Generally regarded as Shakespeare’s greatest play, Hamlet has been published in countless editions over the centuries. Yet few of them reflect the beauty of the words on the printed page. For this reason The Folio Society has drawn on its legacy of expertise in typography, printing and binding, to create an edition of Hamlet that delights the eye as well as the mind.
'When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions' Act 4, Sc. 5
In the 400 years since it was first performed, Hamlet has become the most widely published work in the world, after the Bible. Yet in all that time, there has never been a finer, more lucid edition than this.
Hand-bound in goatskin leather, blocked in gold; with hand-marbled paper sides.
Set in 16pt 'Monotype' Baskerville, with Caslon display.
Presented in a buckram-bound solander box 15" x 11" x 2¾", 136 pages.
Edited by Professor G. R. Hibbard under the General Editor Stanley Wells.
Commentary volume is bound in buckram, size: 14" x 10¾".
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.
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.
"I bought my Letterpress edition of "Hamlet' despite protests from the family, who pointed out that a Kindle version of Shakespeare's masterpiece could be had for a relatively modest 69p. I did so in ..." [read more]
"I bought my Letterpress edition of "Hamlet' despite protests from the family, who pointed out that a Kindle version of Shakespeare's masterpiece could be had for a relatively modest 69p. I did so in order to try out the Letterpress format and this is what I found.
Letterpress Shakespeare editions come in a well-made and strong box in which they are protected from dust and light. They are quite big books with a satisfying heft and the large format seems somehow appropriate to the stature of the work within. The paper has a high rag content with uncut edges, which gives each page a warm, tactile, hand-made feel that is a pleasure to handle. The Letterpress printing process involves pressing a three-dimensional letter onto the page and each letter therefore leaves a shallow impression which can be felt and even seen in a raking light. The text is large, in keeping with the size of the page, with each letter perfectly formed and a solid black. This shows that the printer knew his craft and makes the text easy to read. The format encourages the eye to linger over the text and not just skim over it, as one does with an e-reader or, to a lesser extent, an ordinary book. In the case of Shakespeare, this means that more of the meaning gets across to the reader.
I'm pretty sure that Shakespeare himself would have preferred the Letterpress version of his work over the Kindle and I will be happy to follow suit with other titles.
" [hide full review]