Very Fine Copy of Tom Lea’s A Grizzly from the Coral Sea

Type & Plates Destroyed after Printing

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205. LEA, Tom [Thomas Calloway Lea III]. A Grizzly from the Coral Sea. Conversation and Pictures by Tom Lea. [Title verso] Copyright, 1944, by Carl Hertzog, El Paso, Texas. [1-4], [1]-32, [2, colophon Hertzog’s device] Carl Hertzog: Printer, El Paso Texas] pp., title and text illustrations in pale blue and illustrated endpapers by Lea. 8vo (21 x 13.8 cm), original green cloth without Ursa major decoration on the upper cover. Other than a few miniscule spots on limitation leaf at front, very fine in very fine d.j.

     First edition, limited edition of author-artist’s second book (295 copies, type and plates afterwards destroyed). Daniel 18. Dykes, Fifty Great Western Illustrators (Lea) 29. Hinshaw & Lovelace, Lea 65: “First fictionalized account written and illustrated by Tom Lea.” Lowman, Printer at the Pass 25: “Records a conversation in a Chungking restaurant concerning a mountain, a silver coin embossed with the head of a grizzly bear, and a certain General Quarters aboard the carrier Hornet just out of Bougainville.... Most copies were printed on gray textured Brooke paper and bound in green cloth to lend a Chinese atmosphere. The end sheets are beautiful and imaginative—a drawing of a great carrier against a delicate coral sea and a muted lavender and green sky. The stars of Ursa Major, or the Great Bear—another element in the story—are displayed on a well designed double spread title-page. The Scotch-Roman typeface is taut and virile.... Most copies were bound in green cloth without decoration. However, 20 were stamped on the front cover with the stars of Ursa Major, while three more were stamped with the grizzly head. Finally, there were 10 copies printed on 100 percent white rag paper. Six of these were bound in blue buckram with a parchment backstrip and three more bound entirely in parchment. These nine were stamped with the star pattern. The final rag paper copy was bound in white vellum cloth and stamped with the grizzly head.”

     Tom Lea (1907-2001), outstanding artist-illustrator, noted American muralist, war correspondent, author, and historian, wrote several classics of southwestern American literature, but in this work of fiction he draws on his experiences in World War II. In 1940 Tom Lea applied for and received a Rosenwald Fellowship, but declined it after receiving an invitation from the editorial staff of Life magazine to become an accredited war artist-correspondent. From 1941-1946, Tom Lea was an eye-witness reporter for Life, travelling over 100,000 miles to theaters of war where American forces were involved, including the North Atlantic, on board the Hornet in the South Pacific, a trip to China, and landing on Peleliu. Lea spent sixty-six days on the USS Hornet off Guadalcanal in the fall of 1942, and left her just days before she was lost on 26 October in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.

     Brendan M. Greeley, Jr. in The Two-Thousand Yard Stare: Tom Lea’s World War II: Paintings, Drawings, and Eyewitness Accounts by Tom Lea (Texas A&M Press, 2005) quotes the Life magazine staff: “[Lea’s] paintings themselves are extraordinary from a purely artistic point of view, [and] Tom Lea is one of those rare painters who can also put his sensitive reactions to what he sees into clear, strong prose.” Greeley recounts his encounters with Lea and remarks: “Between Lea’s trips to the war zones, he and El Paso printer Carl Hertzog brought out limited editions of two war pieces: A Grizzly from the Coral Sea (a reminiscence of his days on the aircraft carrier Hornet)and Peleliu Landing, Lea’s eyewitness of the description of the assault and first hours of combat on the island. Both limited editions published in 1944 are now quite rare.... Much of Lea’s timeless World War combat available to the general public only in...Life magazine.... When he died on January 29, 2001, the world lost a great artist writer who, in peace and war, recorded the human condition in a way that will stand with the best.”

     A Grizzly from the Coral Sea is one of the many happy results from the serendipitous meeting of Tom Lea and fine printer Carl Hertzog in October 1937. Their encounter furnished the catalyst for Hertzog’s reviving his interest in printing as a fine art, and paved the way for many collaborations between the two.


Sold. Hammer: $200.00; Price Realized: $245.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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