“Thank you for a very enjoyable evening”

Jackie Cavallaro, a long time Folio member from Australia recently attended an event we hosted in Sydney on 25 June. This was the first Folio event in the southern hemisphere and there are plans afoot for many more. Jackie enjoyed herself so much that she wrote to us to express her thanks. Read more below.

From our position in the southern hemisphere we await the newsletters which come our way across the ether from the UK and note forlornly all the wonderful events being organised there which we are unable to attend.  However, last Tuesday night we had cause to celebrate, especially those of us lucky enough to live in Sydney.


Although we were experiencing the wettest June for many years, undeterred we struggled into our coats and paraded our umbrellas through the damp night arriving at the Radisson Blu hotel to be met with warmth and smiles and, of course a glass of wine.  The Enigma Quartet were playing delicate musical airs as a gentle background to the friendly chatter and Jayne, your global roaming liaison lady was extraordinarily welcoming and relaxed.  My friend who is not a member was welcomed as warmly as us members.  Jayne encouraged us to mingle and as everybody present was in a similarly relaxed and sociable mood the night progressed with ease.  The canapes on offer were yummy and the hotel staff were unobstrusive.  We were eventually invited to sit down at one of the many round tables decorated with a selection of glasses of wine for tasting and baskets of bread and, intriguingly, each chair was draped with a very interesting sturdy Folio Society tote bag in eye-catching designs.  The  three designs were taken from an illustration from three different Folio Society editions.  Mine was from the cover of The Midnight Folk  by John Masefield, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie.  I just love the owl, the fox and the pussycat!  The goodies inside each bag were generous, including a Musica Viva CD and great discounts for wines of the night, Folio books, and theatre tickets.  On each table were also entries for the competition of the night.


Our hostess for the wine tasting was a Kiwi lady form Laithwaites Wines which specialises in Australian and New Zealand wines and also one of the sponsors in conjunction with the Folio Society and Musica Viva.  She kept us entertained with anecdotes of her time in France and her vast knowledge of wines from all parts of the world.  The fun of the night escalated with the amount of wine imbibed and much hilarity was enjoyed by everyone at their individual tables and between tables!


Finally, it was time for the winner of the competition to be announced.  An entry was plucked from the bowl and one lucky man left that evening with many bottles of wine, many Folio Society books and other prizes.  He was greatly envied!


We said our “thankyous” and “goodbyes” to Jayne and other friendly Folio and Musica Viva people and the Folio members we had socialised with all night, and finally returned to the dark damp night.


Thank you for a very enjoyable evening.  We look forward to future events here in Sydney.


Warwick Carter – addicted to Folio

warwick_8My name is Warwick Carter, and I suffer from FAD (Folio Acquisition Disorder). This is an incurable psychiatric condition that causes those affected to purchase too many Folio Society books, and is a subset of BAD (Book Acquisition Disorder) which is a common affliction amongst bibliophiles. The fact that I continue to suffer from FAD is significantly due to my membership of the Folio Society Devotees forum on Library Thing where sufferers from FAD can discuss their addiction anonymously while commenting on almost every book the Society has every published.

This disease manifests itself in my collection of 240+ Folio Society books that I have bought over the last 20+ years of my membership. Amongst these books are a dozen of the Society’s magnificent Limited Editions, and some of their early fine editions.

warwick_2I am lucky enough to own a copy of what, in retrospect, is acknowledged as The Folio Society’s first limited edition, “The Earliest Chemical Industry” which despite its enigmatic title, is a fascinating discourse on industry from ancient times to 1948 (when this book was published). I have copy 462 of 1100 copies, and it contains many colour plates that were tipped or pasted in by hand.

Another prized possession is a copy of “The Bird Paintings of Henry Jones”. This cost £425 when new in 1976 and it was the largest and most expensive book published by The Folio Society up to this time. This beautiful landscape format book contains 24 coloured plates plus text, and is enclosed in marbled end-papers, half-calf binding and a gold-blocked slipcase. Mine is number 388 of only 500 copies printed and is in mint condition.


Amongst the modern Folio Society Limited Editions, my most treasured is the huge and elegant “Queen Mary Atlas” with glorious maps in their original colour and size. The added pleasure of this book is that I am also addicted to collecting old atlases from before 1850 that were hand coloured. I have a dozen of these publications, which are becoming increasingly rare as most are cut up to sell the individual maps.

warwick_4Another favourite is the huge two-volume rendition of David Robert’s “The Holy Land, Egypt and Nubia” which contains 247 intricately detailed paintings of these regions as they were 180 years ago. I have been fortunate enough to have travelled in these areas also (but on wheels rather than on camel) and found it fascinating to compare my photos of Petra, Jerusalem and the Pyramids with the paintings done by Roberts. The similarities show just how accurate he was with his art, and the differences show exactly what has happened in the intervening centuries. I have number 400 of the 1000 copies produced.

Amongst my standard issue Folio Society books I have many favourites, and it is hard to choose only a few. The series of buckram bound and specifically designed 19th century histories that range from “The Raj” and “The Source of the Nile” to “The Voyage of the Beagle” and “London Characters and Crooks” stand out as not only looking superb on the shelf but being fascinating to read.


Another would be “The Gentleman’s Daughter” by Amanda Vickery, not only for its fascinating contents, but also its metallic cloth binding with a design based on an 18th-century tea caddy, and the pictorial slipcase. One of the best produced Folio Society books ever.

And if you are looking for something to buy from the current Folio Society catalogue, as a  history lover and several times visitor to Africa, I can recommend the two volume “The Scramble for Africa” which makes fascinating and compulsive reading, and gives one great understanding of the ongoing turmoils on that continent.

warwick_5The reason I am writing this blog is because a photo montage of Folio Society books that I posted on Flickr came to the attention of The Folio Society as they wanted to use it for a promotional poster. I am a keen, but very amateur, photographer who has great fun modifying pictures in Photoshop. For the montage (left), every book spine was flatbed scanned, or for larger volumes, photographed. Each picture was then arranged individually using the Photoshop software to form the montage, with some artistic license being used for sizing of individual books. I own, and have read every book in the montage, and am currently working on a larger version, which at my current rate of Folio Society book purchasing and reading, will take another couple of years to complete.

I am very proud of my library, and the collection within it, which comprises many fine editions (even some from competitors to The Folio Society!). It was purpose built when our new home was constructed. Alas it is now too small, and the collection overflows into other rooms in the house.  The oldest book in the library is a 1654 traveler’s guide to Rome bound in vellum, while other treasures include a bound copy of all 212 hand-coloured maps produced by the Society for the Universal Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in the early 19th century, and every National Geographic magazine since 1927.



In the photo you may notice something lying on the top of the books. This is felt backed vinyl, a good and far cheaper substitute for the leather that I saw in a similar position in a French collector’s library many years ago. It protects the books from dust, and therefore to some degree from foxing. I use this even on top of The Folio Society books, even though they are protected by their unique slipcase.

Ahhh, so many beautiful books to collect and read, but so little time in this world.


The Folio Society: Celebrating Literature


I have never understood why we readers treat literature so poorly.

We confine our classics to cheap paperbacks, five-dollar hard copies, bulk versions, and we throw them in bargain bins alongside fake biographies of yesterday’s celebrities.

Worse, sometimes we even add zombies to them…

Why aren’t readers more shocked by this treatment? These are our Rembrandts, our Van Goghs, our Monets. Basically, the classic books are what makes literature art, and yet we treat them so utterly, utterly horribly. It’s like we take them for granted; we even dare write in their margins and use highlighters on them! (Okay, I did that too in college, but you get where I am going with this.)

Yes, I understand the argument that these cheaper editions of classics make them more accessible to the everyday reader, but when they are the only versions available at the bookstore, it becomes kind of a moot argument. In a way, we are all forced down the cheap road.

I remember, after reading Middlemarch by George Elliot for the first time, I wanted a nice hardcover edition of it. I wanted to display it proudly at the top of my bookshelf with my other favorites. But after weeks of looking at stores all I could find was a collection hardcover, with a bad illustration of the author on the cover that I am certain was drawn by a teenage family member of one of the editors of the edition. (No true painter would want to take credit for that.) Yes, I am sad to admit that I did buy the book, and I am still bitter about it today, as you can see.

Books are important to me, and in my house we have numerous different bookshelves, each with their own importance and order to them. There are books on each I am happy to own, but my special books are all in one perfect location; visually for me the center of the room, the heart.

From my signed-first edition of Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebird to my gold-plated 50th Anniversary edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit with all of the author’s illustrations, to my nine Oxford hardcover editions of Charles Dickens classics, to my complete set of hardcover Jane Austen, and even to my new obsession, hardcover editions of P.G. Wodehouse… These books are my treasures, and I showcase them like others would art…

Correct that, they are art.


I remember the first moment I truly realized the wonderful gravity of owning a special edition of a loved book.

I was a teenager and through a teacher was handed the home address of Ray Bradbury. I am still awed by this amazing gift. To this day, I have no idea what I was hoping to get from the correspondence. I was not so naive to think that from a letter he would introduce me to his agent or publisher; looking back now, maybe I simply just wanted to take a few bricks out of the wall between me as a dreamer/writer and the possibility of literary greatness.

The grand Ray Bradbury responded with a moving letter and a signed copy of one of his books. I will never forget what he wrote to me on the inside cover of the book:


Scott! Onward! Charge!


… and I’ve been charging forward ever since.

I have had the honor of being published on a few occasions (My Problem With Doors, a literary post-modern time traveling tale, and Megan, an introspective fantasy, being two examples), and there is nothing like the thrill of holding your completed novel in your hand.

So, yes, there are many different layers in my love of books.


Almost a year ago, I started a writing blog.

My original hope was to spur my own creative voice forward, but the experience has grown into something so much more. I feel part of a community of like-minded writers, I have an outlet to share my own writing experience and knowledge, and I have discovered a new “podium” to shout my love of literature and books to any that would hear me in this mad pop-entertainment obsessed world.

Recently, I argued that we writers on our blogs should do more to celebrate great writers (“Writing About Genius”). I still firmly believe that. We don’t do enough today to put these creators and works of art on their pedestal. (Sometimes I get the feeling that the masses would rather wait for the movie or mini-series version.) So as you can probably imagine, I was pretty moved and inspired when I discovered The Folio Society for the first time.

The Folio Society is a British publishing house that specializing in creating beautifully illustrated books. Actually, to say beautiful, doesn’t do it justice. They celebrate literature the way literature ought to be celebrated. Since 1947 The Folio Society has been honoring the artform that too many of us take for granted. Seriously, we should all be put to shame in comparison.

Their books remind me of… Okay, you know how when you watch a TV show with a rich tycoon or lord of a manor (Downton Abbey, for example) they always have a personal library; and that personal library is filled with walls and walls of bookshelves? Those are the libraries I dream of having one day, imagining myself walking up and down the book-lined walls, my fingers tracing each of the bindings, feeling through the touch the history and art so close.

No, there would be no paperbacks in my dream library, but beautiful hardcovers lining each inch available. The Folio Society makes the books that would be on my dream shelves.

I was honored to receive a copy of the Folio Society’s The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (with an introduction by the brilliant biographer/actor Simon Callow). And while I would love to drown you in adjectives around the copy, all I want to express is that this is exactly how books should feel; this is simply just right, from the weight to the font to even the smell of the paper (yes, I smelled it). Frankly, this has become the gold standard I will be holding all future books I buy up to.


The Folio Society’s website has become kind of an addiction for me. I admit it. I might have to seek help.

I go to the website every few hours and drool over the books and editions they have there. And in each visit I find something new, for the serious to the more pop reader. For example:

  • Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy introduced by Terry Jones of Monty Python

  • The absolutely stunning edition of Fahrenheit 451 by dear Ray Bradbury

  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac (a book I had once stolen from my high school library)

  • The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne (I’ve been looking for a good hardcover of this for years!)

  • And then my current favorite in their collection The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Sorry, I’ve got to go to the website now… I need my fix. Just a second.


Granted, these books are not for the everyday reader or the college student on a budget, and I can’t imagine really sitting down and reading one of these copies casually at a restaurant (something could spill!), but for a lover of literature, a collector, these can almost make you weep. And shouldn’t art, frankly, cost a little more, be a little more special?

What I think is the most moving about The Folio Society is that at its core, it shows that we lovers of literature are not alone, and someone in publishing gets us.

Truly gets us.

They are only a click on the website away.

…Now, if I can just convince The Folio Society to check out a Southard book then all will be right with the world.

Scott D. Southard is the author of My Problem With Doors and Megan, two award-winning novels available via amazon.com and Google Play. His novel, A Jane Austen Daydream, is set to be released as an eBook in December of 2012 by the John Lynch Digital Publishing House. Scott is also the creator of the writing blog “The Musing and Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard” at http://www.sdsouthard.com (where this article originally appeared). Currently, on the site he is sharing a new novel/literary experiment which is being written in “real time.” That new work is entitled Permanent Spring Showers. You can find out more about him and his writing via the site.

Meeting Ray Bradbury

Don Mowatt recalls a 1966 interview with the late writer

I first met Ray Bradbury in the fall of 1966 at his upstairs office in Beverly Hills. I was 23,  a junior radio producer from Canada and carried a heavy Swiss reel to reel tape recorder slung over my shoulder and a bag full of tapes, notes and books that I hoped the author might sign. He had agreed to my request for an extended interview for the national radio network of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and I had driven the fifteen hundred miles from Vancouver down to Los Angeles to meet him.

I loved the stories and novels of Bradbury, but I was not a particular fan of science fiction.  What I liked about his work was his evocative recollections and portrayals of mood and tone connected to places, people and events often going back to his childhood in the Mid- West. The lyricism of his writing had prompted Aldous Huxley to suggest to Bradbury that he consider writing poetry. But when he did write in verse, it did not achieve the grace, precision or strength of his prose.

 His office was full of photographs of his wife and daughters, original illustrations for his books and strange alien sculptures and toys.  It was also filled with floor to ceiling shelves of books and an ancient manual typewriter.   He noted that William Saroyan who had an office across the hall, used an electric typewriter and Bradbury worried that if he owned one, when he turned out the lights to leave his office at the end of the day, the electric machine might start creating manuscripts under his name on its own.

“Science fiction is a wonderful hammer”,  he said  ”And I intend to use it when necessary to bark a few shins in order to make people leave other people alone.”  It was in reference to our discussion of the origins of  Fahrenheit 451 and to his friends and colleagues who had been villified by charges of communism under the edicts of Senator Joe McCarthy’s committee in Washington in the early fifties.

His best writing contained this unusual balance between lyricism and fury, recollection and retribution.  Carl Sandburg once described Abraham Lincoln in just such a way: ” An iron fist in a velvet glove.”

At the end of the two hour long interview, I asked the author if he might read for the tape one of his short stories from his book A Medicine for Melancholy. “In a Season of Calm Weather”  is an account of an American tourist on the French Riviera who sees an old man drawing fantastical figures in the sand at dusk. The tourist wants to run back to his hotel
to collect his camera and return to capture these unique images on the beach before the tide comes in and washes them away.  But then he would miss the artist, whom he now recognizes as Picasso, in the act of creation. So he remains and watches the artist complete the drawings, then walk slowly away, back down the beach as the sea erases the animals, satyrs, flowers and lines in the sand and the sun sinks below the horizon.

His voice caressed the phrases, carving out the pictures of the scene imagined or recollected, he never revealed, for me and for the Canadian radio audience of forty-five years ago.

We remained in contact for thirty years….I sending him tapes of my productions of his stories and plays, he sending me books and manuscripts to produce on stage or radio. He took my wife and me to dinner shortly after our wedding as we drove through California on our way to Mexico. I had a camera with me on both occasions I met Bradbury, but treasured the moment, like the Riviera tourist, and forgot about capturing images on film.

The tape, transcript and notes of that interview so long ago have no doubt been washed away in lost archives somewhere,  but I retain the letters, signed books and recordings of the later broadcasts and a most clear memory of what we discussed together on that fall day in 1966 where his quick-silver, sun bright stories and reflections brought certainty that even the worst science fiction monsters could be overcome by energy and confidence.

Don Mowatt was born in Montreal and educated in Edinburgh on an eight year JP Crerar Scholarship in the 1950s.  He is a graduate in English and German studies at the University of Victoria, and later studied Theology at UBC.  He was appointed Arts Producer at the CBC in Vancouver in 1964 and remained there until 1997. While at the CBC, he won nearly every broadcast award available, including 2 George F. Peabody medals, ACTRA, Armstrong, Gabriel, B’Nai Brith awards and the New York Audio Arts award for his feature documentaries and radio plays. In the course of his career he interviewed and made feature documentaries on Ray Bradbury, John Irving, George Woodcock, Sir Malcolm Arnold, Sir John Gielgud, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Ned Rorem, Virgil Thomson, Lukas Foss,  and Carl Sandburg,  among others.

Since he left the CBC in 1997, he has been active in the theatre and classical music scene in Canada and the United States, writing plays and librettos and also performing. With his partner Carolyn Roberts Finlay – an accomplished pianist, teacher and actress who studied at the Moscow Conservatory of Music and performed at the Cambridge Music Conference for three years – in an on-going series of dramatic readings featuring celebrated couples: Carl and Emma Jung, Robert and Clara Schumann, Edvard and Nina Grieg, Mark Twain and Olivia Clemens HC Andersen and Johanne Heiberg, as well as an evening with Charles Dickens. In July 2012, Mowatt and Finlay will be performing At Home with Mark Twain and Olivia Clemens in the UK: July 17 at Thurlestone Hall in Devon, July 20 at a private salon in Teddington and July 22 at St. Luke’s Church in Cambridge and on July 28th at the Aboyne and Deeside Festival in the Scottish Highlands.

For information on the Aboyne and Deeside Festival, click here.

[Picture of Don Mowatt courtesy of Victor Aberdeen]

Maurice Dunlevy

When I joined The Folio Society in the mid-1960s I was already a committed classics collector.

 I bought my first Collins Classic at the age of 10 from money I had earned selling programmes at a race track. It had the exotic title of Treasure Island and was written by a skinny Scot named Robert Louis Stevenson.  When my class had to write an essay about our favourite book I wrote mine about Treasure Island and my teacher sent it to the Children’s Page editor of a South Australian weekly newspaper. The editor asked for more and my career as a book reviewer and litterateur was launched.

I wrote regularly for the Children’s Page until, at 15, a daily newspaper editor discovered me.  At his invitation, I graduated to writing about books for adults with a review of a long- forgotten novelist named Humfrey Jordan. By then my earnings from the race track had been supplemented by those from a job hauling up the round numbers at a boxing stadium. Most of the money went towards collecting classics. I quickly graduated from collecting Collins Classics to collecting Everyman’s Library titles – 7s9d in Australia at the time. My fate was sealed for many years after a shop assistant in a big Sydney bookshop gave me a copy of the Everyman’s catalogue of 900 titles.

 I now had a good idea of the range of classics but not how they fitted together. But I began to understand that when at the age of 16 I bought second-hand copies of Andrew Lang’s History of English Literature, Emile Legouis’ A Short History of English Literature and E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel. There was no restraining me then. Looking through the list of 100 titles I read that year I see books by Shakespeare, Dickens, Milton,  Wordsworth, Tennyson, Browning, Thomas Moore, Stevenson, Keats, Goldsmith, Austen, Thackeray, Pater, Bunyan, Chaucer, Galsworthy, Shaw, Wilde, Hopkins and many more. I was a Folio child before I knew my father even existed.

By the time I discovered The Folio Society in the mid-1960s I immediately understood what it was all about and began to squander my supplementary earnings as a newspaper columnist on Folio titles. I now have more than 400 of them. My column for The Canberra Times featured on the book pages each Saturday for 30 years and from time to time I edited the pages. For one column in 1983 I even descended into the bowels of London to visit the Folio Society and interview the vivacious Sue Bradbury. She was wonderful: unfortunately her motorbike wouldn’t talk to me.

 As my stock of review books built up so did my stock of Folio titles until today my whole house, except for the bathroom and toilet, is lined with books. (Yes, even the laundry is lined with them.) In the end I was forced to build a room in the backyard to accommodate the overflow, using a small inheritance, and then added another room to it after I inherited another small amount when an aunt died at the age of 100. It is also full and these days I donate books by the car-boot-load to charities. (Parting with them breaks my heart.)

 But the place where I have spent about two-thirds of my waking life is stretched out on my Eames chair and ottoman facing the Folio corner of my lounge-room the same corner that also houses the television. I spend much more time with my books than I do with my TV as I can read and listen to classical music at the same time without distractions. In the first four months of 2012 I read 50 books (yes, I can hear your groaning here in the slums of Canberra).

Like many other members, I love my Folio books.  Best of all I love my Dickens: I bought the first big uniform edition. I had already read every title – many of them several times – but their arrival was a good excuse to read them again. It was not a new experience as I had originally read them in the handsome London Edition, which had similar production qualities, when one of my Dad’s mates loaned them to me volume by volume when I was 13 and 14.

I love my Austen, my Brontes, my Gibbons, my Trollopes, my Forsters and my Scott Fitzgeralds. I particularly love the poets. One of my earliest purchases was John Donne but over the years I added most of the others available.

 Somehow I missed out on the whopping Folio Poets series until I stumbled across Wordsworth in a second-hand bookshop. (Were they offered in Australia?) I immediately went online and eventually tracked down the whole series in new condition at the Society’s and other websites.

In smaller formats I particularly love the latest Gerard Manley Hopkins: it’s a big improvement on Folio’s first lacklustre attempt.

And I love the tiny pocket editions of The Lady of Shalott, Marvell’s Garden Poems and Sir Patrick Spens.  When you have reluctantly to leave your Folio collection at home take a Shallott or Marvell with you in your pocket so that when your hormones begin clanking with Folio lust you will have something with which to alleviate it.

The Society has done a fine job of publishing in a fine way most of my favourite books but it won’t listen to my recommendations at all. Each year it asks me for suggestions for titles it might publish. Each year I tell them to publish Fame is the Spur by Howard Spring but they are deaf. Yes, I know Howard Spring was a popular novelist who wrote some lightweight bestsellers but he also wrote one classic and it was Fame Is the Spur. I first read it when I was 14 and fell in love with it. For decades I abstained from reading it again, fearing I might have that common experience of wondering in maturity why you loved something in your youth. But not with Fame Is the Spur. I read it again a few years ago and loved it even more than I did in the early 1950s. Fame Is the Spur is a neglected classic. Wasn’t publishing neglected classics one of the main aims on which the Society was founded?  What’s  stopping you, Folio? Is it the history of socialism that underpins the narrative? Think of it as literature, not socialism (literature is your mission). Or is it too long for your selectors to read in the age of the sound bite and the twitter? Get on with it Folio…

Finally I should say to readers:  please do not view this piece as a familiar essay. I resolved when I retired in mid-2000 that I would never write again. I have kept this vow. I’m telling you – no argument now! – this is not an essay. This is not writing! This is my stream-of consciousness spilling on to the page. If James Joyce could do it, why can’t I?


Richard Contiguglia

I shall try to reconstruct my long, uninterrupted membership of The Folio Society from my teenage years. If memory serves me correctly, I responded to an advertisement, probably in the Book Section of the Sunday New York Times, sometime in 1954 or 1955, when I was 17 years old and living with my family in Auburn, New York. I was impressed that all communications and deliveries emanated from London. Also, if I paid for at least 4 books in advance, – yes, that minimum has not changed over the years – shipping and postage were paid by the Society. I wish that I could remember the first book that I purchased, but I haven’t the patience to examine the publication dates of the hundreds of Folio books in my library. Furthermore, I fear that some of my earliest volumes may have been misplaced or lost, as I changed addresses countless times, with books sent to my parents’ home or kept in storage, before I finally settled in New York City in 1974.

I can never forget my returning to my parents’ home from a trip abroad to find an empty Folio box with no book in sight. I had ordered Diderot’s The Nun as one of my prepaid volumes. When I asked my Mother what had happened to the book, she confessed that she had read it and was so alarmed at what I would think of her for having read such a book (I guess that it was on the Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books) that she had disposed of it in the garbage. After telling her that I should never have been the wiser, had she simply returned it to its protective box, I ordered a replacement. I never could understand how my Italian Mother could have enjoyed reading Boccaccio’s Decameron, another of my Folio purchases, while relegating Diderot to the trash bin. I recall that some of my first books cost as little as $3 or $4. My first purchases gave me so much pleasure that I never let my membership in the Society lapse. In fact, I realize that my membership has been one of the few constants in my life. While my feelings about religion and political affiliation have changed over the years, my commitment to collecting and reading great books in beautiful editions, as all of the Folio Society’s have been, has never wavered.

What first interested me in the Society’s offerings were the collections of novels of great 19th Century English writers. I collected and read the complete works of Austen, the Brontes, Hardy and then Dickens, the last in chronological order. The Barsetshire novels of Trollope and the complete set of Conrad followed in due course.

My main indebtedness to The Folio Society has surely been the profound and subtle way in which it has directed my reading, and, consequently, my education, over the years. As a professional musician, specifically half of a duo-piano team with my twin brother, John, the main focus of my life has always been music. However, I credit the Folio Society with having given me a breadth of sensitivity and knowledge, beyond my professional needs, that only comes from reading great books. I wonder whether I would ever have read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, had the Folio Society not ‘encouraged’ me. The same could surely be said of the unabridged set of Richardson’s Clarissa, which I thoroughly enjoyed without needing to follow Leslie Steven’s advice to make it my sole companion on a long holiday and to pray for rain. I treasured the many English translations of foreign writers, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Mann, Stendhal, Hugo, Boccaccio, Cervantes and many others. I was charmed by the small pocket-size volumes of poetry of Andrew Marvell, Philip Sydney, John Donne and Rupert Brooke, which I could carry with me anywhere where reading poetry might be an unobtrusive accompaniment to my travels, on buses, trains or airplanes. Particularly valuable were the sets of books: Restoration Comedy (4 volumes) Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (3 volumes), Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time (4 volumes), Tolstoy’s Collected Stories (3 volumes). During the ensuing years I even had the delightful surprise of discovering that I owned a Folio volume, Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts, that had been illustrated, long before I knew her, by a now dear friend, the great botanical illustrator, Gillian Barlow.

While the above titles undoubtedly reflect the initial appeal to me of the Society’s offerings, I soon realized that my interest in Folio books extended far beyond fiction. I purchased many books on history (among them The Conquest of MexicoThe Fatal Shore, Macauley’s History of England and Mrs. Trollope’s Domestic Manners of the Americans); science (Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle and Origin of the Species); philosophy (works of Boethius and Marcus Aurelius) and art. Furthermore, I noticed over the years that the Society was paying more and more attention to writings on this side of the Atlantic. I treasure the recent publications of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

I would be remiss in not mentioning the incredible gifts that were bestowed on me simply for renewing my membership. Richard Fortey’s two magnificent volumes on Geology and Biology, The Earth and Life, were gifts that changed my understanding and appreciation of Science. I shall never forget his dictum, “Understanding is always a journey, never a destination.” Two gifts, The Folio Society Book of the 100 Greatest Paintings and Victoria Finlay’s Colour, were quickly ordered by me as gifts for a dear artist friend. I have introduced many friends to the Folio Society, some of whom may still be members.

I have to confess that my only disappointment over the years has been the failure of The Folio Society to publish a volume of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, at least one that I could afford. Since I am only 75 now, there is still time to remedy this neglect.

Even though The Folio Society has grown since those early days, when members had names, but no membership numbers, there is still a familial feeling about being a member. During the four years that I lived in London, while my brother and I were studying with the great British pianist, Dame Myra Hess, and, subsequently, when we returned to London to perform many times at the Wigmore and Queen Elizabeth Halls, I often visited the Society’s ‘home’ at 202 Great Suffolk Street, even purchasing several woodcuts, engravings and drawings from its subsidiary, Collector’s Corner, which no longer exists. Now I envy those who are able to attend gatherings that celebrate events of literary interest that I see advertised in the Society’s newsletters. I know that I could meet many new friends on such occasions.

If someone were to ask me today what is, and has been, special about being a member of the Folio Society, I would respond that the person that you see before you today would not be the same person that he is without his having been a member of The Folio Society for 58 years or, to quote a famous Englishman, George Moore, on the power of books, “I am what they made me.” Thank you, Folio Society!