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An Early Commission

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - title page

A Connecticut Yankee
In King Arthur's Court

Samuel L. Clemens
New York: The Limited Editions Club, 1949

Charles Skaggs started his book career in the midwest, designing advertising and posters. In 1945, he moved to New York to start a career as a freelance designer. This was his first commission for the Limited Editions Club (LEC). This letter (dated July 17, 1946) from George Macy, the director of the LEC, confirms their arrangement for Skaggs to complete the typographic layout, decorative designs, and lettering for the “projected” publication. He would receive $1000.00 for his work.

The “Monthly Letter” of the LEC provided detailed information about the content and design of each publication. Number 206, which describes this volume, discusses the illustrations by Honoré Guilbeau (born 1907): “She made [some of] the drawings in the form of illustrative initial-letters, similar to [those found in] the written manuscripts of King Arthur’s time.” Others, like that on the title-page, are “brilliantly suggestive” line drawings. The “Monthly Letter” also states that they “call[ed] in a knowledgeable young man named Charles Skaggs, who had just come to New York from Ohio and was eager to show us how much he knew about the art of the book.” Skaggs chose Cloister type for the text. “All of the headlines, however, are drawn by Charles Skaggs, every single letter; and the lettering is based upon authentic Anglo-Saxon manuscripts of the sixth century.”

As this letterhead (designed by W.A. Dwiggins) documents, the George Macy Companies was a group of publishing concerns, including the LEC. The Limited Editions Club offered carefully designed books printed on high-quality paper with original illustrations, in editions of approximately one thousand copies, considerably smaller than the normal commercial production run. The Limited Editions Club is still producing such books today. Letter - George Macy to Charles Skaggs

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