Beautiful old books a real source of joy for collectors

These folios are all complete with original slipcases
These folios are all complete with original slipcases
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Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn turns over a new leaf to study a real page-turner for antique enthusiasts...

I may be guilty of grumbling about short winter days, but a pleasure of dark evenings is cosying up indoors with a good book. And to celebrate World Book Day this week (and before lighter nights mean I have to do chores instead), we’re looking at some very special books: Folio editions.

The Folio Society was founded by Charles Ede in 1947 intending “to produce editions of the world’s great literature, in a format worthy of the contents, at a price within the reach of everyman”.

Before the Society, handsomely bound and illustrated books were beyond the means of all but the wealthy. The Society produces beautifully crafted and illustrated hardback editions of existing classic fiction and non-fiction, poetry and children’s titles. Folio editions are superior in typography, illustration, paper, printing, and binding.

In 1947 three titles emerged: Tolstoy’s “Tales”, “Trilby” by George du Maurier, and “Aucassin and Nicolette”, an anonymous 13th century French love story. Today, there are nearly 400 titles to choose from.

Folios hold their value, but are unlikely to make you rich. A book is valued on rarity and condition, and, perversely, folio’s high quality mean more copies survive for far longer than most contemporary publications.

These folios are all complete with original slipcases. Priced between £20-£40, they are part of a wide selection of folios available at GB Antiques.

Folios’ true appeal is owning the most beautiful edition of a beloved book for a reasonable cost. They offer a solid investment in pleasure, and let there be no better motive to collect than that.

Replacing battered old favourite paperbacks by “upgrading” to a beautiful folio edition can become addictive. Easy to spot in secondhand bookshops, also look online and remember folios published after 1954 should have a slipcase.

And so to World Book Day. This brilliant UNESCO designated charity promotes a worldwide celebration of books and reading in over 100 countries.

Their aim is to give every child and young person a book of their own, providing schools and nurseries with books, book tokens and activity packs to encourage and spread the joy of reading.

Books are a magical gateway to a world of wonders, let’s extend a hand and invite our young people through.