Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Moon and Sixpence Illustrated by Frederic Dorr Steele and Paul Gauguin - W. Somerset Maugham



Illustrated by Frederic Dorr Steele and Paul Gauguin By W. Somerset Maugham The Moon and Sixpence (New York: The Heritage Press, 1941)

I just got hold of this beautiful illustrated edition of The Moon and Sixpence. In the catalogue online when I bought it it was dated as 1919, which is not accurate, since it is published in 1941. At first I thought that it could be an earlier edition than the one mentioned in Stott.

Besides the main text, at the beginning a series of correspondence is included as to how the edition came into being:
October 20, 1939; to W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM, VILLA MAURESQUE, CAP FERRAT, ALPES MARITIMES: "I have for several years been told by those who liked illustrated books that there should be a fine edition of The Moon and Sixpence. I think that an edition illustrated with reproductions of some of the paintings by Paul Gauguin would become a happy possession of admirers of the book. Since the reproduction of these paintings, as illustrations for the novel, would prove an expensive undertaking, such an edition would be beyond the reach or desire of the ordinary 'trade' publisher. I write you now to ask whether we could have your permission to issue such an edition upon payment of a proper royalty?" GEORGE MACY.
November 5, 1939; to GEORGE MACY, THE HERITAGE PRESS, NEW YORK: "Forgive this casual way of writing, but I am busy with war work, rushed to death, and with no secretary at the moment. Yes, I should be very glad; but you must also arrange with Doubleday Doran." W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM.

December 9, 1939; to W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM, CAP FERRAT: "I now report this to you, that Doubleday Doran have given us permission to proceed with an edition of The Moon and Sixpence. I have a special idea for the illustrations. I plan to ask a living illustrator to make a series of pen drawings, as much in the fashion of the illustrative drawings of the late nineteenth century as possible, to illustrate the narrative of the first section of the book: the time which Strickland spends in London and Paris. At the time when Strickland exhibits a painting of his for the first time, it is my idea that an apposite painting by Gauguin, reproduced in full color, should be shown resting on the easel. Then the remainder of the narrative, covering the time spent by Strickland in Tahiti, should be illustrated with reproductions in color of paintings by Gauguin. I am afraid that I think this a clever idea; but I do not like to proceed with it without asking whether you object to it." GEORGE MACY.
December 22, 1939; to GEORGE MACY, THE HERITAGE PRESS: "I think you idea for the illustrations of The Moon and Sixpence is a very good one. I should be very foolish to object to it." W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM.
January 24, 1941; to GEORGE MACY, THE HERITAGE PRESS: "I think your edition of The Moon and Sixpence is grand and your method of illustration very interesting and ingenious. I should like to congratulate every one concerned on this fine piece of work." W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM. 
After these extracts from the correspondence between Maugham and Macy is a short introduction by John T. Winterich, "How this book came to be," which contains a short bio of Maugham up to the publishing year and some interesting information related to The Moon and Sixpence. One particular point of specific interest to me is a comment on Maugham disappearance around the spring of 1940, when the German panzer crossed the Belgian frontier and Maugham was believed not to be safe in Villa Mauresque because of his previous war work. It must be at the same time that the newspaper cutting that I found in my copy of The Casuarina Tree was written, which I use as my avatar. Maugham describes this experience in details in Strictly Personal (1940).

There are all together fourteen pen drawings by Frederic Dorr Steele, the illustrator most famous for his works for the Sherlock Holmes series, and twelve reproductions of Gauguin's paintings. It is certainly a "grand" edition, as Maugham writes, and a delightful copy to keep.

At the moment, one can get it at a very reasonable price and it is certainly worth it. My copy came with a brown slipcase. There is also a reprint dated 1969. For other information on The Moon and Sixpence (1919) please see an earlier post.


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