Tess of the d’Urbervilles

Thomas Hardy

Illustrated by Peter Reddick

Preface by the author

A sorrowful tale about social mobility, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles is part of the new Folio Society Wessex collection. Each edition is illustrated with Peter Reddick’s evocative woodcuts. 


Tess Durbeyfield comes from a humble background, so when a flippant conversation in a tavern reveals that her family is descended from the noble d’Urbervilles, Tess’s father imagines a way to improve their fortunes. This sets in motion a classic coming-of-age tale that is full of Hardy’s characteristic highs and lows, fraught soul-searching and redemption, all set against the backdrop of the archetypal English rural idyll. 

‘Hardy was first and foremost a landscape novelist, a landscape poet, who painted enduring pictures of a natural world – a real outdoor world – which forms the stage on which his characters live out their tragic lives.’

  1. The Hardy Society

Production Details

Bound in cloth blocked with a decorative motif
Set in Baskerville
432 pages
22 integrated black & white woodcut illustrations

Printed map endpapers
Printed slipcase
9˝ × 5¾˝

A long and sorrowful road

With a family of d’Urbervilles living conveniently close by, it is decided that Tess will visit them and appeal to their better nature in order to claim kinship. She sets off, blissfully unaware that, in reality, no blood ties exist between their two families – the local d’Urbervilles adopted, rather than inherited, their grand-sounding surname. The naïve Tess strikes up an unwise friendship with d’Urberville son Alec and this leads to the familiar story of a working-class girl seduced by a wealthy man. Although Tess’s innocence is severely tested and the outcome is grim, there is hope and fleeting chances of happiness for our protagonist.

Hardy offers no prescription for carefree rural living in his Wessex series. In this case, the stunning settings offset the misery that Tess endures simply to get by. She must deal with heartbreak, grief and shame as the plot unfolds, all the while knowing that her efforts to elevate the family’s social status have been in vain.  

A new Folio Society collection

Tess of the d’Urbervilles is produced in series with the best of Thomas Hardy’s other Wessex novels – Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Jude the Obscure. The edition is illustrated with 22 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. 


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