Your faithful blogger is quite fond of illustrated books. Although we collect virtually anything that is attractively illustrated (by steel engraving, woodcuts, chromolithography, stippling, pochoir, photography...), we must confess to an especial weakness for books which contain a generous selection of exceptional wood engravings:
Because most modern works of fiction are not illustrated at all (and most non-fiction works are illustrated only by workman-like photography), we find our bookshelves groaning mostly under the weight of books published in centuries past. The only exceptions tend to be modern children's books and fine press books, both of which continue the tradition of finely illustrated fiction. Among trade books for adults, only a few publishers have continued this noble tradition at a price most book collectors (especially new book collectors) can afford. One of those publishers is The Folio Society:
Conceived by Charles Ede, The Folio Society was established to publish beautiful books that would be affordable to everyone--what we today might think of as a "poor man's fine edition." The first three titles were issued in 1947. In the six+ decades since, it has published over 1400 titles (for which The Folio Society has published several well-executed bibliographies):
Over the years, The Folio Society has printed a number of titles that are unabashedly fine press titles (priced accordingly). But its basic mission remains unchanged. Its editorial standards are the envy of a great many other publishers. And its commitment to the tradition of finely illustrated fiction is without peer among most modern trade publishers.
Of course, The Folio Society does not publish just fiction. It also publishes finely illustrated books in such areas as history, travel, biography, gardening...the diversity offers something of interest to just about any book collector. (Folks interested in sea fiction will undoubtedly welcome The Folio Society's intent to publish, over the next five years, illustrated editions of Patrick O'Brian's entire Aubrey-Maturin opus:)
Most intriguingly, The Folio Society as presently constituted operates at the intersection of a number of different traditions: trade publishing and fine press publishing (as noted above), and subscription publishing (somewhat similar to a book club). Worth a gander, even if you don't collect illustrated books....