The Folio Society: At Bologna To Meet Illustrators

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The 75-year-old Folio Society partnered with Bologna Book Plus to reach out to the book fair’s internationally active illustrators.

Folio Society CEO Joanna Reynolds and publisher Tom Walker, center, present Folio Society editions to Greek minister of culture and sports Nicholas Yatromanolakis (right) at a dinner to celebrate Bologna Book Plus’ Market of Honor Greece. Seated to the left is Dariusz Jaworski, director of the Polish Book Institute. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Folio Society Illustration Award Deadline: April 29
Amid the myriad events, presentations, announcements, speeches, panels, launches, and landings at Bologna Children’s Book Fair last week, one interesting presence was that of the London-based independent publisher called the Folio Society. As we’d highlighted, the house became a “brand partner” of the Bologna Book Plus program.

The company made a presentation on the main stage—called the Illustrators Café at Bologna—on the first day (March 6) for illustrators interested in its new award. It then that with instructional and inspirational events for illustrators on the second day, March 7, on the Book Plus stage.

By week’s end, the company’s CEO, Joanna Reynolds, also had presented the Greek minister of culture and sports, Nicholas Yatromanolakis, with three huge special Folio Society volumes including a sumptuously illustrated Odyssey—books so lavishly produced that they’re well worth squeezing into the ministerial luggage for the trip back to Athens.

Homer’s The Odyssey in the Folio Society edition is illustrated by Grahame Baker -Smith, introduced by Bernard Knox, translated by Robert Fagles, quarter-bound in buckram with printed cloth sides, set in Monotype Centaur, and runs to 592 pages with a frontispiece and eight color illustrations, printed map endpapers, and a blocked slipcase. We all tried desperately but without success to get it away from the affable Yatromanolakis.

When asked why she and several of her colleagues had made the trip to Bologna and have become partners of the Plus program, Reynolds said, “We simply want these illustrators.”

‘Lipstick,’ from Anna and Elena Balbusso’s illustrations for ‘The Handmaid’sTale’ for the Folio Society

To that end, it’s worth the Folio’s time, attention, travel, and sponsorship to be able to familiarize the Bologna program’s internationally recognized illustrators with how their colleagues in the industry work with the company, what’s expected, and how to approach if they’d like to be Folio Society illustrators.

Publishing Perspectives readers will understand immediately the value the Folio Society places on such talent when remembering our coverage of the release of the two-volume edition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale with the unsettlingly striking work of the Italian sister-illustrators Anna and Elena Balbusso. (You’ll find those stories here and here.)

As the company says about its own work, “Every book we make is a miniature work of art,  and we take pride in every single one.”

What illustrator can resist a publisher so focused on the visual presentation and craftsmanship of meticulously produced physical editions of great books?

The Folio Book Illustration Award 2023

Illustrators attending the 60th Bologna Children’s Book Fair gather to look at Folio Society editions and to talk with the London-based independent house’s publisher Tom Walker and art directors Sheri Gee and Raquel Leis Allion. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

Announcing its current-year Folio Book Illustration Award, the company clearly sent a strong signal to the teeming illustrators at Bologna last week, that one way into the halls of the Folio process is to grab the attention of the company’s jurors by entering the new competition.

An illustration by Grahame Baker-Smith from the Folio Society’s ‘The Odyssey’

As in many leading translation award programs, this one starts with a specific work, and asks the illustrator-contenders to respond graphically to that work.

The Fliers of Gy—the late Ursula K. Le Guin’s “interplanetary tale”—is the bracing work chosen for the competition, the publisher having made a copy of the book available for illustrators to read here, in an Issuu edition.

There is no charge to enter, and an initial 20-entry longlist is expected in May, with the winner and five shortlistees named in June.

The winner will receive a prize of £2,000 cash (US$2,432) plus £500 worth of Folio vouchers (US$608), and each of the runners-up will receive £500 worth of Folio vouchers.

Perhaps of most potential value: the winning artist and runners-up will also receive a portfolio review by the Folio art directors.

It’s interesting to note this line: “As well as commissioning renowned illustrators and artists, we also nurture new talent and champion artists who work across a diverse range of media, from oil painting and wood engraving to collage and digital illustration. ” This indicates that illustrators may have a much freer hand in terms of their choices of format and various media.

The jurors for this inaugural round of the new award are Sheri Gee and Raquel Leis Allion, Folio art directors, as well as publisher Tom Walker and last year’s winner of the competition, Evangeline Gallagher. They’ll be looking, the company says, for “atmosphere and strong characterization in the entries along with an ability to read and reflect the text.

“The final piece should illustrate a scene from the story rather than be solely a portrait of a character.”

Walker: ‘Quite a Complex Process’

Folio Society CEO Joanna Reynolds and illustrator Neil Packer, who spoke during Bologna Book Plus programming to illustrators at Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

Gee, Allion, and Walker spoke at Bologna to a packed audience if interested illustrators who, at the end, were invited to come forward and inspect a selection of Folio Society books to get a good sense for what the company’s output is and where the visual values in this work lie.

And the team, interviewed by Bologna Book Plus guest director Jacks Thomas, stressed that what’s wanted is the illustrators’ ideas, not a formulaic concept or preconceived idea of how a book should be handled.

Walker pointed out that the finished product “goes beyond the illustration. It’s also the printing, the binding, the text and illustrations, prints, and things like that. So it can be quite a complex process.”

A video from the company below describes something of that process from the illustrator’s viewpoint.


More on Bologna Children’s Book Fair is here, more on Bologna Book Plus is here, more on the Folio Society is here, more from us on children’s books is here, more on publishing and book awards is here, and more on world publishing’s trade shows and book fairs is here

More of our coverage of the 60th anniversary edition of Bologna Children’s Book Fair:

Bologna’s 60th Edition Draws 28,894 Visitors
The Folio Society: At Bologna To Meet Illustrators

Hometown Hero: Bologna Illustrator Andrea Antinori Wins Big
International Women’s Day: PublisHer’s Bologna Stand
The Best Children’s Publishers Prizes of the Year at Bologna
At Bologna: Abu Dhabi International Translation Conference
Elena Pasoli and Jacks Thomas on the 60th Bologna Book Fair Opening
At Bologna: Spain’s Publishers Report Growing Children’s Exports
Nicholas Yatromanolakis on Bologna’s Market of Honor: ‘The Modern Face of Greece’
IPA’s Events Lineup at Bologna Children’s Book Fair
‘AI’ at Bologna: The Hair-Raising Topic of 2023?
At Bologna: PublisHer Will Have Its First Trade Show Stand
At Bologna: The ‘Taiwan Stories Market’ Program
Pre-Bologna Rights Roundup: ‘Buy Ukrainian Book Rights’
Children’s Rights Edition: A 16th Bologna Licensing Trade Fair/Kids
Bologna Book Fair Names Cross Media Award Winners
Bologna Focus: Italy’s €283 Million Children’s Book Market
Rights Edition: Bologna Book Plus’ Rights Programming
Bologna Book Fair: 2023 Ragazzi Awards
Bologna’s 60th Book Fair: Illustrators Exhibition Winners
Greece Is Bologna Book Plus’ First Market of Honor

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.