About Folio Society Limited Editions

Strictly limited, bound to order and numbered by hand, Folio Society limited editions are outstanding works of literary or historical significance reproduced as works of art in their own right. In every detail, from artwork to binding materials, we strive to make our limited editions as beautiful as possible, expertly marrying form and content, setting new standards in publishing excellence. They unite the skills of many experts, employing both traditional crafts and state-of-the-art technology, and representing a labour of love for everyone involved.

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It was two o’clock in the morning on the 21st of January 1665 when Samuel Pepys finally put down his bedtime reading and delivered his famous verdict: ‘The most ingenius book that ever I read in my life’. Though Robert Hooke begins Micrographia with almost comic humility – ‘I have obtained my end, if these my small labours shall be thought fit to take up some place in the large stock of natural observations, which so many hands are busy in providing’ – there can be no doubt that Pepys was right: this was a book which would forever change the way we view the world we live in.

Hooke was the Curator of Experiments at the Royal Society, chartered in 1662 with the succinct motto ‘Nullius in verba’, which can be roughly translated as ‘take nobody’s word for it’. Micrographia is believed to be the first publication produced by the Society, and exemplifies this new and distinctly English strain of scientific enquiry, trusting only to empirical observation as the basis of the laws of nature. Its far-reaching influence includes the coining of the scientific meaning of ‘cell’ – Hooke’s response to the appearance of a vastly enlarged slice of cork, which reminded him of the clustering of ‘cellula’ or cells around a monastery – while its spectacular illustrations were not only groundbreaking in their method, but are some of the finest examples of scientific art ever produced.

What Robert Hooke achieved in Micrographia, as he only hints at in his delightfully fastidious subtitle ‘Some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses with observations and enquiries thereupon’, was to bring to light what previous philosophers could only glimpse or theorise about. Combining his supreme talents as a technician and a draughtsman, Hooke constructed powerful new lenses, isolated specimens – in one case, plying an ant with brandy to keep it still – and described what he saw in words and pictures, in the finest detail. Readers in 1665 began to see the world with fresh eyes.


In creating such a varied range of limited edition titles, we have drawn on the expertise of some the world's most renowned literary institutions, academics, illustrators and collectors. Whether formed to develop pioneering interpretations of classic texts or meticulously to reproduce rarely-seen treasures, these collaborations are often fascinating stories in themselves. Some occur through chance meetings, some are the result of years of careful research, while others result from the ambitions of a particular artist or scholar.

View Fifty Fables of La Fontaine book

Illustration by Quentin Blake for La Fontaine's The Schoolboy, the Pedant and the Owner of a Garden

Our long relationship with Quentin Blake has produced some of our most sought-after titles. The remarkable editions of Candide and the Fifty Fables of La Fontaine, full of Blake's characteristic wit and mischief, became instant collectables. For our Just So Stories, we worked with acclaimed artist Niroot Puttapipat, an illustrator working in the tradition of golden-age artists such as Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac. The resulting paintings and pen and ink drawings perfectly capture both the childhood wonder and innocence of Kipling's original tales, creating a true collector's classic.

Produced in association with the world's most distinguished curators, our facsimiles provide a unique opportunity to view acclaimed and often rare works as their authors intended, removed from their glass cabinets and secure display cases. The British Museum, the British Library, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Royal Geographical Society have each offered some of their most treasured objects. These include ancient illuminated manuscripts and early maps, seminal works of botanical and ornithological art, devotional books of the Renaissance and masterpieces of the Private Press movement.


The production of our limited editions, while employing the hard-won skills of master craftsman from across the globe, is also a journey of discovery. Each unique endeavour is a complex process of uniting specialist techniques to craft objects that are not only astonishingly beautiful but are also at the forefront of modern and craft printing processes – editions that are not available anywhere else.

Most of our limited editions are sewn and bound by hand at craft binderies. Other traditional skills are also used – gilding pages; hand-marbling; gold-blocking; tipping illustrations onto the page by hand and creating traditional raised bands on the spine.

The bands on our facsimile edition of Birds Drawn for John Gould by Edward Lear were cased by hand – a centuries-old, time-consuming approach, practised by an ever-diminishing group of specialist binders. Our facsimile of William Morris's The Odes of Horace is a testament to the crafts and skills so close to the heart of the great designer and artisan, as well as his life-long dedication to both beauty and labour. The printing of the intricate illuminations that adorn many of the pages was entrusted to Castelli Bolis in Bergamo, Italy, specialists in gold-foil printing. To recreate the exact look and feel of the original treasure, craft bindery Smith Settle in Yorkshire undertook the meticulous work of producing the distinctive green-black tone of the goatskin binding, as well as the varying shades of gold.

Some of our editions are groundbreaking publishing endeavours in their own right. For instance, our reproduction of the Hereford World Map, or Mappa Mundi, involved months of digital restoration with the latest technologies. This painstaking process stripped away many layers of atmospheric degradation and neglect to reveal the intricate wonders of a medieval masterpiece.


Only the finest materials are used in the production of Folio Society limited editions: bindings of Nigerian Goatskin or pure silk velvet; papers of the highest quality, such as Furioso which gives the feel of vellum, felt-laid specially dyed paper from a Venetian mill or mould-made paper with distinctive ‘deckle' edges. All are meticulously sourced. For instance, the Chiyogami endpapers in our opulent edition of Japan were hand-printed in Japan while the silk woven jacquard used to bind our facsimile of The Fitzwilliam Book of Hours was specially commissioned from a mill originally founded by a Huguenot silk-weaver in the 1720s.

In an era increasingly defined by mass production and temporary, transient cultural trends, these strictly limited editions embody a tradition of excellence rarely found in modern design and publishing.

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