The Folio Society

Folio Friday: If Not, Winter (Fragments of Sappho)

Over the next four weeks, I’m excited to share some selections from the The Folio Society‘s spring catalog! As many of you know, I’m a devoted fan of The Folio Society editions of classic literature, and the three I received so generously from the publisher last month have done nothing but encourage my adoration. Today’s featured edition is IF NOT, WINTER: FRAGMENTS OF SAPPHO.

I’m always drawn in by the incredible cover art and interior illustrations that The Folio Society are known for, and one  thing I truly appreciate about their editions is the thought and design they put into their sturdy slipcovers.

The London Review of Books writes of this translation, “Carson loves the spaces almost as much as the words . . . a haunting translation.” This description of the text is equaled in the design and presentation of the edition’s cover and slipcase, both of which are softly beautiful and expertly crafted to reflect the beauty and craft of Sappho’s remarkable work.

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho

  • Translator and Introducer: Anne Carson
  • Artist: Jenny Holzer

While interpreting her work in the 19th century, translators and writers ascribed derogatory terms to the poet, misconstruing sexual enlightenment for promiscuity, prostitution or sorcery. The snippets of her work were misappropriated and overwritten until it became almost impossible to find the genuine voice of Sappho. [London Review of Books]

Anne Carson’s beautiful, brave and unadorned translation of Sappho’s complete surviving work is printed letterpress throughout to evoke the original papyrus fragments onto which the words were transcribed. In a careful consideration of the text, this large-format edition presents the English translation of each fragment facing the original ancient Greek, each page individually typeset so the spacing and breaks are precisely replicated.

About the Author: Sappho was a musician who lived on the island of Lesbos from about 630 BC until her death no one knows when. She devoted her life to composing songs to be sung to the lyre’s accompaniment. Alexandrian scholars collected her songs in nine books, all of which are lost. Sappho was also a poet. Whether she was literate is not known but the words to her songs were written down during or soon after her lifetime and existed on papyrus by the end of the fifth century BC. Of the nine books of lyrics that Sappho composed, only one poem has survived complete. All the rest are fragments. [Biography by Anne Carson]

About the Publisher: For 70 years, The Folio Society has been publishing beautiful illustrated editions of the world’s greatest books. It believes that the literary content of a book should be matched by its physical form. With specially researched images or newly commissioned illustrations, many of its editions are further enhanced with introductions written by leading figures in their fields: novelists, journalists, academics, scientists and artists. Exceptional in content and craftsmanship, and maintaining the very highest standards of fine book production, Folio Society editions last for generations.

Book copy and all images are courtesy of The Folio Society. Feel free to visit their NEWS AND BLOGS page for more information. In case you missed them, take a look at my Folio Friday features for Mary Beard’s S.P.Q.R. and other Folio Society books.

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The Folio Society

Folio Friday: Of Mice and Men

This week, I’m excited to share with you all a new selection from the Winter catalog of The Folio Society. As many of you know, I’m a devoted fan of The Folio Society editions of classic literature, and the three I received so generously from the publisher last month have done nothing but encourage my adoration. Today’s featured edition is John Steinbeck’s classic, OF MICE AND MEN.

I’m always drawn in by the incredible cover art and interior illustrations that The Folio Society are known for, and one  thing I truly appreciate about their editions is the thought and design they put into their sturdy slipcovers.

I think this edition’s smooth tan coloring and darker silhouettes, coupled with the western font, truly delivers on the sense of loneliness and resignation that permeates the novel, as well as its slow, almost still persistence. The slipcover, too, is simply beautiful in its paradoxically bright and colorful design.

Of Mice and Men

  • Illustrated by James Albon

Migrant laborers George and Lennie are dropped miles from their new workplace by a bus driver who deems them unworthy of an unscheduled stop. The symbolism is clear from the outset – itinerant farm workers have little social status in the land they sow and harvest for others’ financial gain. George is slight and savvy, Lennie a hulking simpleton, and the pair have formed an unlikely friendship. They wander state to state, working on ranches and sleeping rough between jobs, until Lennie’s childlike naivety inevitably lands him in trouble and they must once again move on.

Steinbeck’s sparse narrative is suggestive of a stage play and his gift for relating complex human sentiments with the briefest authorial direction is unsurpassed. The characters are drawn with confident self-restraint that borders on detachment; Steinbeck sets the scene then pulls back to allow them space to tell their story. The effect is overpowering and ensures this thought-provoking novella will endlessly gnaw at your conscience.

If there was any hope of realizing the American dream, it is ruthlessly shattered by Steinbeck as the story progresses, leaving us wrangling with the reality of life at the fringes of society in a country battling financial meltdown. It is an extraordinary book that endures and rattles like the horses’ halter chains in the barn – a repeated refrain that is full of foreboding.

About the Author: John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, in 1902. In 1919 he enrolled at Stanford only to drop out six years later without obtaining a degree. Steinbeck then moved to New York City to find work as a freelance writer, though he quickly returned to California where he worked as a caretaker in Lake Tahoe. There he wrote his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929). His first major successes were with Tortilla Flat (1935) and Of Mice and Men (1937). His 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath won Steinbeck a Pulitzer Prize in 1940, and at the height of its success sold ten thousand copies a week. Despite his pro-American writing during the Second World War, the FBI maintained a file on him as a suspected Communist due to the calls for economic reform found in his works. Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962. He died in New York City in 1968.

About the Publisher: For 70 years, The Folio Society has been publishing beautiful illustrated editions of the world’s greatest books. It believes that the literary content of a book should be matched by its physical form. With specially researched images or newly commissioned illustrations, many of its editions are further enhanced with introductions written by leading figures in their fields: novelists, journalists, academics, scientists and artists. Exceptional in content and craftsmanship, and maintaining the very highest standards of fine book production, Folio Society editions last for generations.

Book copy and all images are courtesy of The Folio Society. Feel free to visit their NEWS AND BLOGS page for more information. In case you missed them, take a look at my Folio Friday features for Mary Beard’s S.P.Q.R. and other Folio Society books.

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The Folio Society

Folio Friday: Kavalier & Clay

This week, I’m excited to share with you all a new selection from the Winter catalog of The Folio Society. As many of you know, I’m a devoted fan of The Folio Society editions of classic literature, and the three I received so generously from the publisher last month have done nothing but encourage my adoration. This week, I want to highlight Michael Chabon’s THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY.

I’m always drawn in by the incredible cover art and interior illustrations that The Folio Society are known for, and one  thing I truly appreciate about their editions is the thought and design they put into their sturdy slipcovers.

This edition is bound in a soft blue and grey and its cover illustrations and text match the odd whimsy and subtle seriousness of the text’s primary themes.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

  • Illustrated by Chris Samnee
  • Introduced by Michael Moorcock
  • Colouring by Matthew Wilson

In his introduction for this special collector’s edition, author Michael Moorcock describes The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay as ‘a modern classic worthy of its Pulitzer Prize as only a handful can be’. Having worked in the very ink-stained offices Chabon describes, Moorcock praises this visionary novel’s authenticity, noting that it creates a world so compelling it leaves us wanting to ‘remain in its aura just a little while longer’. Since its publication in 2000, the fictional superhero has escaped the confines of the novel, appearing in his own series of comics published by Dark Horse.

Michael Chabon’s pre-war New York is a place of optimism and art, of big band music and sharp suits – in his hands the city becomes a transformative place, taking lost souls and making them Americans taking broken children and making them superheroes. By intertwining the stories of two Jewish boys with that of their liberty-inspired comic hero, Chabon tells not only the story of a fledgling art form, but that of America itself, as seen through the eyes of its immigrants.

About the Author: Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), A Model World (1991), Wonder Boys (1995), Werewolves in their Youth (1999), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), Summerland (2002), The Final Solution (2004), The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (2007), Maps & Legends (2008), Gentlemen of the Road (2007), Telegraph Avenue (2012), Moonglow (2016), and the picture book The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man (2011). He lives in Berkeley, California with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children.

About the Publisher: For 70 years, The Folio Society has been publishing beautiful illustrated editions of the world’s greatest books. It believes that the literary content of a book should be matched by its physical form. With specially researched images or newly commissioned illustrations, many of its editions are further enhanced with introductions written by leading figures in their fields: novelists, journalists, academics, scientists and artists. Exceptional in content and craftsmanship, and maintaining the very highest standards of fine book production, Folio Society editions last for generations.

Book copy and all images are courtesy of The Folio Society. Feel free to visit their NEWS AND BLOGS page for more information. In case you missed them, take a look at my Folio Friday features for Mary Beard’s S.P.Q.R. and other Folio Society books.

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The Folio Society

Folio Friday: S.P.Q.R.

This week, I’m excited to share with you all a new selection from the Winter catalog of The Folio Society. As many of you know, I’m a devoted fan of The Folio Society editions of classic literature, and the three I received so generously from the publisher last month have done nothing but encourage my adoration. This week, I want to highlight Mary Beard’s S.P.Q.R.

I’m drawn in by the incredible cover art and the interior illustrations that The Folio Society are known for, and one  thing I truly appreciate about their editions is the thought and design they put into their sturdy slipcovers.

This edition, in particular, is bound in a beautifully marbled red with gold lettering, evocative of the powerful and often romanticized Roman empire. It seems to me the perfect fit for famed historian Mary Beard’s impressive and “definitive account of ancient Rome.”

S.P.Q.R. by Mary Beard

In this bestselling account, Mary Beard considers how Rome grew from an insignificant village to a genuine superpower. Her sparkling narrative also reveals the Romans’ view of themselves and their achievements, and why they remain so important to us. Covering 1,000 years of Rome’s past, and casting fresh light on the basics of Roman culture, this breathtaking survey blends epic events with the colourful experiences of ordinary citizens to provide a definitive history of ancient Rome.

The book contains more than 45 specially selected sumptuous full-colour images. The glorious reproductions collected here include beautiful Etruscan jewellery; details from Trajan’s column showing a fortified camp; a stone relief depicting Praetorian officers; statuary from Hadrian’s extraordinary villa at Tivoli; and votive objects from an archaic Roman temple site. Interspersed throughout the text are 60 black-and-white images: a coin showing the sweeping hair of Mithradates; the crumbling remains of Hadrian’s Wall; an image of the arch of Constantine; and the tombstone of a devoted couple (both former slaves) who met when the bride was aged just 7.

About the Author: Mary Beard is one of the most original and best-known classicists working today. She is Professor of Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, and the Classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement. Her books include the Wolfson Prize-winning Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (2008), Women & Power: A Manifesto (2017) and Civilisations: How Do We Look?/The Eye of Faith (2018). Her popular TLS blog has been collected in the books It’s a Don’s Life (2009) and All in a Don’s Day (2012). Mary Beard is a Fellow of the British Academy and was awarded an OBE in 2013 and a damehood in 2018 for services to classical scholarship.

About the Publisher: For 70 years, The Folio Society has been publishing beautiful illustrated editions of the world’s greatest books. It believes that the literary content of a book should be matched by its physical form. With specially researched images or newly commissioned illustrations, many of its editions are further enhanced with introductions written by leading figures in their fields: novelists, journalists, academics, scientists and artists. Exceptional in content and craftsmanship, and maintaining the very highest standards of fine book production, Folio Society editions last for generations.

Book copy and all images are courtesy of The Folio Society. Feel free to visit their NEWS AND BLOGS page for more information. In case you missed them, take a look at my Folio Friday features for THE THOMAS HARDY COLLECTION and for Ursula K. Le Guin’s THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS.

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The Folio Society

Folio Friday: Brideshead Revisited

This week, I’m excited to share with you all another new selection from the September catalog of The Folio Society. As many of you know, I’m a devoted fan of The Folio Society editions of classic literature, and the three I received so generously from the publisher have done nothing but encourage my adoration. This week, I want to highlight their new edition for one of my favorite books, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh.

I’m drawn in by the incredible cover art and the interior illustrations that The Folio Society are known for, and one  thing I truly appreciate about their editions is the thought and design they put into their sturdy slipcovers. This particular design is one of the more stunning from any Folio Society I’ve seen, which is saying something!

I also think it is quite the match for the overall atmosphere of the novel, and it reminds me very much of the endearing Sebastian Flyte, one of my favorite literary characters. I fell in love with him the first time I read BRIDESHEAD, and this design, plus the interior artwork, lives up to the romance and magic of my first impressions.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

  • Introduced by A. N. Wilson
  • Illustrated by Harry Brockway

Mr Waugh is very definitely an artist, with something like a genius for precision and clarity not surpassed by any novelist writing in English in his time.

Chosen as one of Time magazine’s 100 greatest novels of all time, this is Waugh’s most popular book, combining aching sympathy for the passing of privilege with the best of his razor-sharp wit.

Charles Ryder’s cousin warned him against taking rooms on the ground floor of his Oxford College, so when the young Lord Sebastian Flyte is sick through his window, it seems he should have heeded the advice. However, no one is immune to Sebastian’s inimitable charm and soon a relationship develops that will change Charles’s life forever.

The novel pinpoints a very precise moment in British social history and Waugh perfectly recreates the ambiance of the period; the aristocracy cling to their privilege and Ryder becomes increasingly vocal about his anti-religious sentiment. Despite the distractions of the beautifully crafted prose, the reader remains painfully aware of the imminent war, while Ryder and his contemporaries enjoy the bounties of privilege, blissfully ignorant of impending events.

This new edition from The Folio Society is illustrated with wood-engravings by award-winning artist Harry Brockway. His stylized scenes perfectly evoke Brideshead and its characters’ devil-may-care lives. Brockway also designed the striking binding art – a languid portrait for the front and subtle motifs of swirling cigarette smoke on the back.

In the newly commissioned introduction to this edition, award-winning novelist A. N. Wilson writes of the ache for an aesthetically purer past and how Brideshead represent the idea of a balanced, crafted and ‘above all, enjoyable’ novel.

About the Publisher: For 70 years, The Folio Society has been publishing beautiful illustrated editions of the world’s greatest books. It believes that the literary content of a book should be matched by its physical form. With specially researched images or newly commissioned illustrations, many of its editions are further enhanced with introductions written by leading figures in their fields: novelists, journalists, academics, scientists and artists. Exceptional in content and craftsmanship, and maintaining the very highest standards of fine book production, Folio Society editions last for generations.

Book copy and all images are courtesy of The Folio Society. Feel free to review the September Collection, it is brilliant! In case you missed them, take a look at my Folio Friday features for THE THOMAS HARDY COLLECTION and for Ursula K. Le Guin’s THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS.

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The Folio Society

Folio Friday: The Thomas Hardy Collection

This week, I’m excited to share with you all another new selection from the September catalog of The Folio Society. As many of you know, I’m a devoted fan of The Folio Society editions of classic literature, and the three I received so generously from the publisher have done nothing but encourage my adoration. This week, I want to highlight their new THOMAS HARDY COLLECTION.

I’m drawn in by the incredible cover art and the interior illustrations that The Folio Society are known for, and one  thing I truly appreciate about their editions is the thought and design they put into their sturdy slipcovers. The fact that TFS thinks not just the artwork for the book, but also its display case, is a major collecting consideration. I was fortunate enough to get a copy of JUDE THE OBSCURE, but I cannot wait to get my hands on the entire collection, considering how much I adored The Mayor of Casterbridge and Far From the Madding Crowd. Here are the details:

The Thomas Hardy Collection:

Far From the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure

Illustrated with wood engravings by Peter Reddick

‘Hardy saw the passion in the lives of ordinary country people: shepherds, milkmaids, village musicians, and expressed it with great power and empathy’ – Telegraph

The text for the Folio Society’s Thomas Hardy collection of four of his greatest Wessex novels is drawn from that of the authoritative Wessex Edition of 1912, with a few minor corrections subsequently requested by the author. Each includes Hardy’s original preface and a map of Wessex, the county that he created and where he set these novels, is featured on the end papers.

Each book contains over 30 wood engravings by Peter Reddick, who has recreated Hardy’s rural vision in his work. Reddick’s corn-dolly motifs appear on the cloth binding and the slipcase, which is made from Fragrance of Grass paper, created using an ancient Chinese paper-making method that results in a unique appearance and texture.

Hardy’s Wessex novels are among the finest examples of naturalism, a kind of realism influenced by scientific observation. His extensive  research– keeping newspaper clippings and ‘facts’ notebooks – is what makes the idyllic Wessex county with its evocative descriptions of landscapes, wildlife and local tradespeople so believable.

Hardy offers no prescription for carefree rural living in these books. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the stunning settings offset the misery that Tess endures simply to get by. While in Jude the Obscure, despite his best efforts Jude cannot rise above his humble beginnings. Those who do manage to rise above their station still suffer from the sins of the past in The Mayor of Casterbridge, and in Far from the Madding Crowd Bathsheba’s multiple suitors only aggravate the challenge of domestic harmony.

About the Publisher: For 70 years, The Folio Society has been publishing beautiful illustrated editions of the world’s greatest books. It believes that the literary content of a book should be matched by its physical form. With specially researched images or newly commissioned illustrations, many of its editions are further enhanced with introductions written by leading figures in their fields: novelists, journalists, academics, scientists and artists. Exceptional in content and craftsmanship, and maintaining the very highest standards of fine book production,Folio Society editions last for generations.

Book copy and all images are courtesy of The Folio Society. Feel free to review the September Collection, it is brilliant! Please come back next Friday, when I feature the new Folio edition of Evelyn Waugh’s BRIDESHEAD REVISITED.

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The Folio Society

Folio Friday: The Left Hand of Darkness

Over the course of the next few Fridays, I’m excited to share with you all three new selections from the September catalog of The Folio Society. As many of you know, I’m a devoted fan of The Folio Society editions of classic literature, and the three I received so generously from the publisher have done nothing but encourage my adoration. This week, I want to highlight their edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS.

I’m drawn in by the incredible cover art and the interior illustrations that The Folio Society are known for, and one of the things I truly appreciate about their editions are the sturdy slipcovers that are also well-designed. The fact that TFS puts thought into not just the artwork for the book, but also its display case, is excellent. This particular edition was also a collaboration between Le Guin herself and the publisher, which makes it all the more unique and special. As a Le Guin fan, I’m proud to own this one.

According to The Folio Society:

Described by Margaret Atwood as ‘one of the literary greats’ and by Stephen King as ‘a literary icon’, Ursula K. Le Guin stands as a colossus in the field of speculative fiction. The Left Hand of Darkness won multiple awards, including the Hugo for best novel, making Le Guin the first woman to win it; appropriate indeed, given that her extraordinary novel of betrayal, loyalty, love and survival was to change the conversation about gender for ever. In her introduction, novelist Becky Chambers – herself nominated for both the Clarke Award and the Hugo – calls the book ‘a titan’, one that gave rise to new perspectives on what fiction could be.

About the Book:

Genly Ai is an Envoy, a diplomat sent to make first contact with inhabited planets. Winter, a world locked in a perpetual ice age, is a particularly daunting challenge: its people are androgynous, only taking on male or female sexual characteristics during ‘kemmer’, a monthly period of change and arousal. Struggling to understand the intricacies of a society where anyone could be both mother and father to multiple children, Genly is soon caught in the dangerous machinations of politicians and kings who care little for his life, or the potential life beyond their planet. He is left with little choice but to flee across a vast ice sheet, a journey dangerous enough for a native of Winter, let alone a human ill adapted to extreme cold. Yet with survival and desperation comes trust, and Genly gains a new understanding of Winter and its people.

About the Illustrated Edition:

Like the layers of snow, ice and rock that make up Winter, The Left Hand of Darkness is a novel of many layers. Le Guin’s lifelong interest in anthropology and cultural diversity is the bedrock of every page, with chapters devoted to Winter’s mythology, oral history and folk stories. Winter itself, where the habitable stretch of land is always in danger of being suffocated by ice, feels utterly real – Le Guin crafts a world of lethal beauty and completely believable complexity. David Lupton, who provided the illustrations for the Folio edition of A Wizard of Earthsea, returns with a series of sensitive and intimate black and white artworks. Le Guin herself was closely involved in directing the look and feel of this edition, with the binding, slipcase and endpapers specially designed to invoke the icy atmosphere of Winter.

Book copy and all images are courtesy of The Folio Society. Feel free to review the September Collection, it is brilliant! Please come back next Friday, when I feature the new Folio edition of Thomas Hardy’s JUDE THE OBSCURE.

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