A Folio Society limited edition

The Letterpress Timon of Athens

William Shakespeare

A bleak and sardonic study that strains against the bounds of comedy, and ends in tragedy with Timon’s change from generous, trusting optimist to bitter misanthrope.

Only 300 copies available

Published price: US$ 545.00

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The Letterpress Timon of Athens

'Every man has his fault, and honesty is his.'
Act 3, Sc. 1

A wealthy Athenian named Timon is famous for his hospitality and generosity. At his house, hangers-on and supposed friends flock to accept his largesse, while many citizens beg for Timon’s help. Yet Timon’s reckless spending eventually exhausts his resources, and to his astonishment, Timon finds that none of his friends or those who vowed eternal gratitude are prepared to help him in return. Fleeing Athens, Timon takes shelter in a cave and, with a bitter hatred, plots revenge on all mankind.

Timon of Athens is a bleak and sardonic study that strains against the bounds of comedy, and ends in tragedy with Timon’s change from generous, trusting optimist to bitter misanthrope. Almost certainly a collaboration with Thomas Middleton, the play bears the mark of Middleton’s harsh humour. But as Professor Jowett writes in the commentary volume: ‘It encompasses astonishing moments of theatre, scenes of incisive humour, glimpses of unexpected tenderness, and some of the most enthralling, if shocking, dramatic verse that Shakespeare wrote.’

Production Details

The Letterpress Timon of Athens book
  • 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.
  • Oxford University Press text, edited by John Jowett under the General Editor Stanley Wells.
  • 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".

Letterpress Shakespeare volumes are bound to order and may take up to 6 weeks to be delivered


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. 

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