T N Foulis Publishers 1904-25

The output of T N Foulis, publishers in Edinburgh during the first quarter of the 20th century, is outstanding in terms of book design, illustration and production. One of the two largest collections in the world is for sale.

Paul Harris ( http://www.worldoflectures.com ) started his collection in 1968 when he was a university student in Aberdeen, Scotland. For more than thirty years, he avidly collected the beautiful editions published by the company and, in 1998, he was joint author, together Ian Elfick, of the book T N Foulis: The History and Bibliography of an Edinburgh Publishing House (published in the UK by Werner Shaw, London, and in the USA by Oak Knoll Press).

This book is now regarded as the standard work on the subject. In the view of The Bookdealer, 'a groundbreaking work . . . an unprecedented resource.' Collector, dealer and critic Robin de Beaumont opined in October 1998 in The Antiquarian Book Monthly that 'both authors are to be congratulated for persevering with perhaps the most intractable and labyrinthine publisher of the century.'

The hallmarks of a Foulis book in the form of coloured buckram bindings, tipped-in colour plates, the elegant Auriol typeface and rose-watermarked paper, have drawn collectors internationally to these elegant volumes. They are truly books for bibliophiles. 

 Below An advertising  leaflet inserted ca.1913 in The Studio.

                    

Source: The Paul Harris Collection

Some of the output of the copmany has proved to be extremely difficult to collect. Although it may still be easy to obtain a handsomely produced copy of the publisher's bestselling Reminiscences of Scoottish Life and Character by Dean Ramsay, well preserved copies of the charming and fragile envelope books, many of them illustrated by artists of the calibre of Jessie M King, W Russell Flint, Frank Brangwyn, Joseph Pennell and F Cayley Robinson, are now virtually impossible to find.

The publisher, Thomas Noble Foulis, born and raised in Edinburgh, represents something of an enigma, although he was clearly an inspired eccentric devoted to the highest standards of book production. He died in relative obscurity in Essex after the failure of the firm he to which he devoted himself so wholeheartedly. His 1913 catalogue had proudly declared

Each Foulis book is the particular outcome of much personal thought and consideration. The more mechanical methods of modern publishing, which pours books out wholesale, bound indiscriminately or with a featureless uniformity, have no attraction for Mr Foulis and his fellow craftsmen.

  Bound catalogue issued 1912

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