Friday, 20 August 2010

The Lord of the Rings - Folio Edition - 2002

The Folio Society was set up in 1947 as a company that aimed to produce beautiful editions of the world’s finest books. The original intent was that they would be well priced, effectively creating 'a poor man's fine edition' – a well-designed, printed and bound book to which the common man could aspire.

In 1977 the society published its own version of The Lord of the Rings to match the Hobbit which had been released the previous year. The first edition ever to have illustrations approved by the Tolkien estate, the set was released as three separate volumes in a slipcase. Twenty years later, in 1997, the same books were released in a new style, with this third edition set. Mine are the ninth printing, 2002, of this latest edition.

My grandad is a member of the Folio Society, and it was he who really turned me on to their books. There is something so beautiful about a chunky, well made book sitting in a slipcase, that I just had to get involved. Sadly, the Lord of the Rings was long sold out by the time I found out about them, but they often pop up on ebay, and whilst some have paid £100 for a set, there have been a couple going for half that, including this one which I got for £41 inclusive of postage.

I just love the chunkiness and overall quality of this set - the books are solid, robust and clean. They are weighty and strong, and the pages are glossy. It definitely looks like a set which will stand the test of time. The slipcase is attractive and well produced, with the runes along the top and bottom. It sits perfectly in size against the Hobbit from the set, although be aware that later impressions of the Hobbit come in a black slipcase which doesn't match this purple/brown one in colour.

The illustrations are by Ingahild Grathmer and drawn by Eric Fraser. I'm not a massive fan of this style, and there are only a handful of (mainly) small black and white pics throughout the books, so it is not these that win my heart.

The covers are green with a gold pattern on them. Both of these colours give a sense of richness and quality which is much deserved. The maps on the inside cover are in green and black.

If I am being critical, there is a sense that these are very 'new' books, trying to look classic and special, and some may see them as a bit tacky in a sense. The slipcase, for example, looks somehow like it could be a DVD slipcase, and certainly has a commerical look to it. However, the books themselves are so solid, with bright, crisp pages, that I still really like this set.

Overall this is clearly not a set that is going to be worth a lot in the future, but fits nicely into my collection as perhaps the best reading copies I have. The matching Hobbit goes well with it, but be aware that the matching Silmarillion will cost a bit as it was more limited in its print run.

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