Founded by George Macy in 1929, Limited Editions Club aimed to publish finely made and illustrated limited editions of the classics and a few carefully selected contemporary titles. Under Macy's ownership, LEC published 10 to 12 titles annually, each featuring 1,500 numbered copies. Macy commissioned major fine art artists (Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Marie Laurencin) to illustrate LEC books with original etchings, lithographs, and engravings. Macy also commissioned a number of American masters of Social Realism and American Regionalism (Reginald Marsh, Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry) as well as major photographers (Edward Weston, Edward Steichen) to illustrate LEC books.
The two most sought after and valuable LEC books published under Macy's leadership are Lysistrata (1934), illustrated and signed by Pablo Picasso, and Ulysses (1935), illustrated and signed by Henri Matisse. 250 copies of the 1,500 copy limited edition of Ulysses were also signed by the author, James Joyce.
In 1935, Macy founded the Heritage Club, which together with the Heritage Press, created and distributed more affordable and unlimited reprints of the great books previously published by The Limited Editions Club. Following Macy's death in 1956, his wife, Helen, directed the operations of the LEC until 1968. In 1970, the LEC (together with The Heritage Press and The Heritage Club) was sold to Boise Cascade Corporation, then to Ziff-Davis Publishing Company, and then to Cardavon Press, who expanded the print run to 2,000 numbered copies. Sidney Shiff then acquired the LEC from Cardavon in 1978. Shiff gradually changed the focus of the club, and eventually began producing only Livres d'Artiste illustrated with original artwork only by major fine art artists, rather than by major illustrators and graphic artists. He reduced the number of copies printed. From the mid 1980s until 2009, the number of copies published per title was limited to about 300 and usually just three or four titles appeared per year.
In most cases, each copy of a Limited Editions Club book is handsigned by the artists and photographers who illustrated it. However, some books were published without that signature due to the unexpected death of the illustrator before publication, such as The Arabian Nights illustrated by Arthur Szyk, Comus illustrated by Edmund Dulac, and In The Willows illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Furthermore, some LEC books were signed not only by the artist, but also by the authors and famous book designers. For instance, The Complete Poems of Robert Frost (1950) is signed by Frost; the book designer, Bruce Rogers; and the artist/illustrator, Thomas Nason. Most copies of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass are signed by Alice Hargreaves, the original Alice, who inspired the story.
Limited Editions Club does not reprint titles and always includes a colophon at the back of each book. Nearly all the titles are signed by the illustrator, and occasionally by the author or others.