April of this year 2014 marked the 450th anniversary of the birth of the great bard, William Shakespeare. It also marked the completion of the Folio Society’s mammoth Letterpress Shakespeare series. Begun in 2005 with Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and King Lear, I just received the last two volumes of Henry VI, Part 3 and The Two Noble Kinsmen. I’ve featured some of these volumes in previous posts, so I want to concentrate here on trying to get across the magnificence and overwhelming magnitude of the complete set.Although they offered a slip-cased version early on in the series, the standard for the editions is the letterpress Shakespeare volume itself in all its beauty and relative simplicity, a commentary and footnoted version of the play in a separate volume, all housed in a clamshell solander box.
These are wonderful reading copies of the play, no illustrations to love or hate, no footnotes to distract from the flow of the play; just pure unadulterated Shakespeare on a beauifully laid out page. Each volume has sides hand-marbled by the late virtuoso artist Ann Muir or her successor Jemma Lewis.
The texts for the plays are all based on the Oxford University Press (OUP) editions of the plays, overseen by General Editor Stanley Wells. So the accompanying commentary volume is a specially bound edition of the OUP editions with the text of the play with full explanatory notes and an Introduction by the editor for that specific play.
The complete 39 volume set of plays in their boxes take up a staggering 120 linear inches. It was hard to actually get a decent photo because I had trouble finding a place to lay them out and be able to stand far enough away to include them all. I’ve tried my best to convey the massive beauty of these books.
AVAILABILITY: Although a couple of books in the series had a planned limitation of 3750, the majority of them have a limitation of 1000. I believe all of them are still available directly from the Folio Society and occasionally on the secondary market.