
How Green Was My Valley (Richard Llewellyn)
The Lair of the White Worm (Bram Stoker)
I've made a few changes to some of the existing entries--nothing worth singling out, however (at least at this point). I've also started adding pictures to some of the other new entries--I'll announce these books as I finish them.

Last but not least, the opening remarks have been modified extensively (hopefully for the better).

Enjoy!! (and please let me know what you think)

Nov 2, 2013, 4:03am Top

49> Thanks. As you can see, it had been a couple of years since my previous updates. I definitely needed to get my butt in gear...

Jan 9, 2015, 7:32am Top

I'm afraid I forgot about this thread, Silent. What a fantastic resource. Please do add the new Reader's Choice. You have a wonderful collection.

Jan 9, 2015, 7:38am Top

I know that

At the Earth's Core / A Princess of Mars

was published by EP as part of their Masterpieces of Science Fiction. Classic stuff!

Jan 9, 2015, 10:09am Top

Just saw this thread mentioned elsewhere, adding my appreciation for the work.

Edited: Feb 3, 2015, 10:14pm Top

Okay, folks...as I mentioned elsewhere, I did some work on this thread last year and never got around to announcing the changes. First of all, I added exterior photos of every book published in the Reader's Choice "series" (pretty much all books up to and including last year's selections).

I have also added my "reflections" (I hesitate to call them "reviews") on the following Reader's Choice books:
Pebble in the Sky (Isaac Asimov)
The Illustrated Man (Ray Bradbury)
The Plague (Albert Camus)
The Great Train Robbery (Michael Crichton)
The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco)
Spartacus (Howard Fast)
Kim (Rudyard Kipling)
The Egg and I (Betty MacDonald)
The Razor's Edge (William Somerset Maugham)
Death of a Salesman (Henry Miller)
A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (B. Traven)
Finally, for purposes of comparison, I have included pictures of the original LEC and/or Heritage Press editions of some of the books in this series.

I'll try to add entries for some of this year's books before they sell out...

Jan 10, 2015, 6:04am Top

Thanks silent. You have an amazing collection

Sep 2, 2015, 12:41pm Top

Okay...I've added another seven "reviews" to this page (mostly positive, with a couple klunkers):
Through the Looking Glass (Lewis Carroll)
The Hunt for Red October (John Clancy)
Hans Brinker; or, The Silver Skates (Mary Mapes Dodge)
The Silence of the Lambs (Thomas Harris)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Ernest J.B. Kirtlan)
The Master of Ballantrae (Robert Louis Stevenson)
King Kong (Wallace, Cooper & Lovelace)
The majority of these books are from last year's Reader's Choice set. My next update will focus on books in this year's set, hopefully providing feedback early enough to inform your buying decisions.

Oh...and I reached a milestone with this update. This page now has over 1000 thumbnail images (all linked to full-sized images, of course).

Enjoy!! -- Feedback is always appreciated.

Sep 2, 2015, 6:20pm Top

This is a true labor of love and much appreciated.

Edited: Sep 3, 2015, 4:40am Top

Thanks. It falls somewhere between true love and pure stubbornness, to tell the truth. No doubt this page would be better received if I talked about these books closer to the date they are published (and if I could reign in my penchant for TMI).

Jul 13, 2016, 11:33pm Top

Sending this thread back to the top since it's such a great resource.

Jul 14, 2016, 12:33pm Top

This is an amazing thread....

Jul 14, 2016, 3:30pm Top

I love this thread you created SilentInAWay because it has been very helpful when picking the titles I want. It is also a help in making a list of titles I don't have from Reader's Choice sets before I started my EP addiction.

Edited: Jul 14, 2016, 4:04pm Top

Jul 14, 2016, 4:53pm Top

I've also referred to this thread many times, love it!

On a separate note, Silent, if you are ever in the need for any information or images of any of the titles that you may not own, let us know! I for one would be more than happy to help!

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