The Folio Society and its Significance

If you’re a follower of my Instagram, a few beautiful books with the letters ‘FS’ printed on the spine may have caught your attention. These are works of The Folio Society, a publisher dedicated to crafting special editions of fine literature. Their books range from classics to contemporary, from children’s stories to non-fiction and beyond. I am a huge admirer of the FS and believe they produce nothing less than works of art. As we find ourselves in the age of the Kindle, I would argue the importance of physical books is stronger than ever.

Founded in 1947 by Charles Ede, The Folio Society was created with the aim to ‘produce editions of the world’s great literature, in a format worthy of the contents’. It certainly achieved this. The elegance of the books reflects the grandeur of the text inside. No publisher could do better justice for the likes of Shakespeare, Joyce, Austen, the Brontës and many others. The Folio Society goes beyond celebrating literature, it celebrates the aestheticism of books; catering to book lovers who want more than a good story, they want a book that can be displayed and treasured for years to come.

Attitudes towards literature are changing. I don’t necessarily believe what our grandparents keep telling us: ‘People just don’t read as much nowadays.’ I think reading is still enjoyed by many, but books themselves are viewed as more disposable. And the modern reader poses the question: why scatter your home with dusty paperbacks when you could have a thousand books on Kindle? For myself and other bibliophiles like me, the experience of a physical book is important, and The Folio Society exists to bring even more value to this experience.

I bought my first Folio edition three years ago when I discovered a collection of Christina Rossetti poetry in a charity shop. While I enjoy an aged paperback as much as the next reader, a well-crafted deluxe hardback is difficult to resist. The book also caught my eye because I’d been studying Rossetti’s Goblin Market at uni. The cover was lovely and inside was a myriad of watercolour illustrations. There was just something different about the sight, smell and feel of this book. Since then, I have been fortunate to receive Folio Society editions for birthdays and Christmases, and there have been a few more charity shop discoveries as well. I now own ten and I’m always looking to expand my collection. Among my favourites are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Jungle Book and Edward Lear’s Complete Nonsense book of poetry.

The one downside to these books is they do carry a heavier price tag than most, with a few of the extra fancy limited editions approaching the cost of a skiing mini break. Which is why I would recommend purchasing them for very special occasions, it’s also worth keeping your eyes peeled in charity shops. However, the price is justified when you see the craftsmanship and artistry that goes into them.

The Folio Society is essentially the Rolex of the book world. Each FS edition comes in its own uniquely designed slipcase; the experience begins when you remove the book from its cover.  Printed on luxury Modigliani paper (not sure what that is but it sounds great), the pages are sewn in small sections so that the book can open flat without damaging the spine. This is seriously impressive when you consider how fiddly some large books are to hold open. Even my Folio Society copy of The Count of Monte Cristo opens flat, and it’s 1276 pages long! Finished with woven head and tail bands, there is no denying: these books were built to last.

I know you don’t want me to say it but Christmas isn’t that far away, and these books make the perfect gift. You aren’t just buying somebody a copy of their favourite book, you are bringing that book to life through dazzling artwork. The words will dance off the gilt-edged page. And the durability of them means they can be passed through generations, they can be read and loved over and over again. Perhaps write a little note on the inside cover so the memory will always be there. This brings me back to my earlier point: physical books are important. They are more than mere stories; they are art, they are family heirlooms, they are an experience. And so I would like to thank The Folio Society and others like them who are committed to preserving one of the most wonderful things of all: the joy of reading.

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