Folio Society

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Folio Society
Folio Society logo.jpg
Founded 1947
Founder Charles Ede
Country of origin United Kingdom
Headquarters location 44 Eagle Street, London
Distribution Worldwide
Key people Lord Gavron
Publication types Books, Limited Editions
Official website

The Folio Society is a privately owned[1] London-based publisher, founded by Charles Ede in 1947 and incorporated in 1971.[2][3] It produces illustrated hardback editions of classic fiction and non-fiction books. Each Folio edition features specially designed bindings and includes artist-commissioned illustrations (most often in fiction titles) or researched artworks and photographs (in non-fiction titles). Most editions come with their own slipcase.


The Folio Society was founded in 1947 by Charles Ede, Christopher Sandford (of Golden Cockerel Press), and Alan Bott (founder of Pan Books).[4] The firm's goal was to produce "editions of the world's great literature, in a format worthy of the contents, at a price within the reach of everyman."[5] Folio and the Golden Cockerel Press shared premises in Poland Street until 1955.[6][7] Subsequent offices were located in the Mayfair and Borough areas of London. The Folio Society moved to its current location, 44 Eagle Street, Holborn, in 1994.[8]

The society issued its first three titles in 1947. In October of that year Tolstoy's Tales went on sale[9] for sixteen shillings (this would have been about US$3 in 1947, or just over US$110 in 2014.[10][11]) Tales was followed in November and December by George du Maurier's Trilby[12] and a translation of Aucassin et Nicolette, establishing a pattern of monthly publication.

In 1971 The Folio Society was incorporated and purchased by John Letts and Halfdan Lynner.[3] Under their ownership, The Folio Society published the collected novels of Dickens, Trollope, Hardy, Elizabeth Gaskell and Conrad.

Lord Gavron has been owner and chairman of The Folio Society since 1982.[13] Members of The Folio Society Board of Directors are: Robert Preece (Deputy Chairman and Finance Director); Joe Whitlock Blundell (Production Director); Peter Scannell (Operations Director); Tom Walker (Editorial Director); Jean-Marc Rathé (Marketing Director) and Claire Aris (Systems Director).

Membership and non-member sales[edit]

At its inception, The Folio Society operated as a membership-based organisation; as the list of titles grew, the membership commitment was established as 4 books per year. Since 2011, anyone has been able to purchase from the Folio Society list without committing to membership, although membership remains at the core of the company’s strategy.[citation needed]

Production trends and bindings[edit]

The company currently publishes more than 60 titles a year, including multi-volume sets. Most titles are digitally typeset, then printed by offset at printers in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Until 1954, most Folio books were issued with printed dust jackets, but during the latter half of the 1950s coloured card slip cases were introduced, to protect the books and retain focus on the decorative bindings. Solander boxes are generally used to protect the limited editions.

Folio publications are printed in a range of standard sizes (in 1951, for example, these included Royal Octavo, Medium Octavo, Crown Octavo and Demy Octavo), and custom sizes are also employed. The most common material for bindings is buckram or a similar bookcloth, but there are many exceptions: aluminium foil was used in binding Aldous Huxley's Brave New World in 1971, and vegetable parchment in binding Voltaire's The Calas Affair in 1994; more commonly, marbled papers (often produced by Ann Muir Marbling Ltd.) have been used for several volumes in recent years, either as endpapers or as board-papers of quarter bindings; moiré silk (usually artificial) has been used sporadically over the years as a binding material, and leather (vellum and goatskin) and bonded leather are sometimes used, chiefly for the more expensive editions. Most bindings for works of fiction are designed by the illustrator. Non-fiction binding designers include David Eccles, Jeff Clements, and Neil Gower.

Beginning in 2007, the company used traditional letterpress printing (the method which Johannes Gutenberg devised in the middle of the fifteenth century) to publish each of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as the Sonnets and Poems, in large-format editions. This landmark project of 39 volumes was finally completed in 2014.


Cover of Folio Society edition of Tristram Shandy illustrated by John Lawrence

Notable among the hundreds of illustrators of Folio books are-

Fine artists who have illustrated books for the Society include-

Prominent wood engravers include-

Some recent commissions are from-


Over the years, The Folio Society has commissioned original introductions to its editions from leading figures in literature, the arts, media, science, philosophy and the academic world. These include the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams (Confessions of St Augustine and Eusebius The History of the Church); Ruth Rendell (P. D. James Cover Her Face); A. S. Byatt (Andrew Lang The Pink Fairy Book); Jenny Uglow (Liza Picard Restoration London); Simon Mawer (Leo Marks Between Silk and Cyanide); Will Self (Franz Kafka Metamorphosis and Other Stories); John Banville (Bram Stoker Dracula); Michael Cunningham (Virginia Woolf Mrs Dalloway); Damon Galgut (Albert Camus The Outsider); Amit Chaudhuri (The Bhagavad Gita); Colm Tóibín (Lady Augusta Gregory Irish Myths and Legends and D. H. Lawrence Sons and Lovers); Paul Krugman (Isaac Asimov The Foundation Trilogy); William Trevor (V. S. Pritchett The Camberwell Beauty and Other Stories), Ruth Padel (Selected Poems and Prose of Gerard Manley Hopkins); Brian Cox (Richard Feynman "Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman”); David Malouf (Frederic Manning The Middle Parts of Fortune); A. L. Kennedy (Muriel Spark The Girls of Slender Means); Nigel Kneale (The Ghost Stories of M. R. James); Melvyn Bragg (Bede History of the English Church and People), Carol Ann Duffy (A Folio Anthology of Poetry) and Patti Smith (Wuthering Heights).

See also[edit]

References and sources[edit]

  • Cave, Roderick & Sarah Mason, A History of the Golden Cockerel Press, 1920–1960 (2002. British Library & Oak Knoll Press)
  • Nash, Paul W., Folio 50: a bibliography of the Folio Society, 1947–1996 (1997. Folio Press in association with The British Library)
  • Nash, Paul W. Folio 60: a bibliography of the Folio Society, 1947–2006 (2007. Folio Society) (Includes essays by Sue Bradbury, Joseph Connolly and David McKitterick)
  • Nash, Paul W., 'Folio fine editions', in Parenthesis (4 April 2000), pp. 22–24. (Includes a checklist of 'Fine editions', giving print-runs)

External links[edit]