The Letterpress Troilus and Cressida

William Shakespeare
The Letterpress Troilus and Cressida book

Published price: US$ 545.00

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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.

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The Letterpress Troilus and Cressida

'Fools on both sides: Helen must needs be fair,
When with your blood you daily paint her thus.'

Act 1, Sc 1

The author Joyce Carol Oates famously called Troilus and Cressida ‘that most vexing and ambiguous of Shakespeare’s plays’, but she also observed that ‘its investigation of numerous infidelities, its criticism of tragic pretensions, above all, its implicit debate between what is essential in human life and what is only existential are themes of the twentieth century’.

The siege of Troy was the story of stories, the subject of Homer’s Iliad. This particular episode – the love between the Trojan prince Troilus and Cressida, the daughter of a Greek traitor – was the subject of Boccaccio’s and Chaucer’s greatest poems. Even Shakespeare must have felt some trepidation in tackling it.

And yet, what Shakespeare manages to give us is something entirely unexpected: here we find no epic heroism, no great love story, but instead the most cynical drama he wrote.

The figures of epic legend are revealed as unworthy: Achilles, the hero of Homer’s tale, is portrayed as a ridiculous, sulky brute, whose final slaughter of the unarmed Hector is far from noble. Troilus pretends to be a lovelorn hero, but his cultivation of Pandarus is unsavoury at best. When Cressida comments that ‘things won are done’, she prophesies her own future, despised as a whore by both Greeks and Trojans. Even Troilus’ laments for her infidelity seem like posturing when compared to his true grief after Hector’s death: ‘Hector is dead; there is no more to say.’ Troilus lives, but the ending remains unrelievedly bleak, the audience know Troy will fall and even Pandarus’ final jokes on his likely death from the pox are too bitter for laughter.

‘Some two months hence my will shall here be made. Till then I’ll sweat and seek about for eases,
And at that time bequeath you my diseases.’

Act 5, Sc.10

The play came into its own after the First World War, with its own bitter legacy of betrayed heroism. Troilus and Cressida is often revived for its very contemporary commentary on war and the relations between men and women.

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.

To read more about the life and work of William Shakespeare click here

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.

Beauty of Typography

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.

Quality You Can Touch

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.

Creating The Letterpress Shakespeare

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.

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© The Folio Society 2014