The Letterpress Henry VI Part 3
'Why, what is pomp, rule, reign, but earth and dust?
And live we how we can, yet die we must'
Following victory at St Albans, York now holds the crown of England. Henry offers a compromise; that he remain king until his death, when the crown will pass to the House of York – a concession that infuriates the Queen. She launches an assault on the Yorkist faction, killing York’s young son, Rutland, and capturing and brutally murdering York himself. However, the tide soon turns; Henry and Margaret are forced into exile, with Edward, York’s eldest son, taking the crown.
Henry’s weakness is symptomatic of the disunity afflicting the whole kingdom: Clarence defects to Margaret, only to switch back to Edward’s side; and the youngest son of York, Richard, seeks the throne for himself. Held prisoner in the Tower of London, Henry foretells the bloody future of the Yorkists – a grisly saga that will only end with the victory of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth.
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.