The Letterpress The Merchant of Venice book

A Folio Society limited edition

The Letterpress The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare

Among the most intriguing of Shakespeare’s comedies, The Merchant of Venice contains some of Shakespeare’s most finely crafted, multi-faceted characters.

Only 300 copies available

Published price: US$ 545.00

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The Letterpress The Merchant of Venice

'Hath not a Jew eyes? … If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? ... And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.'
Act 3, Sc. 1

Among the most intriguing of Shakespeare’s comedies, perhaps not least because of its troubling themes, The Merchant of Venice contains some of Shakespeare’s most finely crafted, multi-faceted characters. Is Shylock an anti-Semitic caricature or a victim of the self-serving Christians whose hypocrisy and greed Shakespeare exposes? The choice Bassanio must make between three caskets in order to win Portia is a fairytale element which belies the themes of money, responsibility and justice which Shakespeare explores with such subtlety and, of course, such lyricism.

Production Details

The Letterpress The Merchant of Venice 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 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".

Letterpress Shakespeare volumes are bound to order and may take up to 6 weeks to be delivered


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 lettepress 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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