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Folio Society

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Folio Society
The Folio Society logo.
Founded1947; 77 years ago (1947)
FounderCharles Ede
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Headquarters location4 Maguire Street, London
Key peopleLord Gavron
Publication typesBooks, Limited Editions
Official websitefoliosociety.com

The Folio Society is a London-based publisher, founded by Charles Ede in 1947 and incorporated in 1971.[1][2] Formerly privately owned,[3] it operates as an employee ownership trust since 2021.

It produces illustrated hardback editions of classic fiction and non-fiction books, poetry and children's titles. Folio editions feature specially designed bindings and include artist-commissioned illustrations (most often in fiction titles) or researched artworks and photographs (in non-fiction titles). Most editions come with their own slipcase.

For many years the Folio Society had a bookshop in Holborn, London, but the bookshop closed in December 2016 when the company moved premises. Folio editions can be purchased only online through their website, by post or over the telephone. Some editions used to be stocked by independent bookstores, by Blackwell's in Oxford, and by Selfridges, Harrods and Hatchards in London.


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] Subsequent offices were located in the Mayfair and Borough areas of London, such as 70 Brook Street in the late 1950s. [7] The Folio Society moved to its location in 44 Eagle Street, Holborn, in 1994[8] – in 2017, their offices moved to 4 Maguire Street, London.

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$33 in 2018.[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.[2] Under their ownership, The Folio Society published the collected novels of Dickens, Trollope, Hardy, Elizabeth Gaskell and Conrad.

Lord Gavron was owner and chairman of The Folio Society from 1982 until his death in 2015.

Membership and non-member sales[edit]

At its inception, The Folio Society operated as a membership-based book club; as the list of titles grew, the membership commitment was established as four books per year. Since 2011, anyone has been able to purchase from the Folio Society list without committing to membership. On 1 September 2016, the company ended its membership-based structure.[citation needed]

In 2021, The Folio Society started operating as an employee ownership trust.[13]

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.


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:

See also[edit]

References and sources[edit]

  1. ^ The Folio Society: About Us.. The Folio Society, 2011. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  2. ^ a b "FOLIO SOCIETY LIMITED(THE), SE1 2NQ LONDON Financial Information". CompaniesInTheUK.
  3. ^ "Digital Dots Ltd. pdf document" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  4. ^ "Alan Bott MC – Founder of PAN Books Ltd".
  5. ^ Charles Ede Obituary in The Telegraph, 6 June 2002. Retrieved 21 December 2011. Archived here.
  6. ^ "Books and Writers – Books and Writers". www.booksandwriters.co.uk.
  7. ^ "The Folio Society of London (Advertisement)". The New Yorker. 10 October 1959. p. 192.
  8. ^ "Folio Society, London (Eagle Street)". londononline.co.uk.
  9. ^ "Tales | Open Library". Open Library.
  10. ^ "US Inflation Calculator". US Inflation Calculator.
  11. ^ "Inflation Calculator". dollartimes.com.
  12. ^ Du Maurier, George; Folio Society (London, England) (23 July 1947). Trilby. Folio Society. OCLC 004748363.
  13. ^ a b Bain, Helen (12 December 2022). "Inside the spine-tingling success of The Folio Society". Financial Times. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  14. ^ "The Folio Life: Peter Forster (1934–2021)".
  15. ^ Mandy, Kirkby (14 December 2020). "This Folio Life: Using beautiful typography to chart A History of Christianity". The Folio Society. Archived from the original on 25 March 2023. Retrieved 9 July 2023.
  • 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]