Folio Friday: If Not, Winter (Fragments of Sappho)

Over the next four weeks, I’m excited to share some selections from the The Folio Society‘s spring catalog! As many of you know, I’m a devoted fan of The Folio Society editions of classic literature, and the three I received so generously from the publisher last month have done nothing but encourage my adoration. Today’s featured edition is IF NOT, WINTER: FRAGMENTS OF SAPPHO.

I’m always drawn in by the incredible cover art and interior illustrations that The Folio Society are known for, and one  thing I truly appreciate about their editions is the thought and design they put into their sturdy slipcovers.

The London Review of Books writes of this translation, “Carson loves the spaces almost as much as the words . . . a haunting translation.” This description of the text is equaled in the design and presentation of the edition’s cover and slipcase, both of which are softly beautiful and expertly crafted to reflect the beauty and craft of Sappho’s remarkable work.

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho

  • Translator and Introducer: Anne Carson
  • Artist: Jenny Holzer

While interpreting her work in the 19th century, translators and writers ascribed derogatory terms to the poet, misconstruing sexual enlightenment for promiscuity, prostitution or sorcery. The snippets of her work were misappropriated and overwritten until it became almost impossible to find the genuine voice of Sappho. [London Review of Books]

Anne Carson’s beautiful, brave and unadorned translation of Sappho’s complete surviving work is printed letterpress throughout to evoke the original papyrus fragments onto which the words were transcribed. In a careful consideration of the text, this large-format edition presents the English translation of each fragment facing the original ancient Greek, each page individually typeset so the spacing and breaks are precisely replicated.

About the Author: Sappho was a musician who lived on the island of Lesbos from about 630 BC until her death no one knows when. She devoted her life to composing songs to be sung to the lyre’s accompaniment. Alexandrian scholars collected her songs in nine books, all of which are lost. Sappho was also a poet. Whether she was literate is not known but the words to her songs were written down during or soon after her lifetime and existed on papyrus by the end of the fifth century BC. Of the nine books of lyrics that Sappho composed, only one poem has survived complete. All the rest are fragments. [Biography by Anne Carson]

About the Publisher: For 70 years, The Folio Society has been publishing beautiful illustrated editions of the world’s greatest books. It believes that the literary content of a book should be matched by its physical form. With specially researched images or newly commissioned illustrations, many of its editions are further enhanced with introductions written by leading figures in their fields: novelists, journalists, academics, scientists and artists. Exceptional in content and craftsmanship, and maintaining the very highest standards of fine book production, Folio Society editions last for generations.

Book copy and all images are courtesy of The Folio Society. Feel free to visit their NEWS AND BLOGS page for more information. In case you missed them, take a look at my Folio Friday features for Mary Beard’s S.P.Q.R. and other Folio Society books.

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