The Letterpress Henry VI Part 2 book

A Folio Society limited edition

The Letterpress Henry VI Part 2

William Shakespeare

The second part of Shakespeare's great historic trilogy. Back from France, the weak King Henry is subsumed in court intrigue by a cast of ruthless, ambitious rivals.

Published price: US$ 545.00

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The Letterpress Henry VI Part 2

'My brain, more busy than the labouring spider,
Weaves tedious snares to trap mine enemies.'
Act 3, Sc 1.

The war with France is over, and Margaret is queen, but England has lost key territories and the bickering in Henry’s court now takes centre stage. Henry’s weakness as monarch becomes apparent – it is those around him who drive the drama. Loyal Gloucester falls victim to the machinations of others, including his wife, Eleanor; and the Queen seeks to rid herself of court rivals to advance her own power. The radical rebellion of Jack Cade provides the backdrop for a brutal and unsettled play.

If Part One shows the fragility of England’s global ambitions, and Part Three the internecine bloodbath of the Wars of the Roses, the middle part of Henry VI is a brilliant study in court intrigue: conspiracy and betrayal through the corridors of power lead to a bloody cull of the English nobility, and in the end, Henry makes a fateful decision that brings forth the Yorkist claim.

Production Details

The Letterpress Henry VI Part 2 book
  • Limited to 1,000 copies, individually numbered on a special limitation page.
  • Quarter-bound in goatskin leather, blocked in gold with hand-marbled paper sides; gilded top edge and ribbon marker.
  • Set in 16pt 'Monotype' Baskerville, printed by letterpress on mould-made paper.
  • Oxford University Press text under the General Editor Stanley Wells.
  • Presented together with a commentary volume which includes the text of the play with full explanatory notes.
  • Supplied in a buckram-bound solander box measuring 15" x 11" x 2¾". Letterpress volume: 14" x 10¾".
  • Commentary volume: bound in buckram. 8¾" x 5¾".

Creating The Letterpress Shakespeare

Since the First Folio in 1623 there have been countless editions of Shakespeare's works. The Folio Society wanted to do something unprecedented: to design an edition so pure, so simple, that the beauty of the text could be fully appreciated - an edition that would be as timeless as the text itself.

What would the ideal version of Shakespeare's works look like? What would result if simplicity and elegance were the goal rather than the dictates of fashion and cost efficiency?

These were the questions we asked ourselves when we embarked on our Letterpress Shakespeare series in 2006. The project was to occupy some of Europe's finest book designers, typesetters, paper-makers, printers and bindersfor eight years.

The starting point was the text. Rather than keep text and commentary together, we decided to put them into separate volumes. Out went the elements that clutter the page : footnotes and textual variants. All that was left was Shakespeare's words.

We decided to have the text printed by letterpress in 16-point Baskerville. The type is set in hot metal and impressed on thick, mouldmade paper. The margins are generous - over 6 centimetres - to allow the words room to breathe.

The result is a simple, understated design that is a delight to read and a pleasure to hold.

Read more about how we made the Letterpress Shakespeare

Inside the Letterpress Process


Stan Lane, a master Typesetter and Printer, talked to us about the process of printing our letterpress Shakespeare. Lane has been setting type for The Folio Society for 25 years and is one of the few craftsmen still skilled in the fine art of letterpress printing. Although labour-intensive, letterpress has a depth and elegance that modern printing cannot replicate.

Jemma Lewis talked to us about the process of hand marbling paper for the letterpress Shakespeare. In this beautiful process droplets of oil are floated on a special solution and combed into patterns so that each sheet of paper bears a unique design. 

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