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It’s been less than 3 months since I became interested in beautiful, illustrated books and fine editions. On the internet, many mention The Folio Society as a rich source of accessible beautiful books. Fortunately for me, at a time when I was hesitant to buy, The Folio Society offered 2 days with free shipping for orders over £100, so I placed an order to better assess the quality of their books.
Since it’s a UK publishing house, I find it difficult to find second-hand books in France, but I’ve heard that you can easily find second-hand Folio books for £10 to £20 in the UK. I’ll have to book my Eurostar train 😀
The Folio Society offers hardcover books that are a bit better bound than current books (it’s still industrial, Bradel binding), with a slipcase, much thicker papers, and a much more beautiful layout. Some books are exceptional, others are just slightly better-made hardcover versions. The quality is so varied that it’s better to check with buyers and reviewers on YouTube or Facebook groups before investing £45 to £60 in each book.
I did some research and concluded that books made by or illustrated by C. Van Sandwyk were of superior quality. I bought three of them.
All three are printed on Modigliani paper, slightly glossy but not too much. It has a discreet grain and an exceptional feel. Now, I want all my books to be printed on this paper!!! But as I mentioned, the quality varies, and Modigliani paper was used for these three books but not systematically.
The Meaning of Mice by The Folio Society
At The Folio Society, all books come with a slipcase, but this one is so small and special that it is delivered without one. This book is tiny and can be read in 3 minutes. But the exceptional paper, the beauty of the illustrations, the foil on the binding, the colorful drawing on the cover, and the accordion format… I love everything about it.
Alice in Wonderland
If I’m not a fan of the text, I fell in love with all the drawings and hidden details in this illustrated version. The cover is beautiful, always with a colorful drawing glued to a clothed cover, decorated with foil. Then, you can tell that Mr. Sandwyk had a lot of fun because he illustrated the story in the finest detail. Here, we also have the excellent Modigliani paper, very thick, very nice, with an exceptional feel.
I forgot to take photos of the slipcase details, but it is also covered with very nice paper. Honestly, I could have considered it the most beautiful modern book I own if “How to See Fairies” didn’t exist.
How to See Fairies
How to See Fairies, by the same author, is a collection of tales. Some texts are written in calligraphy, others are typeset… The whole thing is a bit heterogeneous, but it’s very poetic, beautifully illustrated, and you could flip through it for hours. I heard on a YouTube video that it’s the book you leave to future generations, a heirloom.
It’s exceptional to be able to afford books by this author at this price because usually, he only offered manuscripts or handcrafted books at exorbitant prices. Even though these books are industrially printed, The Folio Society has done everything to offer an exceptional tactile and visual experience. I am particularly impressed with the quality of these books.
Unfortunately, when you switch to a “classic” book, the quality suddenly decreases. Apart from the exceptional layout and typography (great margins, font size, and font choice), the binding remains quite industrial, the book is hard to open, and I struggle to leave it open on the table. The cover looks old and should have been updated because it’s a notch below other classics.
The paper is thick enough for my taste, and it’s the only modern version of The Silmarillion that I know of to include a foldable map.
Unlike the other books, this one has a slipcase made of ordinary paper without ornaments, so simplistic that I had to decorate it myself later. Furthermore, the illustrations (numerous, one at the beginning of each chapter) displease me greatly due to their extreme simplicity. As I said, the quality varies from one book to another, and just because one book is good, doesn’t mean the others will be. The only bonus point is the fold-out map. The absence of ribbons in all the books also shocks me; honestly, for this price, they could have added a ribbon. I had to improve these details myself (DIY mode ON).
Afterward, I bought two used Folio Society books online, below are two videos to show you the quality and illustrations of my books: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Uco and The Stones of Venice by John Ruskin :
- I find that the quality is impressive for the 5 books I own (out of 6)
- It’s better to wait for free shipping: otherwise, it would have been too expensive (25 £ for express shipping to the EU)
- I already explained here how to avoid paying customs fees
- and it’s better to research the quality of a book by reading reviews on Facebook groups or on YouTube before buying
- I couldn’t buy any, but The Folio Society occasionally offers limited edition high-quality facsimiles, with particularly well-crafted bindings. They will always be resold 2 to 3 times more expensive on the second-hand market, so if you like a facsimile, buy it right away!
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