The Letterpress Richard III  book

A Folio Society limited edition

The Letterpress Richard III

William Shakespeare

A scheming despot usurps his brother's throne, murders his nephews and tyrannises England in Shakespeare's most contested play

Published price: US$ 545.00


The Letterpress Richard III

'Conscience is but a word that cowards use,
Devised at first to keep the strong in awe'
Act 5, Sc.5

In contrast to the Henry plays, Richard III is a compelling drama of the will to power. In his portrait of the scheming despot who usurps his brother’s throne, Shakespeare created one of his most memorable villains. Richard III’s opening speech on ‘the winter of our discontent’ is among Shakespeare’s best known – small wonder, then, that fine actors like Laurence Olivier, Ian McKellen and Al Pacino have been drawn to this play.

Production Details

The Letterpress Richard III  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: 14" x 10¾".
  • Commentary volume: 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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Review by anon on 9th Nov 2012

Text: Illustrations: Binding: Rating: 5/5

"While I cheerfully own several Letterpress Shakespeare, I choose to make a single example of Richard III, as I doubt Folio has ever soared higher. If only for that inimitable purple blue. Everything i..." [read more]

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