Founded in 1947 by Charles Ede, the Folio Society is an independent publisher with a reputation for producing beautifully illustrated books. This week, I was lucky enough to attend their spring titles launch event at the British Library in London.
There are twelve new books in the latest catalogue along with reissues of several other volumes. The new titles are:
There was a display of draft prints and covers showing the different stages of how the books were made.
Several members of staff from the Folio Society told me about the lengthy design and editing process of producing each book which can take up to a year in total depending on the work involved. The typography, binding, paper and illustrations are all carefully selected with great attention to detail. Unsurprisingly, the books are not cheap – ‘Finnegans Wake’ is priced at £99 while ‘Stuart Little’ is a more modest £24.95 – but the quality is extremely impressive.
If the author of the original work is alive, then the Folio Society work closely with them to ensure that they are happy with the product. Some illustrators are specially commissioned just for one book while others have had a long relationship with the Folio Society and have worked on several.
This is ‘Finnegans Wake’ by James Joyce which is very much the showpiece of the latest collection. It is probably one of my favourites from the new collection (although I still don’t know if I will ever read it) along with ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’ by Douglas Adams.
These pages are from ‘The Day of the Jackal’ by Frederick Forsyth.
Surprisingly, this was the first launch event of its kind that the Folio Society has hosted. There were a few short speeches given by Baroness Blackstone, Toby Hartwell, Johanna Geary and artists Lawrence Norfolk and John Vernon Lord. Norfolk has written an introduction to ‘The Voyage of Argo’ by Apollonius of Rhodes while Lord’s illustrations are featured in ‘Finnegans Wake’ by James Joyce.
Norfolk spoke of the widely-held perception that the Folio Society only publishes “classic” literature or ancient texts written many centuries ago. While many of the titles are considered to be classics, the latest collection shows just how diverse the selection is with books ranging from ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’ by Douglas Adams to ‘The Dynasties of China’ by Bamber Gascoigne to ‘Stuart Little’ by E. B. White. The latest catalogue also features reissues of modern books such as ‘Notes from a Small Island’ by Bill Bryson and ‘The New York Trilogy’ by Paul Auster.
I received a free goodie bag with Folio note cards, a book of forewords and a pen. The illustration on the bag appears on the Folio Society’s cover of ‘The Midnight Folk’ by John Masefield.
I really enjoyed the event which offered a great deal of insight into the lengthy and complex process of traditional publishing. It is really encouraging to see the aesthetic aspects of books being taken so seriously and the finished products really are beautiful. The Folio Society is a must for bibliophiles everywhere.