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The Folio Society

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Title: The Folio Society  
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The Folio Society

Folio Society
Founded 1947
Founder Charles Ede
Country of origin United Kingdom
Headquarters location 44 Eagle Street, London
Distribution Worldwide
Key people Robert Gavron, Baron 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. Membership of the society was estimated at just under 100,000 in 2012.


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$3.00 in 1947, or just over US$10.00 in 2011.[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.

Since 1982, Robert Gavron, Baron Gavron of Highgate has been owner and chairman of The Folio Society.[13] Members of The Folio Society Board of Directors are: Robert Preece (Deputy Chairman and Finance Director); Toby Hartwell (Managing Director); Joe Whitlock Blundell (Production Director); Peter Scannell (Operations Director); David Hayden (Publishing Director); and Claire Aris (Systems Director).

Membership and non-member sales

Almost from 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 customers are able to purchase from the Folio Society list without committing to membership, although membership remains at the core of the company’s strategy.

Production trends and bindings

The company currently produces over 100 titles per year, including multi-volume sets. Most titles are produced digitally and printed using the offset method by 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 vellum and goatskin) are sometimes used, chiefly for the more expensive editions. Bindings for fiction titles are normally designed by the illustrator. Non-fiction binding designers include David Eccles, Jeff Clements and Neil Gower.

Starting in 2007, the company began using the letterpress process (the printing method invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century) for a project to produce every one of Shakespeare’s plays in large-format letterpress-printed editions.


Notable among the hundreds of illustrators of Folio books are Quentin Blake (Voltaire Candide, George Orwell Animal Farm), Paul Cox (works by P G Wodehouse), Charles Keeping (complete novels of Charles Dickens), Edward Ardizzone (R L Stevenson Travels with a Donkey), Neil Packer (Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose, Joseph Heller Catch 22), Francis Mosley (complete Joseph Conrad), Charles van Sandwyk (Kenneth Grahame The Wind in the Willows), and Geoff Grandfield (novels and stories of Raymond Chandler). Fine artists who have illustrated books for the Society include Elisabeth Frink (Horace Odes), Paula Rego (J M Barrie Peter Pan), Beryl Cook (Christopher Isherwood Mr Norris changes Trains, Muriel Spark The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie), and Tom Phillips (Samuel Beckett Waiting for Godot). Prominent wood engravers include Simon Brett (poems by Keats, Shelley and Byron), Harry Brockway (S T Coleridge The Rime of the Ancient Mariner), Joan Hassall (complete works of Jane Austen), John Lawrence (Laurence Sterne Tristram Shandy, T H White The Once and Future King) and Peter Reddick (complete novels and stories of Thomas Hardy). Some recent commissions are from Jeff Fisher (Lewis Carroll The Hunting of the Snark), Elena and Anna Balbusso (Pushkin Eugene Onegin), Jonathan Burton (Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Sam Weber (William Golding Lord of the Flies), Jillian Tamaki (Christina Rossetti Goblin Market) and A Richard Allen (Kingsley Amis Lucky Jim).


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) and Carol Ann Duffy (A Folio Anthology of Poetry).

See also

References and sources

  • 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

  • The Folio Society
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