The Letterpress Henry IV Part 1 book

A Folio Society limited edition

The Letterpress Henry IV Part 1

William Shakespeare

A tale of political intrigue and rebellion in the court of Henry Bolingbroke which introduces us for the first time to Shakespeare's beloved stalwart character Falstaff

Published price: US$ 545.00


The Letterpress Henry IV Part 1

'Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere'
Act 5, Sc. 4

Rebellion, political intrigue and questions of kingship dominate the play described in the 1623 Folio as The First Part of Henry the Fourth. Henry Bolingbroke’s grip on power remains insecure, with active insurrections by Worcester, Hotspur and Glyndwr, and the personal rebellion of his son, Prince Hal. More than political drama, Henry IV Part 1 is also the first of Shakespeare’s history plays to make extensive use of comic techniques – most famously through the larger-than-life character of Falstaff.

Production Details

The Letterpress Henry IV Part 1 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.
  • Presented in a buckram-bound solander box with a commentary volume which includes the text of the play with full explanatory notes.
  • Box measures 15" x 11" x 2¾".
  • Letterpress volume book size: 14" x 10¾".
  • Commentary volume book size: 8¼" 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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