About buying and selling used books and stuff online. Plus my adventures and random thoughts.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Folio Society Books

Part of my "work" requires me to look at and appraise thousands of books offered up for sale at thrift shops, church sales, estate sales and other venues. I imagine it's like panning for gold, only with books. Sound dull? The rest of my family thinks it is, but it does not really feel like "work" to me.

Like any miner, I live for the moment when I discover the golden nugget hidden in the sludge. Last year, I felt like I'd found a rich vein of nuggets when I bought the entire library of a retired English teacher. Most of the books were published by the "Folio Society," a British enterprise I'd never heard of before. Many others were "Heritage Book Club" books, another outfit unknown to me.

The highest possible production values for mass-market books set these two publishers apart from the run of the mill. The paper is acid-free, very good quality bond. The printing is selected to match the subject, as are the illustrations. The publisher might use period illustrations for history, or woodcuts or other original art. The covers are usually fine cloth, with a handsome embossed design, often of original art, and gilt lettering when appropriate for cover titles and author's names. Instead of a dust jacket, these books are protected by slipcases. The slipcases are usually plain, although they can be adorned with eye-catching art. My copy of the Folio "Maltese Falcon" has a striking print pastedown on the slipcase.

The books themselves are classics of both historical and contemporary English literature and world literature in translation; fiction, biography, science, art and history.

Robin Smiley, editor of Firsts, the book collector's magazine, said she could not understand why a collector's market does not exist for these books. In particular, the first editions would be desirable.

I wonder that, myself.

Well, most of these books will stay in my private collection, for now. I am still regretting sale of my copy of William Blake's Songs of innocence and of experience, illustrated by the author.

Interestingly, a little research shows Folio Society has devotees writing on Library Thing. They even said some nice things about the William Blake book.

Of course, you can get these books directly from the Folio Society in the UK. Barnes & Noble are the US distributors. They have a nice PDF file touting the virtues of these books.

As for me, I expect to see more of them at estate sales. I am thinking, though, I might go back to Amazon or e-bay to pick up a nice copy. Because, for a book lover, a beautifully made edition of a great book is a double joy.


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