This Folio Life: A celebration of craftmanship

Published to celebrate the centenary of T. S. Eliot's Modernist masterpiece, Folio’s new limited edition of The Waste Land is a stunning example of fine bookmaking. Illustrated by the late Tom Phillips, this is one of many Folio editions that we were privileged to collaborate on with Tom before his death in November. The book was meticulously printed and hand-bound by experts using the finest materials and, in this blog, Folio Production Director Kate Grimwade breaks down this incredible process, showing how printers Hand & Eye and Ludlow Bookbindery produced this very special edition.

Please note, this title is only available in USA and Canada.




The Waste Land was printed by Phil Abel at Hand & Eye in London on his Heidelberg printing press. Folio’s relationship with Phil stretches back over 15 years and, as his printworks is just over the river from the Folio offices, it was a short journey to watch the first sheets come off the press …  



We were incredibly lucky to be able to print the text on Zerkall paper. This extremely smooth paper – mould-made from part cotton rag – was designed especially for letterpress printing and woodblock engraving but, sadly, this is the very last of it. Dating from the 16th century, the Zerkall mill suffered terrible flood damage in 2021 and has now closed, meaning the paper we used was the last to ever be produced.




The books were hand-bound by Ludlow Bookbindery in Shropshire – a wonderful bindery, steeped in the finest traditions of craft bookbinding. Each printed sheet was folded by hand to make 20 x 4-page sections which are inserted to make 10 x 8-page sections. Enormous care is needed when folding deckled-edged paper because the edges are not square so the unsharp edges cannot be used for alignment.



The vellum spine of the book was blocked in 22-carat gold, which is applied by hand with a roller. The vellum spine is rounded by hand. Then each individual book is clamped securely to allow the careful application of the 22 carat gold spine lettering. A sheet of gold is overlayed onto the spine and a hand roller is used to release the gold onto the vellum to achieve a perfect finish.



Vellum is an incredibly challenging material to handle. The binder must ensure the vellum blends seamlessly with the printed linen sides.



The linen head-and tail-bands tone beautifully with the printed case sides, and there are three calico linings to give the book strength (the outer lining having an Oxford hollow* on top). The calico shrinks once it is glued to the round, holding the round in. The spine is tied with string and left to set for 24 hours before the endpapers are pasted down by hand.



The clamshell box is made by hand. Covered in linen, it has two blocking treatments, a dark brown foil on the spine and blind debossing on the front.





The clamshell is lined with a luxurious purple cloth which gives protection to this very special book.



The finished result is spectacular:



* An Oxford Hollow is created by gluing a tube of thick archival paper both to the book spine and cover. An Oxford Hollow creates a strong, flexible, protective spine lining and allows the book to open flat without creating any stress to the spine.