70 years of The Folio Society’s artwork to be shown at the V&A Museum

© Illustration by Anna and Elena Balbusso from The Folio Society edition of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Folio Society has been producing exquisite books for 70 years, and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is about to celebrate the wonderful design and illustration created during that time.

The Artful Book, commencing at the museum of art, design and performance from September 5, will honour a selection of original artwork from The Folio Society archive, along with the books for which they were commissioned. And there’s no shortage of incredible illustrators who’ve worked with The Folio Society, including Quentin Blake, Angel Barrett, Geoff Grandfield and Harry Brockway among others.

The Folio Society commissions illustrators fresh from grad shows like New Designers, to luminaries such as Dave McKean (for their recent American Gods edition). It values aesthetic beauty and visual storytelling like no other publisher in the country, and arguably the globe. The company is known for its exquisite, high-end (and priced to match) hardback editions of classic fiction and nonfiction works – everything from Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice to modern epics like Frank Herbert’s Dune. Earlier this month we spoke to The Folio Society art directors Sheri Gee and Raquel Leis Allion – the creative minds behind the books’ aesthetics.

The first meeting of The Folio Society was held in 1947 – when the society consisted of three men, among them Folio founder Charles Ede. The first title, Tales by Tolstoy, was published as an illustrated edition in October that year.

One of the letters Ede used to send out to new members

This book is included in the exhibition along with a dedicated reading corner inside the National Art Library where a range of titles can be read during opening hours.

Under Lord Gavron from 1982 and now Lady Gavron and Gavron family, The Folio Society has continued to honour the society’s origins by producing literature "in a format worthy of its contents".

It continues to be a publisher known for its quality and craftsmanship (and this also means the price of each book reflects that).

Other artists and books included in the exhibition include Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (illustrated by Anna and Elena Balbusso), John Masefiled’s The Midnight Folk (illustrated by Sara Ogilvie), Jane Austin’s Persuasion (illustrated by Deanna Staffo), and Frank Herbert’s Dune (illustrated by Sam Weber).

@Illustrations by Kate Baylay from The Folio Society edition of Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, 2015
©Illustration by Neil Packer from The Folio Society edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, translated by Gregory Rabassa, 2006

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