This Folio Life: Timeless Treasures

I was fortunate enough recently to be at the ancient chapel of St Peter ad Vinicula in the Tower of London, for a concert led by Colm Carey, the director of the Choir of the Chapels Royal. One piece of music stood out particularly for me, a plainchant by the Renaissance composer John Sheppard, who is nowadays rarely performed. It was indescribably beautiful - a laced mosaic of voices and harmonies as intense as anything I’ve heard. And the thought came to me that the sensation of listening to this must have been near identical when it was first performed in the early sixteenth century. What a magical thing that is, as though undercutting the intervening centuries.

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As a reader it is a sensation I’ve experienced before when reading the best historical novelists: Mary Renault, Hilary Mantel, Patrick O’Brian. And as a publisher it is a sensation we constantly strive towards achieving. When we get it right, we bring new life to works which haven’t seen the light of day or had the attention of a publisher for many years. Sometimes we produce a new thing - a new interpretation of a classic text, for example. Sometimes though, we will produce a book which emanates the same energy as it did when first published. My favourite example of this is Kate Baylay’s binding for Waugh’s Vile Bodies: the period, the tone, the atmosphere are all there - and so is the crafty ‘one-liner’ Waugh would have been proud of. It’s an edition which brings the reader in to the world of the book, and lets them revel there as though the characters had only just been written into life.

VBD_S_01   Tom Walker Editorial Director, 18 May 2016