'She shall be, to the happiness of England,
An aged princess. Many days shall see her,
And yet no day without a deed to crown it'
Act 5, Sc. 5
Henry VIII is perhaps most famous as the play which quite literally brought the house down: during one of the early performances in 1613 a special stage effect (the firing of a cannon) set light to the Globe’s thatch and destroyed the theatre.
The play’s pageantry and spectacle made it a thrilling performance piece, although its subject matter was a dangerous choice. Henry’s reign, his marriages, the confused succession and the religious controversy was dynamite politically during both Elizabeth’s and James’ reigns. Shakespeare had to select carefully from the events of Henry’s reign, which were, after all, extremely recent. The result is a fascinating tightrope-walk between diplomacy and drama. The play ends with the birth of Elizabeth I, thus side-stepping the later controversies of Henry’s reign, but Shakespeare does not shy away from Henry’s cruel treatment of Katherine of Aragon, whose heart-rending appeal against her divorce is reproduced almost word for word from the historical record:
'I have been to you a true and humble wife,
At all times to your will conformable... '
Act 2, Sc. 4
Indeed, there are plenty of moments in the play where Shakespeare sails very close to the wind. An elderly lady in waiting teases Ann Boleyn over her protestations that she could not bear to be a Queen, when a messenger arrives from the King to say she is made Marchioness of Pembroke, ‘By this time / I know your back will bear a duchess. Say, / Are you not stronger than you were?’.
Please note that Letterpress Shakespeare volumes are bound to order and may take up to 6 weeks to be delivered.
If you are a collector of all the volumes we have published so far in the series, we have reserved your individual limitation number for you.
Delivery of limited editions may take longer than standard editions. Please contact us for more information.
From the choice of text and meticulously designed pages to the mould-made paper and unsurpassed art of letterpress printing, attention has been lavished on every facet of the reading experience.
The result is a fit and harmonious balance between the internal and external: a volume which is not only a delight to look at and hold, but a joy to read; formed not for mere display, but to satisfy the passion for his language felt by all those who love Shakespeare.
Produced to the highest standards, using only the finest materials and processes, each volume is a work of art in its own right.
The layout of words on a printed page is as much an art as such ancient techniques as Chinese or Arabic calligraphy. Here, the text is designed by eye and set on a manual machine, not a computer. Each letter of type has been created from hot metal in the rarely used 16-point font of 'Monotype' Baskerville, chosen for its clarity and elegance of form. Tiny irregularities testify to the hand-crafted nature of the process, since the shape of each line, the very gap between letters, is adjusted by hand to create the most pleasing overall effect.
A book is a pleasure of many senses: the feel of it in the hands, even the smell of the leather and ink all contribute to the enjoyment. Running your fingers over the paper, the difference between letterpress and litho printing is instantly discernable. You can feel the indentation where each letter has been impressed into the mould-made paper. This high quality paper is made from cotton rags and wood fibres dried on a cylindrical mould which produces the feathered edge known as the ‘deckle’. The quarter-binding is of finest goatskin leather, dyed to a rich colour. The pattern on the hand-marbled paper sides is unique to each volume.
The craftsmen and women who work on these volumes are rightly proud of their involvement in the project. From the hand-sewing of the pages to the blocking of each label in 24-carat gold, few books have had such care lavished on them. You can be confident that these exceptional editions will give pleasure for generations to come.
Cotton mixed with pure wood fibres dries slowly on a cylindrical mould to make this specialist paper. When the sheets are removed, the feathered edge at the sides is called the 'deckle'. The high cotton content ensures the paper is stronger and will retain its distinctive quality for generations, which is why artists and galleries choose it for fine art prints and etchings. The pages are folded in sections of eight for a perfectly flat opening to the spine, and only the top edge is trimmed.
Top edge gilding is a traditional finish, protecting books' exposed tops from dust, moisture or atmospheric pollution. The three-quarter binding of finest Nigerian goatskin leather is dyed for an exact match, but the gold and scarlet pattern on the hand-marbled paper sides is unique to each volume, since the exact pattern of droplets can never be repeated.
Each volume is strictly limited in number and many are reserved for existing collectors. Total limitation 1,000. Each copy will be numbered on a limitation page.