Moby Dick LEC Restoration
Over the past year I've been re-reading a lot of the classics. Moby Dick (insert penis joke here) was one of them. This was my 3rd go at the whaling masterpiece and my 1st time finishing it without skipping the boring parts. Maybe its because I'm older now or more well read but suffice to say, I knocked it out in under 48 hours! I don't know what it was but something finally clicked inside me and I could not put the book down. When I finished the last sentence, the only thing that stopped me from starting again from the beginning was the realization I should probably eat something. I also realized that my Reader's Digest copy just wouldn't do anymore and that I had to get something special.
Now, normally I prefer to collect First Editions, but when you're dealing with books pre-20th Century, that becomes a little more difficult. First off, those older books are museum pieces and are not to be read. I try to make it a point of not owning books I'm afraid to touch. And Second, I can't afford a true first edition of Moby Dick...I'd rather have a house. So that leaves us with the more modern copies. The most common collectible copy is easily the 1930 Random House edition illustrated by Rockwell Kent. Although a clean copy with an intact dust jacket can be rare, this edition is still pretty easy to find. I wanted something a little more unique.
I decided on searching out a 1943 Limited Editions Club copy. For those not in the know, The Limited Editions Club (or LEC) was a book club founded by George Macy (of Macy's dept stores) that was designed to showcase the best literature in the best binding money can buy. The books were limited to 1500 copies and were often signed by the illustrator, binder, and when possible, the author. They are easily some of the most sought after and collectible books on the market and a heavy strain on my personal finances.
It turns out, finding an LEC Moby Dick was easier said then done. The only copies I was finding were heavily damaged and falling apart. I soon discovered the reason. Although the LEC books used only the highest quality materials, there were still some problems that didn't rear their ugly head until decades later. Sheepskin leather, it turns out, is absolute shit when it comes to long lasting book bindings. After 20-30 years, this skin all but disentegrates sitting on the shelf. In the end, I purchased the best copy I could find...
Don't be fooled, those covers fall right off!
The 2 Volume set was missing the slipcase and the spine had completely worn off of both books. Just brushing your hand across the leather would cause it to crumble...
Luckily the cover was the only thing wrong with the books. The actual text block was in pristine condition. The binding was still tight and the paper stock (something the LEC's never took short cuts on) still felt new. I quickly got to work...
First, I removed the covers and peeled away the old super.
As I'd hoped, the binding on both books was indeed intact and would
require no re-sewing.
I then added new endpapers...
...and attached top and bottom head bands.
To finish off the text blocks, I glued on a fresh super using heavy duty
For the covers I decided not to recreate a facsimile of the orginal but instead emulate the majority of the LEC collection by doing a quarter binding consisting of blue goat skin leather and Italian hand marbled papers.
Once they were cased, I got to work on creating the labels...
...I kept it simple and classy and printed them on linen stock.
Last but not least, I constructed the slipcase and covered it with same
material used for the endpapers. As befitting all LEC slipcases, I also attached a label.
The Finished Product!