If you’re an avid reader or book collector, you may have come across the word ‘folio’; then you’ve either walked away confused or Googled the term and ended up on this page.
Folio books are a specific type of book that date back hundreds of years, but there’s also an organisation called ‘The Folio Society’ that have been printing retrospective illustrated versions of classic books and literature in the traditional folio format since 1947.
It’s an unusual word, and it comes from the Latin word folium, which means leaf. There are three meanings or definitions for folio in the book and printing world.
Folio can refer to a printing format that was used before books were bound using modern techniques – such as perfect binding or saddle stitching.
A folio is one or more full sheets of paper on which four pages of text are printed; two on either side. Each sheet is folded once to produce two leaves, so each leaf is one half of the paper’s original size.
There are other methods that incorporate more folds, such as quarto (two fold) and octavo (three fold). These pages would be cut open by the printer, or the book buyer would do it themselves with a knife.
A folio is a leaf with two pages, and those pages are called recto (1st page) and verso (2nd page). However, it’s a little confusing, most of us would consider the first page we see as the page on the left, but folio books go by the first page you see, which is on the right.
So, a typical page abbreviation would be ‘f23r’, which means the first side of the 26th leaf in a book (r for recto), which would be the right hand side page.
Folio books can also refer to the size of the sheet of paper it’s printed on, but due to the limited technology at the time of printing, determining the size can often be futile.
There are various historical terms for folio books, such as Double Elephant Folio (50 inches/127 cm), Atlas Folio (25 inches, ca 63 cm), Elephant Folio (23 inches, ca 58 cm), Royal Folio (20 inches, ca 51 cm), Medium Folio (18 inches, ca 46 cm), and (the most common) Crown Folio (15 inches, ca 38 cm).
If you think you’ve got a folio book, get your measuring tape out!
The reason for these different definitions is down to classification, for example, technology in the 1900s allowed publishers to produce many pages at a time, which makes it difficult to determine how many folds are in one page. Therefore, size or page numbering became more important and a new classification method emerged.
The folio society was founded in 1947 by Charles Ede. If you try any of the above methods and are still unsure, look for the FS logo. Every Folio Society publication features a unique ‘FS’ logo on its spine.
You’ll also find publisher details inside any book which details that it’s a Folio Society publication. This includes the date it was published and information about any additional editing or introductory work contained within the publication.
Many people collect folio society books, so if you’re clearing out someone’s possessions and they have a lot of books, it’s worth checking whether they’re folio society books.
Your Folio Society books will be worth something, but they aren’t traditionally bought as investments, collectors and readers have an affinity for the books. The easiest way to find out is by visiting our catalogue and browsing through our selection of folio books.
Folio books don’t tend to appreciate value because there are usually a lot of them in circulation due to excellent preservation techniques, plus, the initial sale price is high which makes it more difficult for the value to increase. If you have a first edition or limited edition, it may hold more value than a standard copy.
While books values fluctuate due to supply and demand, some folio books can fetch between £500-1000, if you have a book that you can’t find in our catalogue or you can’t scan the ISBN number send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 01706 248281 and we’ll be able to help you.
It’s easy to sell books to WeBuyBooks. You can do so via our website or use a mobile device to access our handy app. You’ll need to browse our large catalogue of Folio Society books to find out if we’re already looking for your book and the price we can offer you.