Far from the Madding Crowd is Thomas Hardy’s tale of three contrary courtships set in his imagined county of Wessex. The new Folio Society edition is illustrated with stunning woodcuts by Peter Reddick.
The tale of spirited farmer Bathsheba Everdene and the three suitors who vie for her attention is the first of Hardy’s Wessex novels. Passion and tragedy abound against the backdrop of a 19th-century rural idyll, as Hardy sets the tone for his subsequent forays into the life and love stories of this fictional county.
Bound in cloth blocked with a decorative motif Set in Baskerville 424 pages 31 integrated black & white woodcut illustrations
Printed map endpapers Printed slipcase 9˝ × 5¾˝
An affinity with the natural world
As with all of Hardy’s Wessex books, the location is pivotal, the narrative intertwined with evocative descriptions of the landscapes, wildlife and local tradespeople throughout.
The hill was covered on its northern side by an ancient and decaying plantation of beeches, whose upper verge formed a line over the crest, fringing its arched curve against the sky, like a mane.
Even the location of Weatherbury has a suitably nature-related name and this is where Miss Everdene travels to begin work as a farmer on the land she has inherited from her uncle. Independent and feisty, it isn’t long before she attracts the attention of a disparate collection of local suitors – each with his own appealing qualities. She must choose between down-to-earth shepherd Gabriel Oak, dashing military man Sergeant Troy and affluent gentleman farmer Boldwood. However, the course of true love never did run smooth and the presence of multiple suitors aggravates the challenges of domestic harmony.
The plot twists and turns from romance to heartache and ultimately great sorrow, all portrayed with Hardy’s characteristic narrative skill, poetic style and highly descriptive prose. It also sets the style and nature-imbued themes for the following Wessex novels: a lost rural idyll of rolling hills, meandering paths, birds in migration and seasonal farming.
Stunning production values
Far from the Madding Crowd is produced in series with the best of Thomas Hardy’s other Wessex novels – Tess of the d’Urbervilles, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Jude the Obscure. The edition is illustrated with 31 of Peter Reddick’s delightful wood engravings and includes printed map endpapers depicting Wessex in glorious detail. Reddick’s corn-dolly motifs also appear on the cloth binding and are replicated on the slipcase. This is made from Fragrance of Grass paper, which is created using an ancient Chinese paper-making method that results in a unique appearance and texture.
About Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy was born in Dorset, England in 1840 and was the eldest son of Thomas and Jemima Hardy. His rural upbringing instilled in him a love of the natural world and this was to combine with an appreciation of the built environment when he was apprenticed to a local architect, aged 16. He spent a brief period working in London as a draftsman before illness meant he had to return home in 1867. Throughout this time, Hardy developed his writing style and his second manuscript, Desperate Remedies (1871), was accepted and published. He wrote short stories and instalments for a tale called A Pair of Blue Eyes while writing further novels, and he was able to work solely as a writer when he left architecture. Wessex was first introduced in Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) and this and subsequent novels established Hardy as a household name. Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure(1895) were his last two novels but he continued to write short stories and poems until his death in 1928.
About Peter Reddick
Peter Reddick was born in Essex in 1924. He studied at the Royal Liberty School in Gidea Park until he was 18 and he then registered as a conscientious objector and undertook land work during the Second World War. It was during this time that his interest in wood engraving developed and he taught himself to engrave by cutting a length of tree trunk into rounds. Once the war was over, he returned to his studies, attending the Guildford and Cardiff schools of art and then the Slade School of Art in London. He focused on illustration but also worked as a tutor to supplement his income while demand for his work increased. Reddick illustrated more than 50 books during his career, including 18 volumes of Thomas Hardy works. He was a founder of the Spike Island art space in Bristol, a hub for contemporary art and design which showcases new and established artists. Reddick was a chairman of the studio until 2006 and he died in 2010.
Over 100 of Thomas Hardy’s greatest poems newly selected and introduced by Robert Macfarlane and with more than 30 specially commissioned illustrations by Stanley Donwood. Each copy is numbered by hand and signed by both anthologist and illustrator.