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Folio Archives 39: The Wonderful Year 1603 by Thomas Dekker 1989

Folio Society devotees

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Jan 7, 2018, 2:59am Top

The Wonderful Year 1603 by Thomas Dekker 1989

Between 1987 and 1991 the Folio Society produced twenty fine editions. To quote the Society’s own publicity – "The aim of The Folio Press Fine Editions series was to produce slim volumes to the highest standard, using mould-made paper and letterpress printing, with bindings and, where appropriate, illustrations in the private press tradition."

The books are narrow Royal octavo volumes, typically of between 50 and 90 pages, protected by transparent plastic (not glassine) dust-jackets (not slip cases) and having contrasting cover labels; those quarter bound in silk also have spine labels. Only 1000 of each edition were produced, but they were not numbered.

They were priced from £25 to £30. The series began in 1987 to mark the Society's fortieth anniversary but was not sufficiently popular with members to run to more than 20 titles.
I have only one of these delightful books, The Wonderful Year 1603.

Little is known about the author except for his work, which was prolific as a jobbing playwright in the 1590s. He collaborated widely with other playwrights such as Ben Jonson and John Marston.

This book was probably written in 1604 and describes a year that was far less than wonderful because London was gripped with the plague, the horrors of which he describes. He also describes other events of the year including the end of the Irtish rebellion, the death of Elizabeth I and the accession of James I.

A fascinating insight into life in London at that time.

It has only 63 pages, and no illustrations, but is bound in gorgeous purple moire silk with brown cloth spine and is 25x15.7cm. The endpapers are hand-marbled by Mitchell and Malik,

Showing plastic cover


An index of the other illustrated reviews in the "Folio Archives" series can be viewed at : http://www.librarything.com/topic/266300

Jan 7, 2018, 9:23am Top

This serves as a useful introduction to possibly the most praised and appreciated Folio series ever. Anyone interested in quality book production in the tradition of the pre-war private presses should really take note and start collecting. I remember at the time being more than slightly irritated because they seemed to be charging a small fortune for books produced by letterpress. Up to the early eighties nearly all Folio books were printed letterpress. They boasted (rightly) about it in all their prospectuses. That was quietly shelved in favour of mass production methods (I should add that their early efforts in the "new" medium were not always entirely successful) and then they brought out the Fine Editions series. I thought it was a bit of a cheek at the time and wouldn't consider buying for that reason, plus they were extraordinarily expensive. To add insult to injury, for some inexplicable reason they didn't even have a slipcase! (I have to admit, though, that the plastic jacket has proved extremely durable). By the time I had forgiven them for their audacity they were out of print and became very difficult to find at a reasonable price. It took me over twenty years to complete the set. Nevertheless I see individual titles pop up reasonably frequently on eBay, sometimes at considerably less than I paid for my copies. I saw this one very recently for less than £20 - can't recall exactly, but this was less than the original selling price back in 1989!

You can find detailed information on all twenty titles on the FSD Wiki http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Groups:Folio_Society_Devotees
under the heading "Folio Society, Fine Editions produced between 1987 and 1991", where you'll find links to the series prospectuses containing full descriptions and photographs.

Jan 7, 2018, 11:16am Top

>1 wcarter: Although I own the book, I had never noticed where the original was sold. St Dunstan's is well worth a visit on a trip to London. The church was heavily modified by the Luftwaffe, but a good part of it (including elements of Christopher Wren design) now surround a small public park. Most of the time it provides an oasis of reflective calm, just a stones throw from one of the busiest parts of the city.

Jan 7, 2018, 11:49am Top

>2 folio_books: I saw this one very recently for less than £20 - can't recall exactly, but this was less than the original selling price back in 1989!...

Possibly the copy I bought on eBay for £19.99 at the end of October, along with Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome at the same price? As something of a skinflint I thought I'd done with acquiring this series and would just continue to enjoy the three volumes I already had, but those prices won me over: and then so did a second copy of Hogg's memoir of Sir Walter Scott, around £4.70 in World of Rare Books' half price sale, which turned out to be in hardly less than Fine condition in its wrapper.

Jan 7, 2018, 12:12pm Top

>4 terebinth: Very possibly the copy I sold on e-bay in October along with the Macaulay!

Edited: Jan 7, 2018, 12:26pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Jan 7, 2018, 1:02pm Top

>4 terebinth: Possibly the copy I bought on eBay for £19.99 at the end of October, along with Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome at the same price?

Quite likely. Excellent bargains. Hogg's Memoir beats them, though - astounding price. Congratulations!

>5 xrayman: Very possibly the copy I sold on e-bay in October along with the Macaulay!

Were you surprised you didn't get more for them? It does happen with eBay, though - you set a low starting price hoping to get the bidding going and it turns out to be a damp squib. IIRC the Macaulay was quite a hard one to find not so very long ago. As you will know the "normal" eBay price for the Fine Editions is quite a bit higher.

Edited: Jan 7, 2018, 1:51pm Top

I think I posted this once before, just after I completed the series, many years ago. Anyway, here is a picture of the entire Fine Editions series. They are orqanized by the following: each column is a year, and the order by row is the order they were published in each year. Interesting that the book Warwick chose is just about in the very center.

I believe someone else posted a pic of them standing side by side in a different thread some time ago.

Jan 7, 2018, 2:31pm Top

>8 garyjbp:

I have just finished reading this edition and love everything about it. The moire silk sides and the hand marbled endpapers have really stood the test of time. My copy is as good as when it was published even after almost 30 years. I have 14 of the series and consider them the pride of all of my Folios.
Congratulations on making the full set.

Jan 7, 2018, 2:42pm Top

>7 folio_books: I was surprised that there wasn't more interest. It's all a matter of timing with e-bay, on another week they may have gone for more. That said, they were among several spares of the series I'd acquired for various reasons and I'm happy at least two of them went to a fellow faddict.

I remain very happy to own the series, although I do miss the thrill of the hunt a little.

Jan 7, 2018, 4:13pm Top

This thread led me to check ebay once again for the last volume in the series, Woman in White. Found it listed for less than I had ever seen, so I took the plunge.

Jan 7, 2018, 7:34pm Top

Unfortunately, I have this as my only book in the series. The endpapers and pages came completely unglued from the binding.
The silk held up better from fading compared to other FS books. It slowed me down in acquiring other FS books at the time.

Jan 7, 2018, 8:43pm Top

Slightly OT trivia for Beatles fans: Paul McCartney borrowed a verse (as well as the title) from a poem by Thomas Dekker for Abbey Road's Golden Slumbers.

Apr 18, 2:35am Top

Thanks, Warwick. Maybe more appropriate for me to post here...?

I seem to have acquired a second copy of the Folio Press (Fine/Letterpress edition) of The Wonderful Year 1603. Willing to trade it for 'The Tower' or another FS volume I'm looking for. PM me, if interested.

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