The Folio Society was founded in 1947 in a London still recovering from the ravages of World War II. And what better time to begin a new literary enterprise?
The Folio Society publishes a wide range of classics–ancient, modern, and everything in between.
Every publisher of classic literature has a hook–a unique selling point that makes their brand stand out and targets a certain type of reader. The Folio Society’s main selling points are quality and attention to detail. This makes their editions ideal for collectors who want their books to last and readers who have a taste for the high life.
The Folio Society’s trademark attention to detail starts with the text. Folio editors go to great lengths to choose the best translation and comb the text for any imperfections that may have been previously overlooked.
There are two features that really make Folio editions stand out: the introductions and illustrations.
The Folio Society commissions numerous high profile authors, journalists, and critics to write introductions. A.S. Byatt, Michael Dirda, Jay McInerney, Russell Banks, and Tom Holland are just a few authors who have written introductions to Folio editions. (In a fit of absolute genius they commissioned Margaret Atwood to write the introduction to Anne of Green Gables. I KNOW.) While other classic editions also have excellent introductions, comparatively few are by authors of this caliber.
My favorite thing about Folio editions is that they are illustrated by a wide range of incredibly gifted artists. I think it’s safe to say that the illustrations make the book.
The cover designs and endpapers are also worth noting. Each Folio edition is a piece of art. If you’re looking for a collector’s brand that’s going to give your library a uniform aesthetic, look elsewhere. A Folio collection is a hodgepodge of colors, fonts, and sizes. I love how vibrant and colorful a shelf full of Folio editions looks.
Folio editions are built to last. Most are bound in buckram, though a select few are partially or fully bound in goatskin. Most Folio volumes come in a blocked slipcase to protect them from the elements.
The downside all this quality and attention to detail is that it comes at a price. Folio editions can cost anywhere from approximately $35 (for Folio Collectables, which are not slipcased) to one or two thousand dollars for some limited editions. Most standard slipcased Folio editions run between $40 and $80 but keep in mind that there’s a lot of variation.
My only complaint about Folio editions is that the binding doesn’t allow the book to stay open of its own accord. (The paper may also have something to do with this.) It’s not stiff but it’s not particularly flexible either. At this price point, it would be nice to have more flexible binding.
Folio editions are great for collectors who can’t afford more expensive leather-bound editions or simply prefer the perks of specially commissioned illustrations and great introductions.
Do you have any Folio editions? Which of the editions pictured above is your favorite?
Classics Rebound is a series in which I review various editions of classic books. See previous reviews here.