This Folio Life: Folio at 70

It is always – whatever one might say to the contrary – interesting to know what one’s peers think of you. A birthday is as good an opportunity as any to elicit such views, and it was with this in mind that we started speaking with the V&A last year. Folio celebrates its seventieth anniversary in 2017, and that most distinguished of museums was interested in creating a display to assess Folio’s role in bookmaking over that time.

The display they have created is small but completely delightful, including some of our finest titles over the years and focussing on Folio’s pre-eminent role in both adult book illustration, and fine-book printing in general. To quote from their display text, Folio ‘seeks and nurtures new talent and challenges established artists to experiment, shrewdly matching illustrator to text’.

I thought I knew our archives well, but in the presence of the brilliantly curious brains of the V&A I was thrilled at the number of discoveries they made; from Marcel Vertès’s delicate, sumptuous etchings for Zola’s Nana, to picking out Neil Packer’s beautiful One Hundred Years of Solitude for a prime position in the timeline.

One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Folio Society

One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Folio Society edition

My personal favourite though is the inclusion of Pather Panchali by Bibhutibhushan Banerji, which Folio published in 1971. It is illustrated by Janet Archer using the unusual technique of painting directly onto plastic lithographic transfer sheets to print as separate colours. This is exactly the sort of publishing only Folio can do, and I like to think we continue to be as bold and innovative in 2017.

Panther Panchali, Folio Society edition

Panther Panchali, The Folio Society 1971 edition

There was of course more left out than finally made the cut, my favourite amongst which is a carbon copy of a note from our founder, Charles Ede – too fragile, and frankly too illegible for display – but which I was particularly delighted to find. It is the founding document of The Folio Society, and he writes of it as being ‘a sort of crusade’. This sense of purpose kept cropping up in the various papers I have seen from our history. It is I think what sustains us still. One particularly moving paper I read was by our previous owner, Lord Gavron, on the occasion of our sixtieth anniversary. He writes, book-lover to book-lover, of the delight to be had in creating books which ‘expand your experience of life’.

A founding document of The Folio Society

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Comments from others

  • David Matthews says:

    I too was born in 1947, and am proud and delighted to share my 70th birthday with The Folio Society, of which I have been a member for thirty-nine years.

  • Richard Vaughan-Payne says:

    Happy Birthday Folio! I had the pleasure of working for Folio at Great Suffolk Street from March 1979 to December 1982, with Fred Hayward, Halfdan Lynner, John Letts, Sue Bradbury et al. I helped the office move to a computer based system from punched cards. I have a wonderful collection of Folio books which I shall always admire. It seems the idea of membership has moved on since my time.