This Folio Life: Looking back at our books of 2018
Last year saw Folio publish many amazing books: from old English poetry to Ursula K. Le Guin, to an original title from illustrator Charles van Sandwyk. With the first beautiful new books of 2019 to be revealed in the next few weeks, we cannot wait to introduce them to you.
Tom Walker, Publishing Director
Publishers always like to look forwards, but occasionally those of us who put together Folio’s books do enjoy revelling in what we’ve created; and looking back at the 2018 programme there is plenty to bask in.
Amongst my personal highlights was our limited edition of The Wanderer and Other Old-English Poems. I hugely enjoyed studying the Anglo-Saxon language at university so working with the eminent translator Michael Alexander on the text was pure pleasure. Alan Lee’s name is now inseparable from Tolkien, and it was a rare treat to be able to give him free rein to create such subtle, magnificent illustrations of some of the world’s great vernacular poetry. The book also had all the hallmarks of our own Joe Whitlock Blundell whose design expertise influenced 30 years of Folio’s books – this was a very suitable valediction.
Folio books involve a unique alchemy of many different creative inputs, from the book and the author to the illustrator and the type designer, and harnessing all of those elements into a harmonious whole is an extraordinary process, and one I never tire of: it has the power to bring new life – and readers – to important books.
Of the other titles I shall mention just a handful. I cannot omit The Left Hand of Darkness. It is a brilliantly written and unnervingly prescient book of gender and friendship, and after Ursula K. Le Guin died in January of last year I was very proud to publish an edition worthy of her legacy. How to See Fairies was another particularly joyful book, the elfish child of the inimitable Charles van Sandwyk and by some way our most popular book of the year. 2018 will also be defined for me by two mammoth non-fiction titles: Anglo-Saxons and Captain Cook’s Journals. The Folio alchemy was on full display with both of these, which bought important classic books buzzing to new life, as attested by the full separate volume of pictures for the former, and a superb fold-out map for the latter. We cannot ever have enough fold-out maps at Folio…
2019 is looking set to be a vintage Folio year and I can honestly say that some of the books I have secretly started to see are amongst the best in our 70-odd years of publishing. This February will start with a small selection of new science fiction and fantasy titles and I would love to hear your thoughts on them once they are announced. I have fallen head over heels for the lot.
It is a wonderful time to be in publishing. All talk of the death of the book 5 or 10 years ago has happily gone to the winds, not least because of the supreme efforts of publishers and booksellers to make the physical book a necessary and addictive object. Book design is a healthy art form. Folio has been perfecting the art of how to make the ideal book for more than 70 years, and funnily enough I think we have never been more relevant. Folio has changed a huge amount even in the last decade since I joined, but the core principles remain the same: to facilitate that wonderful alchemy that makes books alive, which makes them sing with relevance.
As ever do comment below with any thoughts on our 2018 editions, or suggestions for what and how we might publish for 2020 and beyond.