The Letterpress Measure for Measure book

A Folio Society limited edition

The Letterpress Measure for Measure

William Shakespeare

Recalling the verse from St Matthew’s Gospel: ‘With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.’ this play presents conundrums about justice, liberty and mercy that do not permit a tidy completion.

Published price: US$ 545.00


The Letterpress Measure for Measure

'Hence shall we see
If power change purpose, what our seemers be'
Act 1, Sc. 3

All power corrupts, runs the axiom, and when the Duke of Vienna hands power over to the virtuous Angelo, it is not long before the would-be reformer reveals his own flaws. He offers to save the brother of novice nun Isabella, condemned to death for lechery, if she will surrender her virginity to him. The disguised Duke observes all, yet when he returns to bring order and justice, the expected happy ending turns sour. In the play’s final five lines, the Duke proposes that he himself marry Isabella. She makes no reply. Such an ending leaves a range of possibilities – is she pleased? angry? undecided? Is the play’s ending a happy finale, or the exchange of one tyrant for another?

Production Details

The Letterpress Measure for Measure 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".

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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