This Folio Life: Celebrating The Little Prince
I had been hoping to publish a Folio edition of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince for years. The question was how to make it the definitive edition of this much-loved fable? The answer to that lay in almost every element of the final book, from researching the original illustrations, to perfecting the typography, to commissioning a wonderful introduction from Stacy Schiff and commentary by Christine Nelson. The result is a book we are immensely proud of, and one which I hope will appeal to devotees of The Little Prince across the generations. The following blog focuses on just three aspects of Folio’s work on this book.
Bringing the illustrations back to life
For the main volume itself, we couldn’t do otherwise than use Saint-Exupéry’s masterful illustrations – as inseparable from the text as William Blake’s poetic arts. It was particularly difficult to determine what colour the final illustrations should be printed, as virtually every copy we came across had the illustrations printed in different colours. We saw a blue shade for the Little Prince’s long coat, and then very much a green shade in the next version we looked at – inconsistency ruled! So we decided to go back to the very first printing of The Little Prince from 1943.
We found a copy at The British Library and carefully had all the illustrations scanned to show the colour of the images in their first printed state, before the successive multitude of copies were reprinted with varying results and drifted ever further away from the original illustrations.
These high resolution scans unfortunately also picked up the shades of paper discoloured with age, and any blemishes that had accumulated on the 75-year-old copy. With great care, our reprographic team ‘removed’ the background colour of the paper; ‘filled in’ and sharpened the scans; and removed the wear and tear of 75 years, ready for our Italian printer to reproduce the vibrantly coloured illustrations to be enjoyed in all their original glory.
Julie Farquhar, Production Manager
Selecting the right typography
For any Folio typophile who looks at the typesetting of our edition of The Little Prince, at first glance you may identify the typeface as Bembo. But look a bit closer, and you may start to see something a little peculiar. This is actually Monotype’s Bembo Infant – Bembo’s younger sibling with simplified letterforms of a, g and y.
This typeface is the ideal fusion to encompass the tone of the book. Bembo Infant is built upon the foundations of the sophisticated, robust Bembo, but makes the words more inviting and easy to read for our younger audience.
One more thing, for our eagle-eyed readers… It’s always fun to include a bit of personality into our books, and give you something extra to discover whilst reading. Quickly flick through the pages of the commentary volume, and you will see something animate!
Charlotte Tate, Senior Designer
Designing the binding for the commentary volume
Our Publishing Director had spent some time at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, in preparation for this edition, and their Saint-Exupéry expert, Christine Nelson, lent him one of her personal copies of the book. This was a mid-century French edition with a binding that Paul Bonet had designed, and we decided to employ this design on the commentary. It was likely cream-coloured originally, but with time it had become yellow. Paul Bonet (1889 -1971) was a French book designer, who has a long legacy of beautifully intricate leather-bound, embossed book designs.
We deliberated if we should keep the colours as they would have looked originally – but having already created the binding for the story in the first volume, using a strong yellow cloth with black and metallic blue foils, we didn’t think the cream would complement. Instead we chose the rich blue from our first volume’s binding, and updated Paul Bonet’s colourways, so the design was kept as the original. (In fact, we found out recently that unbeknownst to us there may well have been an alternative version of Bonet’s binding which was published on blue cloth!)