The Letterpress Two Gentlemen of Verona
'O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away.'
Valentine and Proteus leave their home of Verona for Milan with very different aims: Valentine wishes to see the world while Proteus longs to return home to his sweetheart Julia. But when the two young men meet Silvia, daughter of the Duke, their friendship turns to a deadly rivalry ...
As we reach the end of the Letterpress series, we turn to the beginning of Shakespeare’s career,
and his earliest comedies. The Two Gentlemen of Verona is now thought to be his first comedy, possibly written as early as 1590, before he came to London. Most people know it for the song ‘Who is Silvia?’, so beautifully set to music by Franz Schubert, and the dog, Crab, who steals the scene from the much put-upon servant Lance.
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.