The Letterpress King Lear book

A Folio Society limited edition

The Letterpress King Lear

William Shakespeare

Complex, disturbing and powerful, King Lear is a play of haunting, shocking scenes and unmatched language.

Only 300 copies available

Published price: US$ 545.00

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The Letterpress King Lear

'How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!'
Act 1, Sc. 4

Complex, disturbing and powerful, King Lear is a play of haunting, shocking scenes and unmatched language. No reader can forget: the division of the kingdom and Cordelia's disinheritance (Nothing comes of nothing. Speak again); the wild storm where Lear begins to lose his reason, (Blow winds and crack your cheeks); Gloucester's torture at the hands of Goneril and Regan (Out, vile jelly / Where is thy lustre now?) or Cordelia's final, tragic end (And my poor fool is hang'd).

Production Details

The Letterpress King Lear book
  • Edited by Stanley Wells.
  • Hand-bound in goatskin leather, blocked in gold; with hand-marbled paper sides.
  • Set in 16pt 'Monotype' Baskerville, with Caslon display. 120 pages.
  • Buckram-bound solander box: 15" x 11" x 2¾".
  • Commentary volume: bound in buckram. 14" 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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© The Folio Society 2016