The Letterpress The Taming of the Shrew
'Thou must be married to no man but me.
For I am he am born to tame you, Kate,
And bring you from a wild Kate to a Kate
Conformable as other household Kates.'
One of the most influential of Shakespeare’s plays, this early comedy has inspired numerous adaptations from opera to television. Audiences and critics have wrangled over the ending – is it happy? Was Shakespeare being ironic? – not only in modern times but ever since the play was first performed. As the elder of two sisters, Katharina, sharp-tongued and even violent, must be married before sweet-natured Bianca. Despite the large dowry her father offers, none of Padua’s young men will risk marriage with a ‘shrew’. Petruchio, however, is impressed by Katharina’s spirit and confident of his own ability to manage her temper. This comedy of relations between the sexes remains a highly entertaining exploration of the struggle for supremacy within every couple.
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.