Prestige booksellers The Folio Society have gained a reputation for excellence, both in the quality of their products and their selection of texts to work with. One of the latest books to be released in a gorgeous hardback edition is The Best of Dorothy Parker, a celebration of the writer and wit’s best works.
We met with Tom Walker of The Folio Society, to get the lowdown on the latest Folio volume and find out more about his position within the illustrious literary organisation
Tom, what is your role at The Folio Society, and what does it involve?
I am Publishing Director, so I am responsible for selecting the titles we publish. I then work with our superb team of editors and art directors to design and implement the vision for how we can make the most perfect incarnation of the book.
Tell us a little about your background.
I am a lifelong book addict, and went from studying English at university into this amazing industry which feeds the habit of my fellow bibliophiles.
What do you feel The Folio Society represents in people’s minds?
Hopefully The Folio Society represents people’s favourite books in their most perfect form. We talk with our readers a lot and one of the things they really appreciate is the fact that we are fellow readers: we care about the books we publish, and are respectful of their needs. The Folio Society started in 1947 in the wake of the private press movement, and we are still associated with those William Morris aspects of beautifully hand-crafted objects and quixotic book-making.
How do you select the titles you re-publish?
We have a deeply engaged global readership and most of our best ideas come through corresponding with them, or researching lists of possible titles with them. Others come through research in libraries and literary collections across the world, our own reading or suggestions from authors and illustrators.
Why did you choose to work on The Best of Dorothy Parker? What is it about her writing that you feel rewards a contemporary audience?
Dorothy Parker was one of the great literary personalities of 1920s’ New York, but she was way ahead of her time. She wrote very funny, sparkling short stories and poems with a real edge to them, usually about the experience of being a woman in a man’s world. She had a wit and intelligence though that never dates. If she was alive today, she’d have her own comedy show, she’d be huge.
Take us through the process of bringing a book by The Folio Society to fruition.
There is no single process to describe: we are a craft publisher and treat each book individually according to its needs. On the editorial side we will work with authors to perfect the texts, commission introducers, indexers, cartographers; and take the book through a rigorous editorial process of copy-editing and two proofreads. On the design side we might commission an illustrator or other craftspeople like marblers or cartographers, or work with our picture research team to devise a new selection of images. Our production team then somehow finds a way to work with the printers to make these visions come to life. The end result we are always aiming for is the definitive version of the book!
How do you select the artists you work with on your amazing covers?
We have two amazing art directors who hunt the globe for artistic talent. We have been publishing since 1947 and have a significant reputation in the illustrators’ world, so a lot of illustrators approach us as well. The process of then matching these to texts is a complex and enjoyable task involving the art director and editor; matching up the sensibilities of the artist with the potential of the text. In my twelve years at The Folio Society I still don’t quite know how that works, and think of it as a form of beautiful alchemy.
What has been your most memorable moment at The Folio Society?
Having commissioned Patti Smith to write an introduction to Wuthering Heights I had the massive honour of working closely with her on an astonishing piece she wrote.
The Best of Dorothy Parker
Introduced by Mervyn Horder
Illustrated by Helen Smithson
Available exclusively from The Folio Society – www.foliosociety.com