A Folio Society limited edition
By special permission of the City of Bayeux and the Bayeux Museum, the first continuously printed reproduction of the Bayeux Tapestry.
The Bayeux Tapestry is an artefact without parallel anywhere else in the world. Depicting the events that culminated in William of Normandy’s victory over Harold Godwinson, the last Saxon king of England, at Hastings on 14 October 1066, its 70 metres of embroidered cloth are not only a work of breath-taking beauty and craftsmanship, but represent the most sophisticated continuous visual narrative ever produced before the invention of cinematography.
The Tapestry contains 632 human figures, 202 horses, 55 dogs, 505 other creatures (real and mythological), 37 buildings (including the earliest depiction of Westminster Abbey), 41 ships and nearly 2,000 Latin letters – a staggering achievement. Its peerless contribution to our understanding of one of modern European history’s founding conflicts, and of the world in which these events unfolded, has earned the Bayeux Tapestry a place on UNESCO’s Memory of the World register.
Only 480 copies of this edition have been printed,
each of them housed in its scroll box, and available
to buy from The Folio Society. Each copy is numbered
and accompanied by a certificate of limitation.
The scroll box comes fully assembled, apart from the legs, which are to be attached by the recipient. It is operated manually by handles set in the front of the box. Set in a hardwood frame, the shatterproof glass through which the scroll is viewed is lead-free for maximum colour fidelity.
Scroll box dimensions: height 75 cm (29½˝ ); width 87 cm (34¼˝ ); depth 50 cm (19½˝ ).
The events narrated by the Tapestry remain mysterious and controversial. When King Edward the Confessor died at the beginning of 1066 both William and Harold believed themselves to be the rightful successor to the throne of England, and while Norman sources portray Harold as a usurper betraying his oath of loyalty to William, the Saxon view was that the Norman invasion was an act of unjustified aggression. The Bayeux Tapestry’s power as persuasive political narrative lies in its remarkably even-handed treatment of the victors and the conquered – though fundamentally a record of Norman victory, it lingers over the impressive deeds of Harold in its early scenes, and its text is scrupulously dispassionate. It is this nuanced treatment of history, coupled with the irresistible personality and dynamism of its 50 overlapping scenes, that have enabled the Tapestry to outlive the written sources as our principal reference point for the Norman conquest.
The Tapestry is widely believed to have been embroidered during the 1070s by teams of English nuns in nine separate sections that were then stitched together. We do not know who commissioned the work, though the most likely candidate is William’s half-brother Bishop Odo of Bayeux. It is first
referred to in a 15th-century inventory of the treasures of Bayeux Cathedral, but its subsequent history is one of
endurance against the odds – it survived the Huguenot sack
of the cathedral in 1562, and was confiscated during the
French Revolution and used as a military waggon covering, before being rescued and rehabilitated as a propaganda document by Napoleon, would-be conqueror of the British Isles. The Tapestry’s final brush with history came when the retreating forces of another failed invader, Adolf Hitler, tried unsuccessfully to take the Tapestry back to Germany – such is the Tapestry’s power, both the Nazis and the British had claimed it as a record of their respective people’s heroism.
Nearly a millennium since the Tapestry’s original production, The Folio Society has created the first truly successful reproduction of this spectacular and complex artefact. Earlier attempts include the replica by the Leek Embroidery Society (1885–6), based on full-size painted photographs by the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A), and later versions produced in Canada and Denmark. Numerous books have been published featuring images of the Tapestry, including Folio’s own The Bayeux Tapestry and the Norman Invasion by Lewis Thorpe – only the second colour reproduction to have been published in Britain. However, The Folio Society’s innovative new reproduction, presenting the Bayeux Tapestry at 60% of its actual size in a customised scroll box, has achieved a remarkable feat – to allow the Tapestry to be viewed comfortably and sequentially, with no interruption to its flow of interlocking scenes.
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Review by rbalkris on 26th May 2017
"Immediate order. I think I may ascend to heaven just taking a look at this Mount Everest of book publishing. Folio Society, by publishing this historical marvel so superlatively for our home museums y..." [read more]