Next week’s Top Ten Tuesday encourages us to make a holiday gift list — and if you’re looking for a really special gift for the booklovers in your life, The Folio Society has much to offer. In case you haven’t yet encountered this amazing repository of beautifully designed, illustrated, and bound books, have a look at their complete catalog here.
One of the things I like best about Folio is that it stands for quality, but not snobbery; it can turn out an appropriately dressed edition of Terry Pratchett or Stephen King with the same aplomb as it does St. Augustine or Homer. Some may be aghast at these books rubbing shoulders with one another, but I think it’s terrific; there’s excellence of many kinds to be found in an eclectic reading list.
Here are some of my favorite recent releases:
Poetry of Emily Dickinson
This lovely, small volume is wrapped in a translucent dust jacket and illustrated with sensitive woodcuts by Jane Lydbury — perfect for poetry lovers.
The Nursery Rhyme Book
I grew up with Andrew Lang’s “rainbow” fairy tale books, which Folio recently produced most gorgeously, but had never heard of this companion collection. Folio has wisely retained the golden-age illustrations by L. Leslie Brooke, and added new color plates by Debra McFarlane. It would be a splendid gift for a new baby or christening.
This is the third time that Folio has essayed an edition of Jane Austen, but it’s the first time they’ve selected different illustrators for each volume, which gives a pleasing variety to the series (although some illustrators may appeal more to you than others). My personal favorite is the Balbusso sisters’ Pride and Prejudice, which I wrote about here; some find Deanna Stolfo’s pictures for Persuasion a little too close to caricature, but I still prefer them to those in the other edition I own.
The King Must Die
Mary Renault is a longtime favorite author and a perfect choice for the Folio treatment. The first in her “Theseus” duology of myth-inspired historical fiction is illustrated with striking paintings by Geoff Grandfield.
And some still available from earlier seasons:
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
Joan Aiken’s classic adventure is perfectly complemented by slyly humorous illustrations by Bill Bragg. Will Folio dare to take on the entire series (which I wrote about here, here, and here)?
The Little White Horse
Luminous pictures by Debra McFarlane adorn Elizabeth Goudge’s enchanting tale. I have to say that I would have absolutely adored the cover of this book as a young girl, with its shining silver unicorn on a deep purple ground.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
It’s been illustrated many times, but Sara Ogilve brings something fresh to the journey of Dorothy and her companions with her lively, whimsical artwork.
Folio’s first venture into Discworld was a smashing success, and there will be more to come (though it’s doubtful they will produce all 40+ volumes).
The Eagle of the Ninth
One of Rosemary Sutcliff’s most popular and acclaimed historical novels is nobly illustrated with detailed drawings by Roman Pisarev.
The Dark Is Rising series (minus one)
It’s too bad that the title volume of Susan Cooper’s fantasy series is out of print, but the other four are available at an amazing bargain price. For more about the complete series, see my earlier post.
The Blue Flower
Penelope Fitzgerald’s beautiful novel about the poet and visionary Novalis is complemented by colorful, expressionistic artwork by James Albon.
As you can see, I tend to gravitate toward the children’s books, but there’s much more to explore, including great works of religion, history, and science, golden age mysteries, and science fiction, as well as many classic and some modern novels.
In case you’re wondering, Folio has now done away with the “membership” model that required a commitment to buy four books in a twelve-month period. You can now buy just one book (though you’ll likely find it hard to stop there), and special offers are available to everyone through the year. Right now, shipping is capped at $10 for your first order, and selected sets are 15% off.
Enough temptation from me — do go and see what strikes your fancy, and let me know your own favorites.