Candide, published in 1948 is the fifth book. It was printed at the Chiswick Press, and I think it was the most attractive book so far published.

IMG_0004 (Small) There is a yellow dustjacket, several watercolour plates  and sketches by Kenneth Hobson. The text was translated  by Henry Morley.

The Book

Candide is a short novel  about the travels and travails of a bastard son banished from the aristocratic home he was brought up in. While being brought up he came under the influence of the family tutor Pangloss whose philosophy was the “everything is for the best”. As calamity begets calamity throughout the book Candide tries to contort the experience to fit the philosophy. Despite the regard he holds for Pangloss he comes to doubt this philosophic viewpoint as time goes on.  Candide and his companions travel to various cities in Europe, take a trip to England where they see an admiral being executed for dereliction of duty “to encourage the others”. This is an obvious reference to the court martial and execution of Admiral Byng.

Candide is infatuated with his half cousin Cunegonde (and she with him). He believes that she is dead, but improbably they reunite in Lisbon, only to become separated again in Argentina. Many years later Candide meets Cunegonde only to find her beauty has turned into ugliness, and he marries her out of a sense of duty, not love

IMG_0007 (Small)

Candide is a witty satire. It is an antidote to the naive proposition that “everything is for the best”, Bad luck, misfortune, misery and malice often have the upper hand in life. The priests are corrupt and the majority of the minor characters are schemers of one sort or another. Despite near death experiences Pangloss maintains his optimistic philosophy throughout. Martin’s cynicism is much more realistic. At the conclusion all the main characters are living a simple rural existence in some sort of satisfactory contentment.

IMG_0008 (Medium) Criticism

This novel is a reply to the philosophy of worldly and Divine benevolence.

Here are a few essays


Wikipedia article

The wikipedia entry is well worth a read.

The Translator

The translator is not identified in the book, and in Folio 21 Charles Ede was not able to establish the identity. In Folio 60 the translator is identified as Henry Morley, a professor of English Literature at University College, London. There is a comprehensive biography here.

In 2002 Lauren Walsh  revised Morley’s translation for Barnes and Noble. It would be interesting to compare the two.

Other notable translations include those of Tobias Smollett,  John Butt (Penguin Classics) , Richard Aldington and  Donald Frame (Signet Classics)

IMG_0009 (Small) The Illustrator

I could find little information about Kenneth Hobson. It seems that the Society did not commission the illustrations and came by the unpublished book and illustrations in a hitherto unexplained fashion. The illustrator is also recorded as being the jacket designer for Carmen, published in 1949.

I suspect that the illustrator was the same Kenneth Hobson who was associated with the fine binders Sangorski and Sutcliffe, however I am unable to confirm this easily.


IMG_0010 (Small) This sketch is Candide thrusting his sword into Cunegonde’s owner, Don Issachar when he and Cunegonde are caught “in flagrante” when they reunite in Lisbon.

The sketches are more dynamic and “racy” than the watercolours!

IMG_0011 (Small)

IMG_0013 (Small)

IMG_0012 (Small)

IMG_0014 (Small)

These are the remaining watercolour illustrations from the book.

I do like them, and they suit the quirky mood of the book quite well.

Hot Off the Press (25 May 2011)

The Folio Society have just released a Limited Edition Of Candide. It’s the Smollett translation with illustrations by Quentin Blake.  Details here


Shakespeare’s Sonnets

IMG (Small) Originally intended for publication in 1947, it appeared in 1948, the fourth book of the Society

The Book

All 154 sonnets were published, using the A.H. Bullen  text. My copy lacks the dustjacket. The scan shows the green leather binding and cloth sides.

Each sonnet is published on a separate page with a calligraphic headpiece in green. The book was, otherwise, unillustrated. The book was published by the Chiswick press as was the third book Aucassin & Nicolette.

The headpieces were designed by Reynolds Stone, who also designed the Folio Society logo.  In a long career he also designed banknotes and stamps and engraved the tombs of Winston Churchill and T.S. Elliot among many other accomplishments.

Three other editions have been since issued by the Folio Society.

The Poet

Goes by the name of William Shakespeare. Better known as a playwright, but turned his hand to poetry now and then.

IMG_0001 (Small)

The Poetry

Lots of sonnets…154 of them in fact. There is a lot of angst here. All the pleasure is tinged with pain, and all the pain is tinged with more pain. Of course there is more to them that, but that covers about 90% of the work!

The Critics

Some can spend a lifetime thinking about The Sonnets and wonder about Shakespeare’s sexuality and fidelity, mysterious patrons, his thoughts about lost youth, and so on.


Aucassin & Nicolette

Front Cover (Small)

The book

Published in 1947, this is the third book of The Folio Society.  Charles Ede regarded it as one of the most successful designs of the early Society. It was printed in Britain by the Chiswick Press. Caslon Old Face type, White grained cloth , blocked in blue with a fleur-de-lys pattern. There was an acetate dust jacket. This was the first book printed in England, as paper restrictions had been imposed after the war and only short books (this was 64 pages) were allowed to be printed. There were 44 drawings by Lettice Sandford, some of which, along with sections of the text, are shown here.

The Story

Aucassin and Nicolette is a medieval French chante – fable. Aucassin falls in love with Nicolette, a slave girl. His father, the Count of Beaucaire forbids the match. Her owner and godfather imprisons her to prevent Aucassin seeing her. The Count of Beaucaire is at war with the Count of Valence. Although Aucassin has no taste for war he agrees to help his father fight on the promise that he will  be allowed to say a few words and share a kiss with Nicolette. Once the battle is won his father  reneges on the promise and imprisons Aucassin. Nicolette escapes from her godfather’s palace and manages to speak to Aucassin through his prison’s wall. She then flees into the countryside. Assuming that Nicolette is either dead or long gone, the Count releases Aucassin. Aucassin then decides to try and find Nicolette, and finds her in the forest. He and Nicolette then escape by ship to Torelore. There IMG_0001 (Small)they find the king in child – bed while his wife is with the army. The man in bed at the time of birthing is a custom called couvarde and Aucassin beats the king and extracts a promise that this practice will be forbidden in the future throughout his kingdom. There then follows an absurd episode where the king and Aucassin go to the battlefield to find that the fight involves  various foodstuffs. Aucassin and Nicolette live happily at the castle until it is attacked by a band of Saracens and both are captured and put in separate ships. Aucassin’s ship is wrecked, and he finds himself ashore in Beaucaire, where he learns that his parents are dead and he is now the ruler of Beaucaire. Nicolette is brought to Carthage, where it is realised that she is the daughter of the king. She remains in love with Aucassin.
To escape an arranged marriage she disguises herself and takes passage to Beaucaire. Still in disguise she sings to Aucassin about Nicolette. Aucassin asks her to fetch her and she promises to do so. She goes to her godmother’s house and she has a makeover and then Aucassin is brought to her….and they live happily ever after.





IMG_0003 (Small)


The author

The author of this work is unknown. There is a single copy of the manuscript in old French which is held in the Biblioteque Nationale de France

Here is a facsimile of the original with a modern French translation and introductory commentary (in French)


Background Information

Chantefables are a literary form where songs and prose are alternated to tell a story. Aucassin & Nicolette is the only surviving example from medieval France. The form has been documented in other cultures, including the Chinese. In a sense, modern day musicals, such as West Side Story, continue the tradition.


This translation was made by F.W. Bourdillon in 1887. There are several other translations of this work into English.  At least one, by Andrew Lang  is available on line.

Bourdillon was also a poet as well as a translator, and this may be why his translation is preferred by some. Bourdillon’s most famous poem is “The Night has a Thousand Eyes”


The night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.

The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one:
Yet the light of a whole life dies
When love is done.


The illustrations were made by Lettice Sandford who also illustrated Arabian Love Tales in 1949 and Lancelot & Guinevre in 1953

Literary Criticism

Although it could be seen as a medieval Mills and Boon, the work has also been seen as a treatise on courtly love, a parody about courtly love, a comedy or a proto-feminist manifesto.

Best read it for yourself (the Bourdillon translation is on Gutenberg as well as the Lang) and make your own decision regarding its merits.







Published in 1947, Trilby is the second book issued by the Folio Society. The cover was designed by Alice Hindson and features a repetitive motif of an artists pallette and musical notes

IMG_0003 (Small)

Printed in 12/24 Garamond type and bound by Messrs. Brepols of Belgium. The pencil studies, by the author,  in this edition were the basis for the engravings in the original edition some 50 years before. In the 1890s, at the time of its first publication, it was very popular and also made into a  successful stage play.  Some words/phrases related to this work have entered into popular usage. “Svengali”, “Trilby Hat”, “In the Altogether” are all fairly well known.

The story


IMG_0004 (Small)
IMG_0006 (Small)

A somewhat melodramatic story of the free spirited artist’s model, Trilby and the men who loved her.

The story begins in bohemian Paris where Little Billee, Taffy and the Laird, three budding British artists meet Trilby O’Ferrall, the daughter of a lapsed Dublin cleric and a Paris based Scottish barmaid.

As time goes on Little Billee came to love her, and she loved him in return and she finally accepted his marriage proposal. However his mother was determined that the marriage should not occur as Trilby was not a suitable match. Little Billee was heartbroken, but later on became a very successful artist in his native England. He then started to court a childhood friend Alice but fell out with her father (a parson) over religious issues. Billee had ceased attending church and was an admirer of Charles Darwin. Although Little Billee moved with ease through the highs and lows of society he never developed any other strong attachments.

Meanwhile Trilby, who was at a low ebb in her life, having sacrificed her love for Billee, and lost her young brother through a sudden illness, came under the influence of Svengali. Svengali was a narcissistic musician who had the ability to train and influence other artists to achieve virtuistic performances. His first pupil was Gecko, a violin player, and then Trilby who he taught to sing. She became the most talented and talked about singer of her time. That this happened was due to a hypnotic spell induced by Svengali and Trilby has little recollection of her performances on stage.

Little Billee, and his two friends Taffy and the Laird, attend a performance in Paris and realise that “La Svengali” is in fact Trilby.

Soon after this there is a performance in London. Svengali dies during the performance and Trilby can no longer sing in tune. Little Billee arranges for her to come to his landlady’s establishment but her health gradually fades. She receives a photograph of Svengali which transfixes her, and she starts to sing with great beauty. She then dies, whispering Svengali’s name as she dies.

Little Billee is distraught and believes that Svengali has called to her from beyond the grave and has taken her back again. He pines away and, after a long illness dies at the family home where he has been attended by his mother, sister and his friend Taffy.

Over this time Taffy falls in love with Little Billee’s sister Blanche and they marry. During a visit to Paris they meet Gecko who explains that Svengali used Trilby as an instrument for his own ambitions, and that there were two Trilbys. The “true” Trilby was the one who couldn’t sing a note but was loved by all, and in return was friends to all but only loved Little Billee, and there was the “Svengali” Trilby who was a creature created by and controlled by Svengali.

Although there is the obvious theme of the nature of love and its obsessions (Trilby and Little Billee, Trilby and Taffy, Svengali and Trilby, Little Billee and his mother, Little Billee and Alice among others), there are other themes of interest. Individual belief contrasted  to religious dogma is one. As Trilby was dying, her words to Little Billee’s mother were “there’ll be no hell for any of us, except what we make for ourselves and each other down here” when the mother wanted Trilby to receive a visit from a clergyman relative. This was the same relative who the mother enlisted to destroy the relationship years ago.


The Illustrations


IMG_0007 (Small)
IMG_0008 (Small)
IMG_0009 (Small)
IMG_0010 (Small)
IMG_0011 (Small)
IMG_0012 (Small)

Other stuff on the web about Trilby

Trilbyana…. a contemporary account about its impact and controversy



It’s time to move on from Trilby. The next work is Aucassin & Nicolette.  A chantefable, and the 3rd and last book published by the Folio Society in its first year